A few short weeks ago, we opened the Dave and Ellie Everitt Learning Commons on the first floor of Hale Library. As we watched students walk through the doors for the first time we saw lots of jaws dropping, many audible gasps, and we even witnessed a few tears of happiness.
Since the opening, Hale Library has been bustling with students thankful for the new space to study and collaborate. These spaces wouldn’t be possible without the 2,400 donors that have given to the project so far.
Now that the first floor has opened, the Libraries must turn their attention to the remaining four floors which still require philanthropic support to create spaces as impactful as the first floor. Donations can be made online to support the renovation and restoration of the rest of the building.
The Friends of the K-State Libraries have also been strong supporters of the renovation efforts with $250,000 dedicated to the project to date. Since 1984 the Friends have advocated for a strong library system that enriches the student and faculty experience. The Friends have dedicated their efforts over the past several years towards raising funds for improvements to Hale Library. The Libraries and K-State students are grateful for their efforts.
It isn’t often you get to make a fresh start, but this week my fellow K-State Libraries employees and I cast off the old in a Marie Kondo ritual of sorts.
After the fire, everything salvageable in our sodden and soot-stained offices was boxed up and moved into storage. We were all assigned new offices in one of ten different buildings across campus and—each according to our unique circumstances and job changes—began navigating a post-fire existence.
We all reacted and adapted in our own ways.
The same held true this week as we took turns visiting a storage facility near the Manhattan Regional Airport to sift through the boxes from our Hale Library offices that have been packed away for almost a year.
Staff members had to decide which work-related possessions they wanted to have cleaned and which items weren’t worth saving.
Some employees found the process liberating. “Man, I should have gotten rid of that paper a long time ago,” academic services librarian Sara K. Kearns said, after offloading arm loads of files destined for the shredder.
Others—especially those who have worked in Hale Library for decades—felt a renewed sense of loss.
Most librarians I spoke with said that they had already retrieved the possessions that were most important to them when we were allowed in the building for the first time on May 30, 2018.
Just a week after the fire, we signed in with security, donned hardhats and solemnly filed through the dark, hot library carrying our flashlights. While we navigated puddles, sagging ceiling tiles and random debris, I was in disbelief at the amount of damage we found around every corner.
In my third floor office cubicle, I grabbed framed photos, artwork, and a two-drawer wooden card catalog that sat on my desk. At the last minute, I stacked a potted plant on top of my armload.
Those few belongings went home with me. The plant—now thriving—sits on my refrigerator, where it gets a lot more sun than it ever did in 313 Hale Library.
Some offices were in much worse condition than mine, and those library employees salvaged very little.
“It was pretty surreal visiting the office for the first time after the fire,” librarian Melia Fritch said. “The most disturbing thing was going into to our office and feeling like FEMA had been through since there were these orange spray-painted words like ‘demo’ all over the walls. That was weird.”
Memories of that first post-fire visit came into focus this week as I watched my coworkers open their boxes.
Kearns recovered dozens of books that will be treated in the ozone chamber to eliminate the smell of smoke before she reclaims them. After making quick work of her paper files, she opened several long, flat packages wrapped in cardboard.
Two of them turned out to be prints she bought in Japan while visiting her brother.
“These were on the wall that water absolutely poured down when it drained from third floor to our offices on the second floor,” she said. “I can’t believe they aren’t covered in mold. They’re grimy and they need to be cleaned, but they’re totally fine.”
Senior graphic designer Tara Marintzer approached the process wondering if she’d have similar surprises. “It’s a mystery. I have no idea what I’ll find or whether there’s anything even worth saving.”
“After the fire, my new plan was to be more digital,” Marintzer added. “No more paper files.”
In all, nearly 1,000 boxes of office contents were packed out of Hale Library. The recovery crews that boxed up employee belongings didn’t always know what belonged to whom, so there has been some confusion along the way.
Kearns opened up one box marked with her name and said, “I have no idea who anyone is in these photos. This isn’t mine.”
A coworker glanced over and recognized that the images were of Kristin Hersh, lead singer of Throwing Muses, so then we knew that the box must belong to librarian Thomas Bell, who writes about the history of rock and roll. Gradually, the boxes that remain will make their way back to their rightful owners.
For employees who had a lot to sort through, decision fatigue set in.
“I had 80 boxes to open,” Kathryn Talbot, preservation coordinator, said. “By the end, I was throwing things out a lot faster.”
As I write this, I haven’t had my turn yet to open the boxes. I don’t know what I’ll find, but I can’t think of anything that I miss.
It’s a good reminder of the most important things about the fire, though: There were no lives lost. There weren’t any injuries. Everyone came out safe.
Most things can be replaced, or—in the case of Hale Library’s interior—rebuilt so they’re even better than they were before.
When it’s time for the K-State Libraries employees to move back into our offices a few years from now, we’ll be traveling a little bit lighter. A lot of us will be working more digitally, less physically.
And, in a place of honor, my future Hale Library space will feature a healthy spider plant survivor.
Postscript: I went through my boxes a few days after I initially wrote this post. It felt good to offload “stuff” and think instead about the ways in which working at K-State Libraries still sparks joy.
The Dave & Ellie Everitt Learning Commons opens in fall 2019. We’re so excited, we’ve done everything we can short of scaling Anderson Hall to shout it from the rooftop spire. This week we talked to the Hutton Construction superintendents in charge of making it happen.
Mike Watkins has been in construction for 17 years, including a stints working for a general contractor and as an iron worker. This isn’t his first time on the K-State campus: He worked on the Justin Hall renovation and addition in 2011.
Curt Miller has been working in the construction field a bit longer.
“I started parking cars when I was 16 for $1.60 an hour,” Miller said. “Then I got a job working on a bridge deck wielding a 90 pound jackhammer. That paid $3.20 an hour.”
One day while he was on the job, Miller said he saw the man on the job site sitting in a pickup and told his coworkers, “I want that guy’s job.”
He was superintendent on a small project by the time he was 21.
Both say that most of the jobs they work on are new construction and remodels; they don’t often work on buildings after a disaster. Because of the fire, the Hale Library project has required them to deal with a lot more remediation than they normally would. They’re used to dealing with asbestos, but in Hale Library they’ve had to remediate old lead paint, plus smoke and soot contaminants, too.
Of course, not all jobs are this large, either. In order to manage work throughout the 400,000-plus square feet, they have a third short-term superintendent, plus five foremen who report directly to them. Additionally, there are approximately seven or eight sub-contractors and as many as 100 workers in Hale Library on any given day.
A construction worker uses a remote-controlled mini excavator with a jackhammer attachment to tear out concrete on the first floor. April 23, 2019.
“It’s a big job,” Miller said. “But I think we have a pretty good team dynamic.”
They say that the penthouse that covers the new roof-top HVAC units has been the biggest challenge so far.
“We had to build a roof over the old roof to protect the library’s fourth floor from the weather,” Watkins said. “Then we removed the old roof and installed the floor. In a normal job, you’d start from the ground up.”
While Hale Library’s users might not find the mechanical room an exciting part of the renovation, the process of watching it come together has been fascinating.
The timeline to get the first floor done by fall 2019 is also challenging.
A typical remodel would have more time built into the front-end for the design process. With the Hale Library renovation, the schedule is compressed, and plans are evolving constantly. It requires the superintendents and their teams to remain flexible and patient.
Watkins also said it will be critical to get the “smarts and parts” in time in order to get them installed and meet the deadline.
“Those are the things like technology—and there’s going to be a lot of it on the first floor—or door handles and other fixtures that don’t get manufactured until the order is placed,” he said.
What are some of the things coming up that Watkins and Miller say we should be looking forward to?
A worker jackhammers out damaged tile in the first floor sunflower entryway. April 15, 2019.
They’re almost done with the first floor demolition, and then the framing will get underway.
They’re also working hard to get the rooftop air handlers online by May 1. Once they’re in the penthouse and functioning, they’ll help keep Farrell Library cool this summer. It will also help with air flow through the oldest parts of the building where they are working to lower the humidity and dry out the plaster.
While we were visiting with Watkins and Miller, we ran into K-State Student Ambassadors Tel Wittmer and Maddy Mash taking their own Hale Library tour, and we asked them what they thought.
“I think students are going to love all of the different types of study spaces,” Mash said. “And it will be great to have more natural light. That’s really exciting, too.”
Mash and Wittmer will be traveling across Kansas this year to talk about everything K-State, and now they’re prepared to answer questions about Hale Library.
If our readers have any questions for us or for Hutton Construction superintendents Mike Watson and Curt Miller, leave them in the comments!
We’ve got a big-picture update on the future of Hale Library, including a sneak peek of the Dave and Ellie Everitt Learning Commons, opening fall 2019. You’ll also find dramatic renderings of the Innovation Center and working designs for new study spaces, meeting rooms and more.
Want the latest news about insurance reimbursements? In our Q&A with Dean Lori Goetsch, she shares all there is to know about insurance and the cost of renovating Hale Library.
“I never realized how complicated it would be to negotiate an insurance settlement of this magnitude,” Dean Goetsch said. “Hale Library is so large, and it was packed with furniture and technology. The insurance adjustors and all of the various parties have been working for months to estimate the costs.”
And when will all of this happen? The building will reopen in phases, with the Dave & Ellie Everitt Learning Commons opening up first, in fall 2019.
Of course, Hale Library won’t live its best new life without our friends and supporters. If you like what you see in the magazine preview, visit Help for Hale to join in our effort to create a next-generation library.
What about the books? Thanks to hundreds of workers who put in thousands of hours, more than 1.5 million collection items were packed out in less than 17 weeks. Until Hale Library is renovated, the entire collection will be stored in multiple air-conditioned warehouses across the region.
We estimate that all 1.5 million items could be clean by July 2019. Even better news: We anticipate that more than 99 percent of the materials will be saved.
Read more about the process of cleaning and storing more than 147,700 boxes of materials!
Even without the building, K-State’s librarians are working hard to elevate research on the K-State campus.
Visit the magazine to read about two librarians who have forged a unique partnership with K-State’s athletic training program. Melia Fritch and Cindy Logan don’t just help students complete assignments, they equip them to excel in their chosen professions.
For K-Staters of a certain age, the big campus fire isn’t Hale Library but rather Nichols Gymnasium. Did you know that after a major conflagration 50 years ago, the limestone skeleton of Nichols Gym stood unrestored for almost two decades before it became Nichols Hall? Learn more from the latest installment of K-State Keepsakes in—where else?!—our magazine!
Be the first to learn about great stories like these! Don’t miss an issue of K-State Libraries Magazine. Click here to receive a copy in your mailbox.
This month we took some time out for expressions of gratitude. One of the highlights? A very special visit to the Manhattan Fire Department Headquarters.
On November 16, a group of K-State Libraries employees met at Station 1 on the corner of Denison and Kimball. We were greeted by Battalion Chief Jason Hudson and his team. Hudson, who was a K-State freshman during Hale Library’s construction, was in charge of the scene on May 22.
Hudson started off echoing what many of us thought on the day the MFD responded to the fire: “We’re there all the time. How could it be that bad?”
“So I get out of my vehicle and I talked to some folks that are outside already, and they’re like, ‘Yeah, there’s some smoke on the fourth floor.’ I was thinking cooking smoke, or something like that.
“I was walking … between Willard and Hale on the north side of the building … and I could smell it. You can’t mistake that smell. I look up and I see just a little wisp come off the roof, and then … I had a driver come up Mid Campus Drive from the south and he said ‘Hey, there’s smoke on this side of the building.’
“And I said, ‘Oh. We have a big fire.’ I actually thought the roof was going to come off the building. In fact, I moved trucks back thinking that the roof was going to burn off. That was my first impression of it.
“I actually ended up going inside with my crews and I couldn’t believe… It was almost like, ‘This building’s taken a kill shot.’ I knew it immediately when there was zero visibility… we were fortunate that everybody made it out of there when they did, because it could have been bad. Had anyone stayed in that building thinking it was nothing they would have been overcome by smoke ….
Hudson also talked about challenges the building presented.
“[T]ypically we don’t like to be on top of fire. We’d rather be under it, pull the ceiling down and then putting water on. [In Hale Library] you can’t! There’s concrete [between the floors]. We spent a lot of time trying to pull ceiling, and we couldn’t do it, so we had to get on top of it and go down.
“[The sprinkler system] saved the building. It did a lot of water damage, but there wouldn’t be a roof on that building … It could have been like Nichols Hall, back in the ’60s when it burned and all that was left was a shell. I mean, it could have done something similar to that.”
We also spoke with Captain Dan Newton, who is currently with Station 4 by the Manhattan Regional Airport. He started out his career at Station 2, which covers Hale Library. So like Chief Hudson, when Captain Newton heard that there was smoke in the building at Hale, he said his first thought was, “Just another burnt bagel.”
Initially his crew didn’t go … but when they started getting radio traffic that smoke was coming from the eaves, they came to the scene. After an assignment clearing the Great Room, they went to the roof.
“[W]e did multiple revolutions on the roof, which was the best place to be. We spent several revolutions cutting holes, using special nozzles that you can stick in a hole and get water to confined spaces. It was a very tough operation. It’s always a great team-building experience when you have something big like that.
“I can just remember my whole entire crew cramping up … and getting to that point where knowing okay, we’ve pushed to our limit here … and you know so we did that multiple times, not just once ….
“It was a really, really hot day. And for me it was good to see my guys kind of step up. I had a very new firefighter getting to see him push through limits he didn’t know he had, and a very young driver that hadn’t been a decision-maker on scene but came up with the idea to use the special nozzle to put out the fire. So getting to see these guys grow and learn right there right in the middle of the scene isn’t something you always get to do.”
We don’t always get to hear about the fire from those who experienced it first-hand, so we’d like to extend a huge thank you to Chief Hudson and Captain Newton. Thanks, too, go out to Captain Micah Hydeman and Captain Lou Kaylor, as well as Scott Helberg, Nick Clark, A.J. Mueller, Lawilson Horne and the rest of the crew.
Thanksgiving, November 22, marks six months since the Hale Library fire, so it’s a fitting time to give thanks for the MFD and all of the other emergency personnel who were there that day, including the crews from Fort Riley, Blue Township, Riley County EMS and more.
We’re deeply grateful for these and for all first responders this holiday season, and we’re wishing them health and safety today and always!
Photos of the May 22 Hale Library fire courtesy K-State University Photo Services.
As we walk across campus, we’re often stopped by fellow K-Staters and asked, “So how are you all doing?” Truly, we’ve appreciated the expressions of concern for the 100+ displaced Hale Library folks.
On that note, we thought we’d catch up with four of our co-workers who share a combined 80 years of experience with K-State Libraries.
After all of the computers and printers were lost in the fire, Renee Gates was responsible for getting more than 90 employees set up with new technology. She and her team also travel between a dozen different buildings on campus to make sure everything continues to work smoothly.
Renee, two of the four staff members on your team left Manhattan to pursue new job opportunities this summer. How are you doing?
“Everybody has been really nice and patient with us. They understand we are short-staffed.
In addition to getting everyone set up on new technology, we’re doing a lot of inventory of the tech that was in an area of Hale Library that was declared clean or cleanable. Everything has to be plugged in and tested to make sure it works. Some things don’t because of internal issues like the effects of condensation.
After the fire, I think in many ways our department had it a lot easier than other people. We had the most to do initially, but we were connected, we knew what was going on, and we had purpose. I think there was a lot more anxiety for people who weren’t as busy as we were. So that busyness helped get us through.
I love that we have space in Seaton Hall that is just our LIST staff and we can easily talk to each other without disturbing anyone else. I miss everybody from the library, though.”
Dan, what do you remember about the day of the fire?
“I was in my office, and my 15-year-old son was with me because he was out early that day and doing homework on a computer. We had this history in Hale Library that the fire alarms were sensitive to dust. One summer it seemed like a fire alarm went off every week. So the alarm goes off and it’s like, ‘Eh, okay, well… it’s the end of the day.’ So I scooped up my stuff. And I remember thinking so clearly, ‘Do I need my laptop tonight? Nah, I’ll get it in the morning,’ and I left it and we went home.
An hour later, I’m hearing from people, ‘Did you see the fire?’ And I was like, ‘There was an actual fire?!’ I went back, and people were hanging around outside. Somebody had ordered pizza, and we watched sheets of water cascade down the side of the building and into Mid-Campus Drive.”
What’s different about your job since you aren’t working out of Hale Library?
“A couple of librarians and I have gotten office spaces within our respective disciplines, so I am in in Nichols Hall with the Theater Department. I’ve tried to become more entrenched with their faculty and students, and that’s been great. I see them every day, and it’s very easy for them to find me and for me to be a resource for them because I’m physically there right now.
The thing I miss most are the collections, though. For example, theater is very practice-based. A lot of it is producing creative works based off of scripts and physical materials. While there are some fantastic online resources, it’s left a hole for my students when they go looking for scripts. You really want something physical in your hands for that, even when you’re trying to select scenes.”
How has your job changed?
“Part of our work is to make sure that when a K-Stater is off-campus that they can access all of the databases and online resources that the Libraries pay for by simply signing in with their K-State username and password.
The proxy system that makes that happen seamlessly was lost when the servers had to be taken offline after the fire. Fortunately, the Libraries’ IT department had been preparing to move the system to the cloud, so they were able to have up a new version within just a few days. Once it was rebuilt, our team spent the summer making sure that the new proxy system was working for hundreds of online resources. These materials are especially important now since the physical collection isn’t available. We’ve been very, very busy.”
This isn’t your first time working out of the Unger Complex, is it?
“Three of us were located in this exact same office when Hale Library was being built in the ’90s. Everyone here has been really friendly and helpful, and whatever we need they try to make it happen. It’s just kind of weird déjà vu!”
What do you remember from the day of the fire?
“The fire alarm went off at 3:58, and we just thought it was a normal fire alarm, so I picked up my purse and went to my exercise class. When we got out, we could smell smoke and hear the sirens. People were going ‘Yeah, the library is on fire.’ Then I got home and had all these messages on my answering machine, asking if I was okay.
After the fire, I emailed each patron that had anything checked out. What was great was that a lot of people emailed back, and they were so supportive. That was the really nice thing: I had a lot of personal contact with patrons on email.”
How is life different now?
“I miss seeing all of the people that I worked with on a daily basis. I mean, I still go over to the union and see people but it’s different. I miss walking around in the stacks, seeing the actual books and seeing the students. I am excited about seeing the new Hale Library, though! I’m close to retiring, so this gives me a new reason to work long enough to see what the new Hale is going to look like.”
Like Carolyn, we are all excited to see what the future of Hale Library holds. We’re reminded, too, that libraries aren’t just about buildings—they’re about the people who work there, the people who use them and the people who believe in their value.
We know our blog readers fall into one or all of those categories. Thank you!
Interviews were conducted and transcribed by communication student employee Rebekah Branch. Transcriptions were edited for clarity and brevity.
We’ve witnessed a lot of things go down on the fourth floor of Hale Library over the years: students camping under tables with blankets and pillows during finals week; physical anthropology study sessions that featured skeletons and piles of bones; and, well, let’s be honest, we’ve seen some fourth-floor stacks activities we wish we hadn’t.
But we’ve never seen fourth floor as a woodworking shop … until now. A lot of materials — like the entire physical library collection and one of the murals — have been packed out so they can be cleaned and stored until Hale Library renovations are complete.
The Great Room woodwork is staying, though. Crews are cleaning and stripping the beams. Eventually, they’ll be refinished, and when the roof and ceiling are repaired and the space is ready for renovation, the beams will be reinstalled.
Crew members from John Canning Co. clean and remove varnish from two decorative arch braces that hung in the Great Room.
Meanwhile, back in the Great Room, conservators continue to monitor and stabilize the David Hicks Overmyer murals.
Additional mural restoration is on hold until two things happen: First, the plaster walls need to be more thoroughly dried out, and second, the rest of the Great Room restoration needs to be more advanced so that the murals aren’t re-damaged during that process.
To prevent the murals from getting damaged while the rest of the Great Room is renovated, conservators have covered them with a felt-like fabric that’s attached to a tack strip that runs around the perimeter of each painting.
Up above the murals, the Great Room’s decorative woodwork has been removed, and the ceiling has been completely torn out. Crews from Hutton Construction are moving in to start replacing the roof and ceiling in the 1927 building.
Elsewhere in Hale Library, most of the recent action has centered on cleaning toxic soot from all surfaces and scraping up the carpet glue. Since that process is nearly complete, the size of the Belfor Property Restoration crew has been scaled down.
Even though the Belfor folks are starting to leave Manhattan, they aren’t taking a break: As organizations across the Carolinas assess the devastation wrought by Hurricane Florence, Belfor will be on the ground with their massive semi-truck command center and their amazing people. We wish them a safe assignment as they begin recovery efforts there.
It’s been eighteen weeks of damage assessment and drying out, packing collections and planning. The space is a clean slate, and in forthcoming posts we’ll be able share a lot more about the Hale Library of the future.
The Great Room murals, painted in 1934 by David Hicks Overmyer, are the most iconic works of art on the K-State campus
During the fire, some of the most serious damage occurred in the Great Room ceiling immediately above the murals. Water from both the sprinkler system and from the firefighting efforts on the roof saturated the wall and dripped over the surface of the paintings. Then, in the following days, the plaster and masonry wall behind the mural absorbed a large amount of water that was still flowing through the building.
Since early June, the future of the Great Room and its murals have been in the hands of Julia Mathias Manglitz, preservation architect with TreanorHL.
Manglitz examined the murals post-fire. At that time, she worked from a lift to document soiling and streaking on the paintings that resulted from sap running from wood trim directly above. The murals were also stained by dirty water that came from the attic. Additionally, Manglitz discovered areas where paint was cracking and areas that were already exhibiting very small areas of paint loss.
When public information officer Darchelle Martin spoke with Manglitz in late July, Manglitz explained that the murals are painted directly on plaster that is attached directly to the masonry walls. In other words, the paint needs to adhere to the plaster, and the plaster needs to adhere to the walls.
“If we lose the plaster, we’ve lost the paintings as well,” Manglitz said. “So I inspected the murals as closely as I could by doing what’s called ‘sounding.’ When we work with materials like plaster and stone, we tap on them with a rubber mallet, and depending on what sound comes back to us, we can tell if something is well-bonded. Hollow sounding plaster is an indication that layers of plaster are starting to delaminate from each other or from the masonry. On my initial evaluation, even though I wasn’t seeing plaster coming away from the walls except in small areas, what I found were large areas that sounded hollow.”
Between concerns for paint loss and the potential for plaster loss, Manglitz decided to contact a conservation contractor as quickly as possible. Based on her experience working with John Canning Company on the extensive renovation and restoration of the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, she recommended they be brought onto the project.
Rachel Gilberti, chief conservator at John Canning, has been working in Hale Library since June 22.
Once Gilberti joined the project, more intensive mapping of the mural damage began. By this time, scaffolding had been erected so they could finally make a thorough, up-close examination. They discovered small areas of plaster deformation where it was starting to delaminate from the wall. Other areas of the paint were marked by a fine pattern of dense cracking called craquelure.
“Water escapes through the cracks, which is a good thing, but sometimes the paint can come off, too,” Manglitz said.
Gilberti also noted that it’s important that the wall needs to dry at a stable rate. “If it starts to dry too quickly, the layers begin to separate from one another,” she said. “It’s also important to have the wall dry from both sides and meet in the middle. If it dries just from the back, all of the salts in the stone get pulled into the front and the material on the surface of the stone will come out.”
It could be a long time before the walls are thoroughly dry.
“The walls are fourteen inches thick, and the general rule of thumb for drying mass masonry is one inch per month,” Manglitz said. “That said, it doesn’t have to be perfectly dry before we start the conservation process to visually restore the appearance, but we needed to get it to the point where we feel like it’s safe.”
When the wall started to dry, additional small areas of paint began to flake off. Gilberti and her team began a triage campaign to repair small areas of damage and prevent others from worsening.
They used syringes to insert thermoplastic adhesive where they found paint cracking and peeling. Once the adhesive seeped in, they placed a clear piece of mylar over it and heated it with a small iron to get it to set. The process helped them keep the paint layer in place and on the wall.
As they monitored the drying-out process and addressed the paint delamination, they noted that different colors of paint reacted differently.
“Each color, each pigment in itself has unique traits,” Gilberti said. “Some pigments have less binding in them. All the reds in general are more sensitive pigments, so they react differently, especially to water. Greens are also very sensitive. White is a very stable pigment, so paints mixed with white did very well. The ones that don’t have that extra binding power are what we tried to stop from flaking with the thermoplastic adhesive.”
Since the beginning of their efforts to preserve the murals, Manglitz and her team have been collecting data regarding how wet the walls are. Initially, they could only take measurements at the surface, but since then, they’ve inserted probes seven inches or eight inches into the masonry to determine the moisture levels inside the walls.
“Once we determined that the easternmost mural, Industry, was dry and stable enough, we were able to do a surface cleaning to remove the drips from the wood trim above without having paint actively flake off,” Gilberti said. “After that we began removing the varnish coating.”
The protective varnish was applied the last time the murals were cleaned and restored in 2011. Stripping that layer will increase the breathability of the wall.
As the process of stabilizing, drying, cleaning and stripping the murals of varnish continues, Manglitz and her team have several important questions to weigh regarding next steps.
“We need to decide when it’s appropriate to do the conservation work on the murals given amount of repair that has to be completed in the rest of the space and above this space,” she said. “Roof repairs come with the risk of water infiltration, so we’ll be asking ourselves, ‘What can we do to protect the murals? When do we think it’s appropriate to move forward with conservation? What should the sequence be?’”
Even though those questions haven’t been fully answered yet, Gilberti is confident that they will find a way forward to ensure the future of the Great Room murals.
“Every piece of art is salvageable,” she said. “Conservators are here for exactly that reason, to salvage the artwork and preserve what the original artist’s intent is. It’s not one of those situations where they’re going to disappear: They will be saved. We’ve just got to assess as we go. The murals will have damage, but we are here to mitigate that.”
The Hale Library fire was unprecedented. Even after the smoke cleared and K-State Libraries’ employees went back to work, it can still be difficult to comprehend the scale of the damage.
“We’ve got 1.2 million volumes that need to be restored and we’ve taken the interior of the library down to the studs,” Lori Goetsch, Dean of K-State Libraries, said. “It’s very significant. That we know of, there is not an academic library in the United States that has experienced devastation at this scale.”
At the July 18 K-State Libraries all-staff meeting in Leadership Studies’ Forum Hall, we turned to Camila Alire, a retired library Dean from Colorado State University (CSU) and the University of New Mexico (UNM), for perspective. Alire is known as “the disaster queen,” having been through not one, but three library crises. She has literally written a book on disaster, “Library Disaster Planning and Recovery Handbook.” In her retirement, she acts as a consultant for libraries who experience similar setbacks.
“Your disaster is extremely hard,” Alire said. “Not only did you have fire, but also you had the water damage. It is going to take you a long time to be back whole again, but I would tell you that this, too, shall pass.”
Goetsch asked Alire to talk to the K-State Libraries’ staff as we consider our future as a library and think about what we can expect during the recovery process. Her hope was that talking about the disasters she has experienced would help give staff members perspective on how to act and react.
“We have all been through a stressful ordeal and there is a lot of uncertainty with that,” Goetsch said. “I invited Camila to our staff meeting to help them understand what we might go through in the next few years.”
On July 28, 1997, just nine days after Alire started her job as Dean of CSU Libraries, Fort Collins experienced major flooding from the Cache La Poudre River. The entire city was affected, but the library was the campus building that was hit the worst.
In only four hours, they received six inches of rain. The water flowed quickly at 5,000 cubic feet per minute and put extreme pressure on the outside library wall. This pressure broke an eight-foot hole in the wall and flooded the entire basement, damaging and submerging over half a million volumes.
While students were locking up the library that night, they went down to the lowest level to check for any remaining patrons, and that was when they heard a crack. They were aware enough to know that the sound was out of place, so they ran back up the stairs. Seconds later thousands of gallons of water poured into the basement, just as they reached the landing. It was the violent flow of the rushing water that did the most damage to the basement. If the water had been stagnant, the flood would not have been as destructive.
“Every bound volume that was down there [was] damaged,” Alire said. “The UFOs (unidentified floating objects) were entirely thrown out.”
A few years later, Alire became Dean of Libraries at UNM. During winter break, on Dec. 24, 2004, a pipe burst in the Science and Engineering Library. There was water damage throughout the entire building and all 300,000 volumes had to be packed out. Luckily, they got to the damage quickly and were up and running a few months later.
“The engineering library was the easiest,” Alire said. “Everything went smoothly, the consultant that they hired to come in was easy to work with, everyone got along, and it was excellent.”
She also commented that it was fortuitous that the flooding happened during a semester break: “Luckily for us—and I think this is probably an advantage when it happened [at Hale]—is you don’t have … a majority of the students and faculty here on campus in the summer,” Alire said.
Finally, on April 30, 2006, Alire faced her last crisis: A major fire in UNM’s Zimmerman Library. This was an entirely different disaster for her to deal with and most similar to what Hale Library experienced. In this case, arson destroyed 28,000 volumes and 60,000 square feet of the building. In total, soot and smoke damage covered 242,752 square feet. The heat was so intense that it melted metal on the bookshelves, but fortunately, a lot of books were salvaged.
The difference between her three disasters and the fire at Hale was the magnitude. In every event Alire experienced, the libraries were open to the public within a matter of months. Hale Library’s recovery and renovation process might take up to two years to be completely functioning.
“Dean Alire really gave some sage advice on how to get through a major crisis,” Laurel Littrell, planning and assessment librarian, said. “At the same time, it also put our situation in perspective. Even though she’s the country’s foremost expert on library disasters, none of her institutions’ experiences compare to the scope of what happened in Hale Library, especially in terms of how long the building will be closed.”
Alire preached the message that, although this disaster is difficult now, there are silver linings. In our case, Hale was going to be under renovation for the first floor, but now we have the opportunity to renovate all four floors, making the entire building better for students, staff, and faculty
Kathryn Talbot, K-State Libraries’ preservation coordinator, was at home when she received the call about the Hale Library fire on May 22.
“This person kept saying, ‘There was a fire, blah, blah,’” Talbot said. “I literally almost went, ‘I think you have the wrong number,’ before it dawned on me: This is Michelle from work.”
After that call from Michelle Turvey-Welch, the Libraries’ head of metadata and preservation, Talbot came back to campus feeling relatively calm.
“Driving up you didn’t see smoke, so I thought, ‘It can’t be that bad.’”
But when the firefighters were still working four hours later, Talbot knew that she needed to ask Turvey-Welch for permission to call companies that manage large-scale emergency recovery and restoration.
“We were preregistered with two companies that specialize in cleaning up after emergencies like hurricanes and tornadoes,” Talbot said. “So I called to say, ‘I think we might need your assistance.’ After four hours I knew it really was that bad.”
As K-State Libraries’ disaster team lead, it’s Talbot’s job to prepare the organization’s employees for the unexpected and to know whom to call in an emergency. By preregistering with disaster recovery companies, Talbot insured that K-State Libraries would be a priority client in case of a large-scale crisis. For example, in the instance of a tornado that affects multiple organizations, the disaster recovery company helps preregistered clients first.
That was only one element of the team’s preparation, though. Every office was supplied with one of the team’s red “disaster plan” binders, and they stocked strategic points throughout the building with emergency bins and supplies.
“The disaster plan is any library’s bible for how to care for the collection during a time of crisis,” Lori Goetsch, Dean of Libraries, said. “I’m confident that the damage in Hale Library would have been so much more extreme if it weren’t for Kathryn, Michelle, and a really excellent disaster plan.”
Once Talbot had made contact with BELFOR Property Restoration, she also called the American Institute for Conservation (AIC), which has a round-the-clock response line.
“I wanted their help in thinking through the situation and knowing which questions to ask the next day,” Talbot said.
Seeing the aftermath
In the following hours, as the extent of the damage became apparent, Talbot had plenty of questions, but answers were in short supply. She described her experience as she walked into Hale Library for the first time post-fire on Friday, May 25.
“It was really super dark, and I couldn’t believe at the time they had you put on boots,” she said. “I was like, ‘Why am I putting on galoshes?’ Then, as you walked in the back door, you instantly step into water. It’s like, ‘Why is there water in the mail room? That’s kind of weird.’ … And it was dark and intensely smoky. I figured [water and smoke would be] in the Great Room, but not everywhere.”
“We went up all five floors and four of them had water. I knew most of the collection would have to be moved. There was no way that our staff could do that on our own. There was no electricity and … we had tiny LED lights. It was way creepy.”
Talbot went through the building with Belfor staff members who specialize in handling collections and documents after an emergency. They helped prioritize which areas of Hale Library would be addressed first: Room 117 on Hale Library’s first floor suffered the most water damage and the books had to be packed out right away.
By this point, it was Memorial Day weekend, and it became increasingly difficult to contact vendors and arrange supplies. In order to have enough boxes on hand, Belfor’s team bought all of the boxes in stock at Home Depot, Menards, U-Haul and Lowe’s in Manhattan, Topeka and Salina. [Read more about how they recovered wet books.]
Today, a little more than eight weeks post-fire, Talbot cites Turvey-Welch’s constant support and non-stop work ethic for helping her get past each new unexpected challenge. She also praises the Belfor crew for helping her wrap her head around the massive scale of the project
“They’ve been through this before,” she said. “I’m like, ‘What am I not thinking of? … What do you need in order to do what you need to do?’ My dealings with their team have been highly collaborative.”
When the Libraries aren’t in crisis, Talbot’s job looks much different. Typically, her main job duties include managing digital preservation and supervising all staff that handle aspects of physically moving books: shifting the collections from one part of the library to another, reshelving books returned by patrons, and storing and circulating books that are located offsite at the Library Annex. She also supervises the care of general circulating collections, including binding and preservation lab activities.
These days, Talbot has a desk in Unger Tower, but she doesn’t spend much time there.
“Every morning I visit Hale at about 7:40 and I do my rounds with my environmental control, I take pictures or I go, ‘Huh. I wonder why that’s like that,’” Talbot said. “I come out, upload the environmental data and send that on, maybe do some troubleshooting. It just depends on the day. It’s not like the early panicky weeks where you’ve got to react right away with some decision. It’s more like, ‘Okay, let’s think this through, because we’ve got 24 minutes to live in the situation.’”
“I would say about a couple weeks ago I stopped waking up in the middle of the night, so I’m either letting it go or I’m just dealing with it better. I think we’re in a better place. It sounds like by the end of August we’ll have everything out of the building. Even if it’s not cleaned, it will be in a better environment than what it is now.”
“I think another anxiety will be when we’re ready to go back,” Talbot said. “The integration … really, I haven’t mentally wrapped my brain around that. There will be a lot of collection decisions that need to be made.”
And is she considering a career change after everything she’s been through in the last two months and the many challenges ahead for renovating Hale Library?
If you were told to inventory the contents of your house, apartment, office or dorm room, where would you start? How many total items would be on your list?
In order to file an insurance claim after the May 22 fire, the K-State Libraries administration has been managing that overwhelming task. Roberta Johnson, director of administrative and IT services, walked us through the process of inventorying a building that’s bigger than nine football fields.
Johnson explained a series of steps have to be completed before the insurance company will provide financial compensation. Several tasks have been finalized.
First, K-State’s insurance company subcontracted with an insurance adjuster (in this case, Crawford & Company). Crawford & Company will work closely with Belfor, the recovery and restoration company, in determining the extent of the damage that was a result of the fire and the subsequent water exposure.
Before that happens, though, the entire contents of the building had to be inventoried and a determination made as to what was or was not salvageable, so Crawford & Company subcontracted with two more organizations. RCF Salvage inventoried all fixtures, furniture, and equipment (FFE) in the building, and Envista Forensics inventoried technology, which included everything from computers to the digital displays and checkout machines.
“I feel like I have nine million people to deal with,” she joked. “At one point there were 15 different agencies in the building, companies that have come from all over the country, Georgia, Indiana, Texas … to work on this project.”
The whole inventory process started on May 28, just six days after the fire. The bulk of the work was completed in about three weeks.
Either Johnson or K-State Libraries’ building manager, Robin Brown, walked through Hale Library with RCF Salvage’s staff to verify every single item that was inventoried. They signed what Johnson said felt like reams of carbon paper in the process, and the resulting 367 page FFE inventory included 7,749 line items. In many cases, just one of those lines represented more than one thing; for example, one entry might be a record of 35 wooden chairs.
Envista Forensics produced a second inventory report that included approximately 1,970 pieces of technology.
“Keep in mind that almost all of this was done by flashlight because there was no power in the building,” Johnson said. “We did have temporary lighting toward the end, but I just thought these were the world’s worst conditions for the work. They sifted through the contents of every office, cubicle and storage space. And yet they were still so professional. I’ve been amazed.”
So what happens next?
“This is a 550,000-square-foot building; there are a lot of nooks and crannies,” Johnson said. “We’re still coming across items, and occasionally we have to go back to the inventory to make sure they’ve been accounted for. It will take time to clear up any discrepancies.”
Only once the loose ends are tied up can the adjuster valuate the inventory and provide a dollar amount to the insurance company.
“Even once the inventory process is finalized, we still don’t have estimates about the structural damage itself,” Johnson said. “That’s an entirely separate process. And until we have that piece in addition to the inventory of the building’s contents, there won’t be a total damage estimate.”
In the meantime, Johnson says she does have some idea of what the largest losses will be in terms of expense.
“The servers in the basement are among the most expensive single items,” Johnson said.
Other big ticket items include the fixtures: cubicle walls, desks and workstations.
During the inventorying process, first floor was used as a holding area for furniture and boxes of books. June 11, 2018.
“Right now they’ve carted out more than 100 industrial-sized dumpsters full of fixtures and furniture, and they’re not done yet,” Johnson said. “The loss is massive.”
Johnson is highly pragmatic about the whole process, though.
“We had no injuries,” she said. “When you think about the extent of what happened, that’s the most important thing. No injuries. I’m so grateful for that.”
Of course, there are more than 100 K-State Libraries and IT Services employees who had offices and workstations in Hale Library, and most had personal items at their desks – everything from art to clothes to their own technology. An inventory of those items was compiled separately, and employees will make claims to the insurance agency at a later date.
Among some staff members, there’s a running bet as to whose office held the most personal items. Two of the academic services librarians, Melia Fritch and Cindy Logan, are the odds-on-favorites, so we asked them about their experience.
“There was such a sense of disbelief when we learned our office was a loss,” Logan said. “We have had so many fire alarm situations where nothing was damaged, I just thought they had to be wrong … there was no way there was that much damage. It took probably a week before the news really set in.”
On May 30, Fritch, Logan and their Hale Library co-workers were allowed in the building for the first time to retrieve any personal belongings that were salvageable.
“It was pretty surreal visiting the office for the first time after the fire,” Fritch said. “We walked through with all the safety gear on and carrying flashlights, and it was so hot. The most disturbing thing was going into to our office and feeling like FEMA had been through since there were these orange spray-painted words like “demo” all over the walls. That was weird.”
Fritch and Logan’s second floor office was packed with art, books, photos and objects. They both say they surround themselves with things that remind them of people they love, books about subjects they’re passionate about or quotes that express core beliefs.
“What I really miss is the artwork that my son had done throughout the years that I had hanging up,” Fritch said. “I was super happy that some of Tyler’s artwork was safe and I could take it, along with some photos I really wanted. Of course, I miss the Keurig, too—ha!—but the material objects, the decorations, the computer, the chair, books … those can be replaced.”
A video of Melia Fritch and Cindy Logan’s office taken shortly before the fire.
Logan, who laughingly admits to something of an office supply addiction, agreed, and added that she looks forward to the day when they get to move into a new space.
“For now, I miss having my 20 million different markers, highlighters, pens, notebooks and types of Post-it notes,” she said. “But I look forward to our new bright and shiny offices and making them feel like home once the building has been renovated. My office reflects me, and I will continue to fill it with things I love and from the people who love me.”
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