As everyone at K-State begins to settle into the new semester, we are taking exciting steps with the restoration of the Great Room. After months of cleaning, repairing, sanding and staining the wood from the Great Room ceiling, the first pieces have now made their way back to their original location.
Once the wood was cleaned and repaired, Phil Crabb, an employee of Riley Construction, joined the project to sand and stain the wood. He has been in the wood refinishing business for decades. After working on other projects, including historic Noble House in Wichita, Kan., Crabb says he wasn’t afraid to take on the task of restoring Hale Library’s Great Room woodwork.
“I walked in here and it was just piles of wood. Many of which have already been moved up from the floor. So it’s been stacked deep in here. I said this is an opportunity, it’s a challenge and it’s going to be a lot of fun. And every single day has been outstanding.”
Some of the wood pieces in the Great Room were rotted and many needed repairs. Crabb says that after the wood was stripped, cleaned and sanded, they faced a new challenge: The wood would not stain correctly.
“The situation was that the restorationists had almost cleaned it too well. And so, all this wood, when stained, in our samples, would not take the dark stain. I took two weeks to make samples, and I’d be sitting there putting stain on, waiting for 20 minutes to wipe it off, and it still wouldn’t be dark enough.”
And so, Crabb turned to water popping, a process that uses water to reopen the grains of the wood to better allow it to stain without any blotches or different-colored spots. The process requires dunking each wood piece in water to soak it, then letting it dry for a least two hours before staining. After using 110 gallons of distilled water, the woodwork turned out beautiful Crabb says.
Crabb’s mother, Mary Anne McNamee, was a 1943 graduate of K-State who loved the Great Room and studied there often. Additionally, Crabb says he also has a special connection with the Great Room that has made this project all the more meaningful to him.
“I’m not a graduate here, but I’m an alumni in the sense that I’ve taken several courses. I used to go and read in the great room, in Hale room 308, and you know, you get up from your reading and you take a look at the antiquarian books, you look at the murals. There’s something about tall ceilings in roomy environments that’s really good for the mind.”
It’s a new year, we are 20 months post-fire and we just started the spring 2020 semester at K-State. We are feeling energized! Over the course of this year we will watch as Hale Library nears the finish line of a two and a half year recovery, restoration and renovation project. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we are amazed at the progress made in just the last few months.
Up on the third floor, construction has started on a new 60-person classroom for library instruction. The large instruction room is made possible through fundraising efforts by the Friends of the K-State Libraries.
While no one really enjoys finals week, there has always been something special about time spent cramming for final exams with fellow students and friends inside the walls of Hale Library. But for the previous two semesters the building hasn’t been available. That all changed this week when students spent their first finals week back in Hale since the May 2018 fire.
Here’s hoping all of your hard work paid off this semester. We look forward to having even more space open in Hale for spring semester finals. Enjoy your well-deserved winter break!
It’s been a while since we’ve checked in on the progress of the upper floors at Hale Library. The third, fourth and fifth floors are in varying stages of construction, but no matter where you look you can see progress.
As we make our way up through the building, third floor is currently one of the most active construction areas.
As we move up to the fourth floor, much of the space is utilized as a wood shop to repair and restore the wood from the third floor Great Room.
And lastly, the fifth floor, which saw the least amount of damage, will receive a few upgrades. In addition to new carpet and ceiling the Libraries will create a new digitization lab thanks to a generous contribution from the Butler Family Community Foundation.
A new seminar room will also be added for the Morse Department of Special Collections. Previously, staff had to conduct instruction in the middle of their reading room where other patrons were also conducting research.
We are incredibly thankful for the gifts that have made this progress possible. It is exciting to think that at this time next year, we might be sitting in a fully renovated Hale Library! Support is still needed to fund improvements to Hale Library. On this Giving Tuesday (Dec. 3), consider a gift to Help for Hale and support our renovation efforts.
Most of Hale Library’s second floor is scheduled to open during the spring 2020 semester. We took a peek at the progress and could tell the new space is really starting to take shape!
Since there is now a direct entrance to the first floor, we are moving the second floor entrance a little further to the West. This will allow us to re-purpose some space for seating, create a better pathway to our help desks and shorten the distance of the hallway leading into the building.
When students walk into the second floor they will immediately see our new Library and IT Help desks. These two services will now be co-located providing campus with more convenience and better assistance.
Just for fun, we also took a peek inside the new cafe space on the first floor. Joyce and Joe’s Cornerstone Cafe will also open during the spring 2020 semester.
In other exciting news, we announced yesterday that the first floor Dave and Ellie Everitt Learning Commons will begin 24/5 hours starting Sun., Nov. 3. This is another service made possible by renovation efforts. We could not be more thrilled to bring this service back for K-State students. Happy studying!
We are in the thick of the fall semester, and the Dave and Ellie Everitt Learning Commons on the first floor of Hale Library has been busy with students working on projects and studying for exams. In fact, during the last few weeks the first floor has averaged more than 7,600 visits each week.
The experience of returning to Hale Library felt like coming home for those students who were at K-State before the fire.
We’re paying close attention to how students are using the new spaces to help us plan for the rest of the building. In fact, a team of librarians are conducting an assessment study. They record student use of the space multiple times each day. This data helps us understand which areas and types of furniture are the most heavily utilized. The results will impact the remaining floors.
One feature that has been a big hit with students is the abundance of whiteboards, some of which stretch from floor to ceiling.
Ah, yes. Biology 341. Perhaps no one gets as much use out of the whiteboards as these students. But, do they really need floor to ceiling whiteboards? Students like Danielle have found them useful!
The Dave and Ellie Everitt Learning Commons also includes new technology. Dozens of large monitors are spread throughout the floor that students can connect to their devices.
While students are excited about the first floor of Hale, they can’t wait to see the rest of the library. Students are looking forward to the new quiet floors that will be located on the third and fourth floors.
The second floor of Hale Library is scheduled to open during the spring semester. The rest of the building should be complete by the end of 2020. Support is still needed to for the remaining restoration and renovation of Hale Library. Donate online to the Help for Hale fund!
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.
This Labor Day we’re thinking of all of the workers who have made Hale Library’s recovery and renovation possible. Due to their dedication, we were able to meet our goal of opening the first floor during the first week of classes. To all the workers, thank you!
At 8 a.m. on Wednesday, August 28, 2019, Dean Lori Goetsch opened the doors to the Dave and Ellie Everitt Learning Commons on Hale Library’s first floor.
Oh, K-State friends. We wish you could have been there. It was a beautiful thing. After 15 long months, our people finally got to come back to their Home Sweet Hale.
It wouldn’t have been possible without the more than 2,400 individuals who contributed to Help for Hale. We have four more floors to renovate, so please, be a part of creating the rest of our next-generation library. It’s easy to make a gift through the KSU Foundation online.
It’s crunch time! Back in April, Hutton Construction superintendent Mike told us that toward the end of a job, it’s critical to get the “smarts and parts” 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.
That’s the final step. And that’s exactly what’s going down now on Hale Library’s first floor.
We are just weeks away from opening the Dave & Ellie Everitt Learning Commons. An official open date will be announced soon, but we anticipate opening most of the first floor very early this fall.
“As is the case with large construction projects, you have to expect the unexpected,” said Lori Goetsch, dean of Libraries. “But it’s coming together beautifully, and we wanted to get the word out in advance of students returning to campus.”
Stay tuned! We’re hoping to announce our opening date next week.
Hale Library’s first floor looks less like a skating rink and more like the beautiful home of the Dave & Ellie Everitt Learning Commons these days. Don’t miss the latest photos of the workers and spaces! We see in these images a promise of Hale Library’s bright future.
Doors will open to the first floor early in the fall semester, and the second floor will open spring 2020. The entire building will be complete by the end of 2020!
Thank you to University Photo Service’s Tom Theis, who took most of these amazing photos!
The Butler Family Community Foundation gift will support the creation of a new digitization lab equipped with cutting-edge technology. Librarians will use the space to scan unique and rare primary source materials from the Richard L. D. and Marjorie J. Morse Department of Special Collections, which is located on Hale Library’s fifth floor. Thanks to this digitization lab, K-State Libraries will be able to preserve historic photos, documents, correspondence and more for future generations.
This process is increasingly important and a key part of preservation work in large libraries.
“We are thrilled at the prospect of extending the reach of the Libraries’ special collections to the world,” explained Brenda Butler, executive director of the Butler Family Community Foundation.
“As the digital archives become available, anyone can access a wealth of knowledge in cookery, Kansas history and so much more. This initiative finds a new way to place Kansas State and its knowledge base on a global stage. This is exactly the sort of project, with benefits to so many diverse groups of students, scholars and researchers that the Butler Family Community Foundation and our commitment to education, creativity and community is proud to support.”
As K-State Libraries’ Associate Dean Sheila Yeh noted recently, “The state-of-the-art digitization lab will be unique to K-State, our community, and the Libraries. It is often not possible nor economical to transport those collections to and from an out-sourced digitization facility. … This is an example of a sustainable service model with a far-reaching impact.”
Thank you to the Butler Family Community Foundation and the many alumni and friends who have been inspired by K-State’s vision for a next-generation library.
There is still work to do. You can help.
Give online to support the restoration of Hale Library. It’s never been easier.
We’re about six weeks out from the planned completion of the Dave & Ellie Everitt Learning Commons on Hale Library’s first floor! The space is buzzing with activity as drywall is finished, the new paint goes on and floors are evened out in preparation for carpet installation.
Meanwhile, one level up on second floor, most of the demolition is complete and the space largely has been cleared out. Second floor is slated to open in spring 2020!
If you’d like to help make the other floors of Hale Library as amazing as the first floor is going to be, contribute to Help for Hale through the KSU Foundation website! Time is of the essence. Insurance will cover replacement costs—but not the improvements that make an ordinary library experience extraordinary.
When Hale Library reopens, the renovated space will include increased access to technology, plus some exciting new features. K-State students and faculty members will find the tools they need, including
An Innovation Lab where users master state-of-the-art software and hardware that are not readily available elsewhere on campus.
Improved infrastructure, including stronger wi-fi and more electrical outlets.
Technology-equipped, reservable group study rooms.
Given the complexity of those additions and the role information technology plays in the day-to-day life of all academic libraries, we are pleased to have Sheila Yeh, associate dean for collections, discovery and information technology services, on our team. She joined K-State Libraries in March 2019. Most recently, she worked at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she was assistant dean of library and information technology.
I sat down with Dr. Yeh to hear her thoughts about the Hale Library renovation and her time on the K-State campus so far.
What has it been like for you to arrive in the wake of the Hale Library fire?
While the seriousness of the fire in the Hale Library can’t be understated, the silver lining is that the library has a unique opportunity to reinvent itself. It is an honor to be part of the team that guides the library’s reimagining.
In your new role, you oversee so many areas in the library, including preservation and information technology services departments. What excites you about your job?
Information technology has been the catalyst for much of the transformation we find in today’s academic libraries.
Digital and information technology are key resources that must integrate with other library functions to deliver effective services. They are more than utilities and tools; they are enablers.
What do you mean by enablers?
Consider the technologies that will be available in the Innovation Lab, such as virtual reality goggles or the Liquid Galaxy platform.
I’m very excited about these tools; however, I’m more excited about the prospect that the Innovation Lab, as a space combined with its technologies and programs, will offer new opportunities for interdisciplinary studies, serendipitous discoveries, and knowledge creation.Those tools will enable great things. You never know, our Innovation Lab may incubate something that combats climate change.
What previous career experiences are you drawing from when it comes to thinking about the new Hale Library?
At the University of Hawaii at Manoa, I led the reimagining of group study rooms in the library, everything from new furniture to charging stations, and the completed spaces were very popular.
Prior to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, I worked at the University of Denver Libraries, where I oversaw the area that supported technologies in the library’s innovative group study rooms, event rooms, classrooms, and seminar rooms. I helped establish the Library’s Makerspace, its staffing, and programming support.
Keeping current on the landscape of innovation hubs at higher education institutions and academic libraries in the United States is part of my routine. Aside from technology itself, I also keep up-to-date how institutions are utilizing their space and technology resources to inspire the next generation inventors.
How do you see faculty and students using the new features in Hale Library? Part of my role is to think about the areas within the Library from a 360-degree, big-picture perspective. I think about the Library as an organic whole, providing a multitude of services for the community. I think about how we effectively and efficiently deliver services by capitalizing on our existing resources. I think about service delivery, and about the services needed to fulfill the Library’s mission at the highest level. I think about how we engage in dialog with our community to continuously evolve and foster success.
For example, I don’t have to know how to use every tool in the Innovation Lab, because I trust my technologists for that. But I do think about how we can create connections so everyone at K-State—students from all majors as well as faculty—finds opportunities for growth and discovery in the new Hale Library.
I want to think about how we can connect and utilize faculty who already have significant connections in the community. How can we bring those parties to Hale Library to help students succeed and prepare them for life after they graduate?
Also, it is imperative to connect with campus constituents such as the Office of Research Development to ensure that the library can be a supportive partner for their initiatives, such as campus-wide data management support.
What feature of the new building are you most excited about?
I am excited that we will have a state-of-the art digitization lab for Special Collections that will be unique to K-State, our community, and the Libraries. It is often not possible nor economical to transport those collections to and from an out-sourced digitization facility. The new digitization equipment will make those collections available to a global audience. This is an example of a sustainable service model with a far-reaching impact.
If you weren’t working in the library world, what do you think you would be doing?
I have long dreamt about a boutique Chinese dumpling restaurant. Who knows, maybe one day you will find me in the kitchen attending to dough and savory fillings to make the delicious dumplings I grew up with.
Things were heating up in Hale Library last week — quite literally, since the new HVAC system isn’t up and running yet. Testing was in progress, and they were about to turn things on!
The warmer days of summer haven’t stopped construction one bit, though. We recently walked through and saw spaces that reminded us how far we’ve come. We also snapped photos of a few of the more than 120 workers who are making it all happen. (Thank you for being such good sports!)
In the video above, Brenna Leahy, communications student employee, and Mike Haddock, associate dean, look around the first floor under construction. The sunflower entrance at Hale Library’s southeast corner is behind Brenna and Mike. As the video pans to the left, you see the entrance to a large space for meetings and presentations, and then the sites of the new cafe, the entry arch to the Dave & Ellie Everitt Learning Commons and spaces between the pillars where glass-walled reservable group study rooms will be situated.
We’ll be back with another building update later in July. Carpet installation is happening on first floor soon!
Only 145 entries out of 2,856 were recognized with a grand gold or gold designation, and we are thrilled to be one of them.
CASE is an international association of educational institutions, primarily colleges and universities. Their Circle of Excellence Awards honor outstanding work in advancement, alumni relations, communications, fundraising and marketing.
K-State Libraries Magazine gives friends, funders, students and alumni an inside look at library successes, stories and collections — and it has been hugely important as we strive to communicate our post-fire recovery plans and vision for Hale Library’s future.
This week we’re highlighting some of the amazing photos that were in the issue we submitted to the CASE awards. They’re great reminders of how far we’ve come!
If you’d like to make a financial contribution toward the amazing fire-recovery story, visit the KSU Foundation to make a gift to the Help for Hale fund. And if you’d like to see more of K-State Libraries Magazine, visit our website to access issues online or sign up to receive a copy in your mailbox!
We’ll be back next week with a building update featuring plenty of first and second floor construction progress!
It’s a new era in Hale Library. When Associate Dean Mike Haddock goes into the building to document construction these days, he’s coming out with more and more photos of clean, white drywalled spaces and fewer and fewer of rubble and demolition.
The Dave and Ellie Everitt Learning Commons on first floor is taking shape. Things are progressing on schedule, so we aim to open the doors by the first day of fall semester 2019!
The photos below were taken from the same first-floor spot at the bottom of the stairs about 18 days apart.
Meanwhile, up on second floor, demolition continues. Ceiling tiles, drywall, pipes and ductwork have been torn out to clear the way for clean new walls like those you saw in the photos above.
Even the security gates came down.
The renovation doesn’t just affect Hale Library’s external surfaces. Haddock recently captured this photo of wiring sitting in a rusted-out electrical box. It’s a reminder that the damage wasn’t just cosmetic: Improvements are taking place at every level, at every turn.
When Hale reopens in phases starting this fall, that means improved infrastructure, including more electrical outlets and better wi-fi.
Sometimes you have to step away from the computer and get outside. Breathe some fresh air under a blue Kansas sky, gather around a fire pit and watch the kids run. Maybe hold a baby for good measure.
Following the fire, K-State Libraries’ 80-plus regular employees were relocated to 10 different locations across Manhattan. While we’re hugely grateful to everyone who opened their doors to us, we miss seeing our colleagues. The end of the semester seemed like an ideal time to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company.
Thanks to Laurel Littrell, K-State Libraries director of library planning and assessment, we recently had a gorgeous setting in which to do just that.
Littrell and her husband, David Littrell, professor emeritus of music, live northeast of Manhattan on a farm where they have horses and plenty of space for all of our junior librarians to chase chickens and farm cats.
“We’ve had these gatherings here before, and I had been thinking it was time to do another one,” Littrell said. “We were all talking about how to recognize the one year anniversary of the fire, and we thought it might be great to do something positive related to fire, like an outdoor cookout!”
So on Wednesday, May 28, more than 65 people gathered to roast hotdogs and bask in one of the few summer-like days the greater MHK region had seen in weeks.
We took the opportunity to ask some of our colleagues what they’re looking forward to this summer.
Academic services librarian Thomas Bell was looking forward to travel, but he was glad that he didn’t miss the gathering before heading out.
“With all of us scattered all over campus and town I was reminded how much I deeply like and enjoy the people I get to work with at the Libraries,” Bell said. “I had planned to stay for one hour max, as I was leaving the next day and hadn’t packed. It was such a treat catching up with everyone I ended up staying two-and-a-half hours (and wanted to stay longer!). I was up late packing, got three hours sleep, totally worth it.”
Academic services librarian Carol Sevin echoed Bell’s sentiments.
“After a year of hard work on campus (but outside of Hale Library), togethering off-campus with colleagues and families was lovely.”
And what is Sevin looking forward to in the coming months?
“I love teaching how to learn and am always encouraging students to find and use online resources to supplement course materials or to brush up on prerequisites,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to practicing what I preach by leveling up my musicianship and computer programming this summer.”
(Locals: Don’t miss Sevin playing the french horn in the Manhattan Municipal Band performances on Tuesday evenings in City Park this summer!)
The cookout also gave us a chance to spend time with some of our newer co-workers. Katy Bach, budget-fiscal officer, and Sheila Yeh, associate dean, (both pictured above) joined K-State Libraries this spring. They’re still getting to know everyone, which is challenging with the multiple different office locations.
We hope all of our library friends and blog readers have some equally beautiful opportunities to unplug and relax this summer. Next week we’ll be back to business with a jam-packed Hale Library construction update!
A year ago if you walked through the building after the fire, you would have experienced varying degrees of destruction. Today, you’ll find varying degrees of progress.
The building renovation is moving forward in phases — and moving quickly.
The penthouse that houses new heating and cooling units got a coat of paint recently.
Inside, the mechanical equipment is in place and ready to go online so the many, many work crews in the oldest portions of the building will be able to work in an air-conditioned environment this summer.
As Hutton Construction superintendent Mike Watkins showed us recently though, behind the clean white walls, there are still traces of the fire.
Meanwhile, on the first floor, the future home of the Dave and Ellie Everitt Learning Commons is taking shape. It seems less like a cavernous concrete rolling rink and more like a space that will be ready to welcome students for the fall semester.
On second floor, demolition is in mid-stride and the space is scheduled to open for the spring semester.
Things are moving so quickly that we have a window of opportunity. If we’re going to incorporate enhancements that will make the new Hale Library an improved environment for students, we need to raise additional funds now.
Insurance will cover like-for-like replacement costs, but when it comes to making Hale better than it was, we’ll have to rely on private dollars. More reservable study rooms, more classrooms or even more outlets to accommodate students’ innumerable electronic devices: Those will have to be funded above and beyond insurance dollars.
At every turn there’s another space in which the old, damaged materials have been cleared to make way for the new.
Plenty of old things are staying, though. For example, not all of the furniture was a total loss. Some of the salvaged tables are currently stored on the second floor in Historic Farrell Library, the 1927 portion of the building.
Where are the books? Most of the 1.5 million items are in storage units in the old limestone caves under Kansas City.
However, the cleaning process is ongoing. All of those boxes of materials are rotated through our facility near the Manhattan Regional Airport. They come in soot-stained, and they’re unboxed, individually cleaned by hand one at a time, and treated in the ozone chamber. Then they’re reboxed and sent back to a storage unit filled with clean boxes.
At this point, more than 65 percent of our Hale Library collection is clean.
With projects moving forward on so many fronts — book cleaning, construction on first, demolition on second and more — we’ll be providing frequent building updates over the summer.
If you’d like to provide some Help for Hale in support of some of these efforts, please visit the KSU Foundation’s online giving page for Hale Library renovations.
K-State librarians are devoted to helping students and researchers.
Funds from #HelpforHale will equip the new building and its Innovation Lab with technology that will take their work to the next level. Our people will be there to help them every step of the way.
Insurance will cover like-for-like replacement costs, but it will require private donor support to take Hale Library from good to great. #HelpforHale funds will create better study spaces, group study rooms and provide more white boards.
Also important for students: more outlets. When Hale Library was dedicated in 1997, our users weren’t carrying laptops, cell phones and other electronics at all times. With #HelpforHale funds, we will be able to increase the number of electronic outlets exponentially.
It’s hard to imagine a K-State experience without Hale Library, but students like Kali Poenitske went through their entire freshman year without setting foot inside the building.
A contribution to #HelpforHale will allow us create the new Hale Library that Kali and generations of future students deserve!
The new Hale Library will feature welcoming environments for every student on campus, from quieter quiet spaces to improved graduate student study rooms.
Not only that, but with #HelpforHale funds, we’ll be able to extend our hours and provide a first floor that’s open 24 hours a day.
As we bring Hale Library back, we have a window of opportunity to make the heart of campus stronger. Renovations are moving ahead at a furious pace. A contribution to #HelpforHale now will allow us to incorporate the extra features our campus community so richly deserves.
What a difference a year makes! One year ago, finals week was in full swing on the K-State campus, and Hale Library was packed. This year, construction crews started tearing down drop ceilings on Hale’s second floor and framing out new walls on the first floor.
Here’s a visual tour of the latest progress. We’re hoping for an A+!
Here are a few more views of Hale Library’s main floor that will be familiar to our regular visitors.
Meanwhile, on first floor, they’ve moved past the demolition phase and have begun framing out the walls for the new Dave & Ellie Everitt Learning Commons, opening fall 2019.
In these photos, the yellow pointer on the embedded map indicates where the photographer, Associate Dean Mike Haddock, was standing and which direction he was facing.
The future welcoming entrance to the Dave and Ellie Everitt Learning Commons is located just inside Hale Library’s southeast doors.
We hope everyone involved in spring finals week 2019 finishes strong. We look forward to seeing you in Hale Library’s Dave & Ellie Everitt Learning Commons for finals week next fall.
And congratulations graduates! Please come see us for a tour when you return to campus for a visit!
While students are buckling down in study spots across campus, we’re feeling nostalgic. If you ever wanted to capture the spirit of Hale Library pre-fire, you couldn’t find a better time than a Sunday or Monday during finals week.
Every table was packed, and every white board was crammed with notes and diagrams. The building itself seemed to hum with the sound of K-Staters prepping for exams or finishing papers.
This week we look back on some of the end-of-semester moments in which — it felt to us — Hale Library lived its fullest life.
Granted, there are K-Staters who used the building all year long, day in, day out, who claimed that finals week was for amateurs. We loved it, though, because during finals week the hard work and the camaraderie were writ large. It was on display at every table, on every floor … and sometimes even on the floor.
Unexpected special guests would stop by. Sometimes it was Willie Wildcat, or at the end of the fall semester, it might be a brass band playing holiday carols. Prof. Kelly Welch from Family Studies used to show up with dozens of pizzas that she distributed to surprised and grateful students.
Willie fills in at Library Help. May 9, 2016.
Local businesses Einstein Bros. Bagels, Jimmy Johns, Mr. Goodcents, Bluestem and Varsity Donuts regularly donated food. The lines stretched the length of the second floor as students took a break for snacks, caffeine and words of encouragement from our library employee volunteers.
Last May, the KSU Foundation donated goodie bags that we distributed across Hale Library’s five floors.
All of this is to say that we are keenly aware that it’s finals week once more, and we’re sad that we’re not all in Hale together.
We’re looking forward to it so much. And we’ll be sure it’s equipped with so many white boards, group study spaces and all of the outlets students need for their laptops and phones — you won’t believe how many outlets!
Until then, good luck on finals, Wildcats! Everyone at K-State Libraries is cheering for you!
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!
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