Library services continue as Hale’s interior assessed, restored after fire

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Walking between the National Disaster Team trailers and the large generators assisting in the Hale Library clean-up, Yulisa Enriquez, junior in Kinesiology, continues to work on her phone as she passes by. The Hale Library fire caused many of Kansas State's systems to fail, but they have recently been brought back online. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

In the aftermath of the May 22 roof fire, Hale Library remains closed to the public as work crews assess the smoke, water and burn damage, but some library services are still available.

Lori Goetsch, dean of Hale Library, said the most damaged area is the 1927 Farrell Library in the north section of the building. The first floor of the affected area housed some of the library’s physical collections.

“Those were either wet or damp, some of them fairly dry, but those are the library materials that got the most water-related damage,” Goetsch said.

A floor above, the Information Technology Assistance Center sustained significant damage. The Hale fire rendered many IT-related services unavailable in the days after the fire, but Kansas State stated on its Hale Library fire update page Monday that most network services are now back online, including Canvas and KSIS.

The third and highest floor in the Farrell Library houses the Great Room. Goetsch said the Great Room has a lot of water and smoke damage.

“[There is a] lot of discoloration and soot that is on the walls and the ceiling,” Goetsch said. “There are three or four large burn holes where the fire came into the Great Room area, so that’s going to take some significant restoration.”

Operations to assess the damage and preserve items are underway. Belfor, the disaster recovery and property restoration company hired to restore the library’s interior, has about 200 staff on-site, Goetsch said.

“What they have been doing is everything they can to get all of the moisture out of the library,” Goetsch said. “We had what we think was over 400,000 gallons of water go into Hale Library, so they bring pumps in and pump it out. They bring air blowers in to shoot good air in there to dry things out and to condition the air.”

All of the carpet, many ceiling tiles and some wet drywall have been removed from the building. As for the books, Goetsch said wet books are going into freezers.

“Freezing books is a good way to recover them from being wet; they kind of freeze dry,” Goetsch said.

Other materials have been boxed and transported to the Executive Court building. There, Goetsch said Belfor staff will clean the books.

“They wipe them down with a chemical-treated sponge to take off the residue from soot and that sort of thing,” Goetsch said. “Then to get the smoke out of the books, they will tent them and shoot ozone into the space, and ozone is supposed to remove the smoke smell. They are just starting to build up a production process to treat all the books.”

Goetsch said it is “way premature” to offer up a financial measure of assets lost in the fire.

“We have a lot of different types of space in the library: the space where the collections are, people’s offices, the Information Technology Assistance Center, the Academic Learning Center, tutoring center for athletes,” Goetsch said. “All of those areas need to be assessed and examined for safety and property and determinations made about what level of loss they’ve experienced.”

Consequently, the cost to repair Hale has not been figured, and the timeline for the building’s first floor renovations will change.

“We’ve assured our donors that the investment they’ve made in the first floor renovation is a good one that will happen, it’s just going to happen on a different timetable and become a piece of a much larger project,” Goetsch said.

Despite Hale’s current status as a hard hat facility, K-State Libraries is still offering services to students and faculty, such as interlibrary loan.

Additionally, K-State students can check out materials from the University of Kansas’ libraries while Hale’s collection is unavailable. KU’s open-ended loaning service for K-Staters is available “if you’re willing to go to Lawrence and go physically to the library,” Goetsch said.

In the meantime, Goetsch said the K-State community can support the library by being patient with the library’s services.

“We’ll do our best to get those services to you, whether it’s a book from another library or a faculty member who wants someone to come and talk to their class about library services, we are at the ready to do all of those things for our community like we’ve always done,” Goetsch said. “It’s just going to be done in a little different way.”

The KSU Foundation has a fund called “Help for Hale” that community members can financially contribute to while Hale is restored.

Today, ECM at K-State and the First Congregational UCC of Manhattan will host “Read Together in Honor of Hale” on the lawn north of Hale at 8 p.m. The Facebook event asks participants to “bring a favorite book and a blanket or lawn chair with you and we will read favorite passages aloud.”

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I'm Dene Dryden, and I graduated in May 2020 with a Bachelor's of Arts in English. Before graduating, I worked at the Collegian for more than three years as a copy chief, managing editor and editor-in-chief. I also served a term on the Collegian Media Group Board of Directors. While at K-State, I also worked at Wildcat 91.1 FM. My cat Robyn is the light of my life, and I take compliments in the form of coffee.