While interior walls dry, K-State Libraries anticipates partial reopening of Hale this fall

A photographer looks up at one of the murals in Hale Library's Great Room. Scaffolding was set up to support a walkway above, giving restoration workers platforms to work on the third floor ceiling and the murals. (Rafael Garcia | Collegian Media Group)

Eight months after Hale Library closed due to fire and water damage, Lori Goetsch, dean of libraries, confirmed construction documents are nearly finished for the renovation of the first floor.

“The renovation work hasn’t begun yet,” Goetsch said. “The documents for the construction of the first floor are expected to be finished in early February, and that kind of kicks off the process.”

The first floor of Hale is scheduled to reopen for the fall 2019 semester. The renovated first floor will include group study spaces, meeting rooms and a multipurpose space.

The rest of the building will be reopened later, with Goetsch saying work will possibly be finished in fall 2020.

Although work is scheduled to begin in other areas, the wall plaster must dry in the 1927 wing of Hale before construction can start there. This wing is the oldest section of the library and includes spaces like the Great Room.

“Plaster takes a long, long time to dry out,” Goetsch said. “Those walls are still considered wet from the water that came into the building from the fire department and from our own sprinkler system.”

Goetsch said one of the biggest challenges with Hale has been settling its insurance claim. Factoring in damages to information technology and infrastructure creates a long, complex process.

When construction begins on restoring the entirety of Hale, students will still have access to library materials. This semester, most resources for students will be located in the William T. Kemper Art Gallery, the same place they were located during the fall 2018 semester. The Union Program Council previously hosted exhibitions in this gallery space.

“What we have been able to do over in the Union is they’ve given us gallery space across from the information desk, so we’re able to put out the reserve collection and interlibrary loan collection,” Goetsch said.

Since the fire, the interlibrary loan service, which borrows materials from other libraries in Kansas, has almost doubled in use. Goetsch said the interlibrary loan system has been a “lifesaver.”

“We’re going to try to have a combination of books that may be of interest to classes as well as some popular reading materials,” Goetsch said.

While cleaning the damaged interior spaces of Hale finished in mid-November 2018, the library’s books continue to undergo repair in Manhattan, Junction City and the Kansas City area.

“They are slowly and carefully, one at a time, being cleaned for soot and other particulates,” Goetsch said.