Hale renovations continuing as scheduled, dean says

After major demolition on the first floor, the area that housed Einstein Bros. Bagels is now empty inside. Hale Library's first floor is expected to partially reopen in fall 2019. (Courtesy Photo by K-State Libraries)

As previously reported by the Collegian, the east side of Hale Library’s first floor will be reopening in August as a study area. However, that doesn’t mean all is finished at Kansas State University — despite fire and water damage in May 2018, a lot is being done for the library thanks to donations and hard work.

Regarding the need for donations, Michael Haddock, associate dean of K-State Libraries, said the library’s insurance payout is not yet finalized. The insurance will contribute a large sum to the renovation expenses, but Haddock said the K-State Family will need to chip in.

“I can’t give dollar figures,” Haddock said. “It is an ongoing process, and it will be a while before there is a final number given. Philanthropy will be important. What we would like to do and how much we get for insurance may not pay for everything.”

For the past two weeks, there has been major demolition on Hale’s first floor. The area behind the sunflower entrance that once housed Einstein Bros. Bagels and several offices is now completely empty.

“So, it’s a big empty space in the first floor,” Haddock said. “Construction for renovation for the first floor will start soon. Lots of stuff is happening inside.”

Air ducts are currently being worked on in the Great Room. Next week, various heating, ventilation and air conditioning units will be replaced, and concrete flooring throughout the building will begin.

“A lot is going on from the roof, but you can’t see it from the ground,” Haddock said. “Last week, 60 workers were working on the roof covering where the fire was.”

Hale was damaged by a fire that started near the roof during construction on May 22, 2018. While the fire did some damage to the building, most of the destruction was caused by either smoke or the water from the sprinkler systems that helped put out the fire before it spread too far.

With the first floor scheduled to be finished this fall, the second and fifth floors are expected to be reopened by spring 2020, with hopes of having those sections open to students at some point throughout the semester. The third and fourth floors will be finished by fall 2020.

The areas of Hale built in 1927, including the Great Room, received the brunt of the water damage following the fire. Walls with murals had soaked up enough water to have 90 percent moisture content, so the water has to slowly dry until the walls on all floors have lower moisture. Because of this, these sections of the library will likely not be open until 2021, Haddock said.

While reconstruction of the building is important, there is also another half of the project being worked on — book cleaning.

“Since September, people have been cleaning books [from] the 1.5 million volumes with damage,” Haddock said. “Cleaning is a major process.”

Around 147,000 boxes of books were taken out of Hale following the fire. Only around 4,000 boxes contained wet books, while the rest of the boxes held books with smoke damage.

The damp books were transported over the summer to Fort Worth, Texas, and were cleaned using sublimation to remove liquid from the pages. Of the wet books, 90 percent were saved.

Books with smoke damage have been part of the cleaning process since September. For each book, a high-efficiency particulate air vacuum is used to clean off soot, the front is wiped with a chemical to remove any residue and ozone gas is used to eliminate odors. This is a book-by-book process, but 70 people are currently working every day to have the books completely cleaned by July or August.

Numerous students have indicated disappointment with the prolonged closure of Hale, K-State’s largest library and a popular study spot for many.

“It’s sad to think about what is ruined and destroyed,” Sade Denny, freshman in political science, said. “You know it’s not going to be the same after the fire. Some things worse, some things better.”

New students entering K-State were also disappointed by the inability to visit the campus library in their first year of college.

“I wanted to go the library because I like libraries,” Alora Duran, freshman in music education, said. “But I just adapted.”

However, some students are eager for Hale to make a triumphant return, especially those who made use of the library before the fire.

“I basically lived in there,” Nick French, sophomore in mathematics, said. “I can’t work well in my room, and it was a convenient place. I would usually go to the second floor.”

To remain updated on the library renovations, Hale has its own blog titled “Hale: The Next Chapter” which can be viewed on K-State’s website.