Kansas State’s main library building, Hale Library, has been inaccessible to students since it sustained a roof fire on May 22, 2018. While the actual fire damage was minimal and localized to one area of the roof, water and smoke damage affected the entire building.
Now, after one academic year without Hale, the doors to the first floor will soon open, marking the first step in Hale’s complete re-open after extensive cleanup and renovations. As of 7 p.m. on Aug. 20, the first floor opening date has not been publicly announced.
Here’s the Hale fire timeline of events, as previously reported by the Collegian and recorded through the Hale Library blog.
Summer 2018: In the heat of it all
Hale Library was set for change during summer 2018; the first floor renovation project and other improvement projects had just begun. Then, the fate of Hale took a different course.
Around 4 p.m. on the day of the fire, library employees and guests evacuated from Hale as fire crews responded to the rooftop blaze. Seventy firefighters contained the third-alarm fire in two hours, controlling it in four. No injuries were reported in the event. By the evening of May 23, the Manhattan Fire Department concluded that roofing operations caused the accidental fire.
Though fire damages were limited to just one part of the roof, water damage spread throughout the building.
The fire affected the entire campus—because the university’s data center was located in Hale’s basement, several of the campus IT services were taken offline, with some online tools unavailable until June 4, 2018.
In the weeks following the fire, disaster recovery company BELFOR began clean-up operations inside Hale while damage assessments were made. The biggest hurdles involved restoring the library’s books and other loanable items and drying the building.
“What they have been doing is everything they can to get all of the moisture out of the library,” Lori Goetsch, dean of Hale Library, said to the Collegian in a June 5, 2018 article. “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.”
Belfor boxed up the library’s books and moved them off-site to be freeze-dried and chemically cleaned.
The staff that called Hale their home had to find new office space in the meantime. The central library help desk first popped up in the Business Administration Building for the summer, but it was then relocated to the first floor of the K-State Student Union. The Information Technology Assistance Center and Media Center also moved to the Union, up in the second-floor Cat’s Pause Lounge. Special Collections materials relocated to Bluemont Hall. Other staff are spread around campus, from Seaton Hall to Dykstra Hall, from the Alumni Center to the Unger Complex.
Before the total cost of restoration had been assessed, the K-State Foundation set up the “Help for Hale” fund so that students, faculty, alumni and friends of the university could support the restoration effort.
Fall 2018: Campus life without the library
In addition to K-State Libraries’ other campus branches, Hale staff shifted to the information desk in the Union. Later on, the William T. Kemper Art Gallery was re-purposed into a mini library with bookshelves and a study area. Through the new Union location, patrons could pick up and return interlibrary loan materials, use university printers and utilize the library’s class reserve textbooks.
In October, students had an opportunity to voice their thoughts about Hale’s renovations. A Qualtrics survey published by K-State Libraries asked, “What do you want to see in the Hale Library of the future?” Other chances for student input popped up during the fall semester; on Dec. 4, 2018, the library held an open forum to hear from the K-State community.
One big hurdle without Hale: less campus computers and less study spaces to go around. To help with this issue at the beginning of the fall semester, K-State Libraries shared that printing stations, computer labs and study areas are named and visible on the K-State campus map.
Additionally, for both fall and spring finals weeks, temporary study locations popped up around campus to compensate for the study spaces Hale usually provides. Extra rooms and large-group study spaces in Holtz Hall, the Recreation Complex, Berney Family Welcome Center and the Leadership Studies Building opened up for students during finals week.
Spring 2019: The tides start to turn
More details about Hale’s interior reconstruction and gradual reopening were revealed during the spring semester. In February, PGAV Architects met with K-State Libraries staff to discuss Hale’s status. At that time, construction on the first floor had been scheduled, while the designs for the upper floors were still under development.
The public also learned of a rough reopening timeline for Hale. The most recent timeline on the Hale Library Recovery Plan webpage puts the end of Hale’s renovations at the end of 2020. In the meantime, Hale’s first floor is slated to open early on in the fall 2019 semester, with the second floor opening in spring 2020.
Though students, faculty and staff had to wait several more months for Hale to open, the community around the library and the campus continued with the help of social media. While students could not be physically present in Hale Library, they could stay in touch with library announcements, happenings and jokes through Twitter. K-State Libraries posted one of its most popular tweets of the year on Jan. 16: “some of you never caught on literal fire and it really shows.”
some of you never caught on literal fire and it really shows
— K-State Libraries (@kstatelibraries) January 16, 2019
With a timeline in mind and humor to boot, things started looking up for Hale’s future.
Inside Hale, change was underway. During finals week in May, local media toured the building. Construction crews worked on renovations on the first floor, with skeletons of new walls and a direct first-floor entryway, while other floors were still in the process of clean-up and restoration.
The Great Room on Hale’s third floor, which received the brunt of the fire’s damage, was cluttered with scaffolding. A makeshift elevated platform (nicknamed “the dance floor” by Goetsch) allows construction workers to access the high ceiling. Some of the limestone and plaster in that section of the building, constructed in 1927 as Farrell Library, was still wet in May, Goetsch said to the Collegian on May 17.
As the one-year anniversary of the fire approached, K-State Libraries promoted the K-State Foundation’s “Help for Hale” fund and invited Hale supporters to wear Hale Library shirts on May 22, 2019. Several university departments and associations joined in on the conversation with students, faculty and staff chiming in and sharing personal sentiments about Hale.
It's been one year since the fire at Hale Library. What are your most memorable moments? How did the library impact your time at #KState? Share your stories in the comments.
— K-State Alumni Assoc (@KStateAlumni) May 22, 2019
Summer 2019: A new Hale on the horizon
As the school year approaches, students will soon see the newly renovated first floor of Hale Library. The Dave & Ellie Everitt Learning Commons on the first floor are set to open during the fall semester, but K-State Libraries has not yet announced an opening date (as of Aug. 20). The space will include reservable group study rooms and hundreds of seats for students to use.
Twenty-four-hour access to Hale’s first floor five days a week will roll out later in the semester, a service that was suspended a few years ago due to a smaller budget. Right after reopening, though, the building hours will be 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
A new cafe operated by Housing and Dining Services will also be located on Hale’s first floor, replacing Einstein Bros. Bagels. In the meantime, the central library help desk and IT services will remain in the Union.
“The vast majority of Hale Library’s physical collection materials are still being cleaned and are located in off-site storage,” K-State Libraries’ Aug. 12 blog post reads. “Please use interlibrary loan to request materials that are not available.”
Despite last year’s fire, Hale Library will soon be home to thousands of K-Staters again. With disaster comes opportunity, as university president Richard Myers wrote on May 25, 2018 after seeing the initial aftermath of the Hale roof fire: “While there was plenty of smoke and water damage, I saw an opportunity for our university to build a stronger future.”
“Because this university and its people are resilient, I know we will continue to work hard to restore Hale Library to its full glory,” Myers continued.