No Firm Date for Lowell Library’s Reopening After Water Damage
LOWELL -- There is no certain reopen date in sight for the Pollard Memorial Library as it recovers from an estimated $350,000 in damages from a burst pipe over the weekend.
“We want to open up as soon as possible, but we’re not going to prematurely do it,” said Assistant City Manager Michael McGovern.
Staff will offer limited library services to the public at the branch on the second floor of the Senior Center starting on Tuesday, according to Library Director Victoria Woodley.
More than 3,000 library resources, from books to media, were damaged by the estimated 5,000 gallons of water that poured from the attic pipe, seeping through every floor down to the basement. Attic dampers that had been manually shut for the winter were apparently forced open by strong winds, allowing cold air into the HVAC system that froze a valve and heating coil.
McGovern said full remediation, including repairs and replacements, is estimated to be about $350,000. He said it is not yet clear how much of that will be covered by the city’s property insurance.
Starting Wednesday, large hoses, snaked throughout the building, were connected to commercial desiccant dehumidifiers stationed outside. The machines, operating at 6,500 cubic feet per minute, pump hot, dry air in and exhaust the moisture-filled air out, according to John McCulloch, large loss manager for ServiceMaster Elite. Inside, turbo fans whirred in the affected rooms to maximize airflow.
“That helps us stabilize and control the atmospherics in the building, so that we can initiate the drying process,” McCulloch said, noting it could continue through next Wednesday.
In the second-floor main reading room, it was a balmy 83 degrees Thursday. The lower floors were cooler.
After carpeting and other porous materials are removed, ServiceMaster employees will apply anti-microbial agents to the subfloor and moisture-map each room to determine what further measures are needed, McCulloch said.
Library staff have been methodically sorting through materials in the affected areas, separating the wet from the dry, the salvageable from that which must be thrown out.
About 150 irreplaceable water-damaged local history books, from old city directories to registers of Massachusetts military members in the Civil and Revolutionary wars, were sent to Belfor Property Restoration in Nashua to be professionally cleaned, Woodley said.
Coordinator of Library Automation & Technical Services Dory Lewis said 633 books were damaged by the water, along with 2,406 audio books, DVDs and music CDs.
She said the entire adult audio book collection was “pretty much underwater.” It, along with a variety of materials in the children’s section, were hit hardest. Items that were on top of counters -- such as new genre fiction and biographies and children’s summer reading selections -- were among the most damaged paper books, Lewis said.
Some media items can be cleaned and their casings replaced, which will be a labor-intensive effort, she said.
Woodley said she received good news on the electronics from her IT staff. All 26 computers that were in the water path’s restarted after being dried out, she said. Three monitors did not survive, and not all of the keyboards have been checked yet, Woodley said. One phone and a WiFi router were beyond repair, and two leased printers are being assessed, she said.
The Audubon prints that were on the first-floor walls were not damaged, and were moved out of the areas being dried, Woodley said.
Library members will be able to pick up holds, museum passes and other item requests at the Senior Center branch beginning on Tuesday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Woodley said. The branch also has 12 computers, she said.
“At least we’ve got a way to have the public get what they need,” Woodley said.
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