The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

May 10, 2013

In the water's wake: Library works to be fully operational after recent flood damage

By Katie Dahlstrom Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — In the three weeks since the Clinton Public Library basement was flooded, city and library staff have been working to repair the damage, but the fixes are far from being complete and the Root Cellar remains closed.

When the Clinton area received more than four inches of rain within 24 hours last month, many Clinton residents experienced flooding. The main branch of the Clinton library was no exception. The basement floor was covered with water, ruining tile, carpet and drywall. Four feet of water filled the elevator shaft, which mixed hydraulic fluid into the water and put the elevator temporarily out of commission.

While Library Director Amy Birtell deals with repairing the flooding, she is also in the midst of a library assessment that will determine the future of her facility.

"On the one hand, this is perfect timing. We're taking steps to make permanent improvement to the library," Birtell said. "This is just another sign that something has to be done."

Since the flooding occurred and the water was pumped out of the basement, a new sump pump and elevator pump were installed. The elevator is back in service and cost the library $10,000 to repair.

The downstairs offices, including Birtell's, have new carpet and repaired drywall. Before the new carpet was laid, Birtell had to work from a laptop in the area outside her office.

While Birtell's office and the elevator have been repaired, other areas of the basement have not been.

The floor in the technical processing room, where books and magazines are prepared to be put on shelves, books are mended and deliveries are taken, remains covered in buckling and crumbling asbestos tiles. Birtell said they discovered in that area water had not only leaked into the room, but come up from the ground.

The flooding in the technical processing room displaced three employees. They have joined another staff member in an office in the children's department. Runner rugs have been placed on the floor so library staff members who need to access the room can more safely walk across the floor.

Young Adult Coordinator Kendra Evers was working downstairs for less than a week when the flood occurred, sending her packing for an office upstairs.

"I don't have a desk at all. It's frustrating, but everyone's been nice and has been sharing," Evers said.

Josh Hansen, the library's new systems administrator, was able to rearrange wires and move hard drives so library employees could work while in office limbo.

Asbestos removal will begin next week. While initial estimates peg the cost at $3,000, Birtell does not know how much of the tile and floor will need to be removed.

"From what I understand, if it continues to crumble, they will just keep removing more and more," Birtell said.

The city is going to put in a new subfloor and will patch the tiles, but Birtell said the temporary patches might not be enough to put the library staff back into the area.

"We might not be able to put the staff back to work in there until we get more permanent repairs," Birtell said.

The library's extensive collection of genealogical materials is inaccessible to patrons. Birtell said she hopes to have the Root Cellar open again by June 3 in order to accommodate the influx of people who come for the materials.

"Last summer we had people from Washington D.C., Texas, they were stopping in Clinton to do genealogy work. The place was packed," she said "I would feel terrible if someone came from such a long distance and couldn't use the resources we have."

In the meantime, city and library staff have made sure to keep the area temperature and humidity controlled. Patrons can request the material, which will then be retrieved by library staff.

When they met one day after the flooding occurred, members of the library needs assessment steering committee said relocating the Root Cellar materials, many of which are one-of-a-kind, was a priority.

Although Birtell has thought about ways she could relocate some of the collection, she said it's not possible in the current facility.

With a history of provisional repairs on the more than century-old building, Birtell said the flooding and damage it caused points to the need for a long-term solution for the structure.

"These were temporary fixes. That's all they were meant to be and now they're coming undone," Birtell said.