NEWS

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November 21, 2003

Water seeps into Reg

The Regenstein suffered a minor blow from the weather Tuesday morning when a drain in a custodians' closet in the northwest corner of the first floor backed up and spewed water into the surrounding area at 8:25 a.m.

The water made its way from the first floor reading room all the way to the carpeted corridor in front of the library's administrative office and into a nearby staff room. The water also moved down into the Shipping and Receiving Department on the A-level and into the A-level custodians' closet, directly below the first floor closet where the flooding started.

Due to problems with a portion of the building's roof, water moved into the northeast corner of the fifth floor and into a processing area closed to readers. Some books in the fifth floor stacks got wet; they are currently being dried and treated by the library preservation staff.

The University is currently looking at repairs for the roof defects that particularly affected the fifth floor book stacks.

Building engineers came to the rescue almost immediately after the leakage began. Though they fixed the drain in 15 minutes, the water was already two inches high in the reading room—enough to cause some damage.

Jim Vaughan, the assistant director for access and facilities at the Regenstein, noted that although serious panic is normally a reasonable response to leaks like this, its timing mitigated the chaos of the situation.

"Water is always a big deal in libraries," he said. "Fortunately, water is an infrequent problem in the libraries at Chicago, but even more fortunately, today's problem happened during normal business hours and was dealt with quickly and responsibly by knowledgeable staff who were already on site," Vaughan said.

"It obviously inconvenienced readers and library staff, but to my knowledge, did not greatly interrupt faculty and students's use of Regenstein," he added

Officials said the rainy weather of the past few days played the biggest role in this chain of events. Ray Gadke, librarian in charge of microforms and periodicals, said it was the heavy rainfall of Monday night that clogged the drain.

"The leaves collected too much water, and [the water] spilled over into the pipe, which eventually broke," Gadke said.

The heavy rain of the past week, according to weather reports, will return this weekend. Reports also indicated that such torrential rains mean that that the Chicago region should expect a cold front to move in soon.

There was a similar flooding incident at the Regenstein with the same drain on November 9 of last year.

Since that flooding had occurred at 1 a.m. on a Saturday morning—after the library had closed—it resulted in a larger volume of water pouring onto the first floor and into the A-level reading room.

"Specifically, a greater volume of water discharged than normal," Vaughan said. "Although we don't fully understand why this happened, people in the University's Facilities Services, who maintain the cooling tower, are investigating why this occurred."

While the damage to the library is being cleaned up, yellow caution tape blocks the northwest corner of the first floor reading room, as giant fans—installed by Brouwer Brothers, a commercial cleaning and restoration company—dry the carpet. The University's Office of Risk Management arranged hired the Brouwer Brothers, as the company has expertise in dealing with water problems.

Once the carpet in the reading room is dry, Brouwer will steam clean it. Most students sitting in the Reg seemed oblivious to the bright yellow tape, as if the northwest corner did not exist at all.

One girl sitting at a computer said with jovial casualness, "Oh, the Reg flooded? Really? That's so sad."