A broken pipe has drenched books and offices at the Lexington, Kentucky, Public Library on East Main Street. Old books, newspapers, and vinyl records in the library's third-floor Kentucky Room, some of them irreplaceable, have been seriously damaged. However, the staff is hopeful about salvage efforts.
"That collection is probably worth as much as the building is," said Greg Davis, the library's marketing director.
Library spokesman Doug Tattershall said it was too early to estimate the damages or restoration costs - or to even tell how many items got wet. The library has insurance, he said.
A pipe on the roof had ruptured during the night, causing damage on portions of the top four floors of the five-story building. Staff arrived in the morning to find thousands of books damaged.
The fifth-floor offices were a mess. Many biographies on the fourth floor were damaged and will be thrown out. Some water made it as far as the second floor. The Kentucky Room got most of the staff's attention as its collection includes many one-of-a-kind items.
"Items being salvaged include old copies of the Lexington Press, recordings of the Henry Clay High School Band performances from 1963, Great Moments in Kentucky Basketball with Adolph Rupp, and a selection of songs by the late Gov. A.B. "Happy" Chandler. A large horticultural scrapbook that appeared to be from the 1930s or 1940s titled Home of Mr. and Mrs. D.H. Peak had water pouring from its spine, but the pages of pressed trilliums and dandelions inside were safe and dry.
Items that were so wet that they would not dry in 48 hours risked becoming moldy. They were taken off-site to be dried. About 75 to 100 of the wettest books were to be freeze-dried and trucked to the Munters Corporation, a Chicago-based company that specializes in dehumidification.
It appeared that virtually everything could be saved, said Becky Ryder, the head of preservation services for the University of Kentucky libraries, who was called in to help. "It's always a blessing to have water damage instead of a fire," Ryder said as she looked over a cart of wet books.
Robin Rader, the assistant library manager in charge of the Kentucky Room, said the collection of Kentucky Gazette newspapers, "the heart and soul of the ... collection" was completely dry. The Gazette was published from 1787 to 1840.