Water Leak at Library

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11/9/19 update

Repairs on the Rochester Public Library’s auditorium will start Monday, November 11, 2019, following a major water leak in September.

“The auditorium is a heavily-used community resource,” says Library Director Audrey Betcher, “Having it repaired is essential for both the work we do as a library, but also for the work we do alongside our many community partners.”

auditorium at rpl

The auditorium, other library meeting spaces, storage, and staff areas were all heavily damaged when a water softener malfunctioned during the night on September 22, sending more than 3,500 gallons of water into the building.

According to Betcher, Knutson Construction will repair the auditorium, with work expected to last through early December. “Due to the necessity of the auditorium, we were able to start work on that project while we work through the formal bidding process for the rest of the repair work,” says Betcher.

Carpet, ceiling tiles, and walls were heavily damaged in the central portion of the library, which will be part of a larger repair project. Cost estimates are still unknown, as the formal bidding process hasn’t begun. 

(Photo: The auditorium's drywall, insulation, and wall coverings were damaged in the water leak, along with ceiling tiles.)

“We’re not sure how much it will be, but we are working with the city’s insurance provider to cover the work,” explains Betcher.

Earlier this week, library staff members emptied out most of the auditorium to allow work to begin.
water leak_auditorium work_andy s and paul_small

The library’s second floor is still only partially open, but most services have been restored.

Some staff have been relocated to the library's second floor Computer Lab, impacting popular programs and services such as Digital Drop-Ins and Convert-o-Lab services. 

(Photo: Staff work to remove items from the library's auditorium in preparation for repair work.)

10/21/19 update

Exactly one month after a major water leak damaged the Rochester Public Library, officials say most of the heavily-used second floor will reopen Tuesday morning.

“Our second-floor spaces are used not only for the valuable non-fiction collection, but also for additional seating and reading spaces and private study rooms,” says Library Director Audrey Betcher, “As a staff, we decided reopening at least part of the second floor needed to be a priority.”

2nd floor temp computers

Crews spent much of the past week moving furniture and creating temporary barriers on the second floor, leaving plenty of space for contractors to complete repairs in damaged areas. A faulty water softener is to blame for the September 22 water leak.

The library auditorium and the library’s second floor were most affected by the leak, along with staff work spaces and storage. Areas on the second floor where the damage occurred will be closed off to the public, and the library’s computer lab and group study areas will be used by staff displaced by the incident.

Staff (pictured, right) demonstrate where the public computers have been temporarily moved, to once again provide internet stations on the second floor.

Betcher says there are also some second-floor services that will not be available, including: test proctoring, Digital Drop-In services, and the library’s popular Convert-O-Lab. Meanwhile, public meeting spaces continue to be impacted, including the library’s auditorium and Meeting Rooms B & C, typically home to dozens of programs and activities each week.

In the meantime, community partners continue to offer assistance, something Betcher says “demonstrates Rochester’s supportive nature.” A number of events originally scheduled at the library in October and November have been moved to offsite locations such as the Mayo Civic Center (MCC), Rochester Art Center, and Quarry Hill Nature Center. A full list of library activities and events can be found at www.rplmn.org/events.  

 

10/14/19 update

More than three weeks after a major water leak damaged part of the Rochester Public Library, officials say repair work could begin soon.water leak

“The water leak really affected the floors, walls, ceiling tiles, and other building components along the central core of the library,” says Library Director Audrey Betcher, “We are glad we can still provide services in our limited space, but we’re doing everything in our power to get back to full service.” 

Currently the library is waiting to hear back from area contractors about how long it will take to return to normal and also how much it will cost to make those repairs. Betcher says estimates and timelines are expected in the next week.

“The contractors who are bidding on this project all understand the need for us to get everything back open to the public,” explains Betcher. 

The library auditorium and the library’s second floor were most affected by the water leak. Rochester Public Utilities estimates more than 3,500 gallons of water flowed out of the library’s faulty water softener during the overnight hours of September 22, causing considerable damage. water leak rfd

In the meantime, community partners are helping out by offering spaces for both programming and also for storage. A number of events originally scheduled at the library in October and November have been moved to offsite locations such as the Mayo Civic Center (MCC), Rochester Art Center, and Quarry Hill Nature Center while other activities are being squeezed into other spaces in the library.

 

9/30/19 update

More than a week after a major water leak forced Rochester Public Library to close, crews are still working to return the building back to normal while library staff is finding creative ways to bring services back.

“Our collection is mostly unharmed, but the water damage really affected the floors, walls, ceiling tiles, and other building components,” says Library Director Audrey Betcher, “Right now the work is focused on getting all of those areas dry and reopened for the public to use.” Only a portion of the library’s first floor is open while crews continue with mitigation work.

According to Betcher the top two priorities are opening the library’s second floor, home to heavily-used resources such as internet computers, the Literacy Hub tutoring spaces, a digital conversion lab, and more, and reopening the public meeting spaces. “We have library staff acting as runners to collect books, DVDs, and CDs from the second floor, but we know patrons really want to be back upstairs,” says Betcher.

Three of the library’s four public meeting spaces were affected by the leak, with the library auditorium the hardest hit. “The library hosts dozens of programs and activities each week, and community members rely on the library for those opportunities to learn and engage,” explains Betcher.

To help mitigate the loss of the three meeting spaces, the library has modified their offerings for October. Click here to see a list of October programs and events.

Community partners are helping out by offering spaces for both programming and also for storage. A number of events will be held at offsite locations such as the Mayo Civic Center (MCC), Rochester Art Center, and Quarry Hill Nature Center while other activities are being squeezed into other spaces in the library. 

“Both the Mayo Civic Center and Rochester Art Center are also helping us store items while work continues on some of our library storage spaces,” says Betcher. She estimates over 1,000 boxes of magazines are being stored at MCC, giving recovery crews the ability to work in the library’s Magazine Room on the second floor, which was one of most heavily-damaged spaces.

Crews hope to finish on recovery work by the end of this week, with reconstruction work starting soon after. Several interior walls were saturated, so restoration crews spent much of the last week removing drywall and insulation.  

“The faster we can have our spaces repaired, the faster we can get back to offering our full range of services,” says Betcher.

Early on, Betcher’s team decided to delay library due dates. Books, DVDs, CDs, and other library materials due the past eight days have all been given an automatic grace period and are now due October 10. 

Other important service notes:
• Interlibrary loan service is up and running
• The Convert-O-Lab is closed
• Temporary internet stations have been set up on the first floor
• The Friends of the Library Autumn Book Sale is scheduled to continue
• Test proctoring is not available
• Faxing is not available
• One-on-one digital assistance is unavailable
• The Literacy Hub is closed
 

 

9/25 update 

Visitors return to library following four-day closure, community support continues

(Rochester) Library visitors lined up outside the door this morning, as doors opened to the public for the first time in four days. 

Library Director Audrey Betcher says it’s good to have services available again. “We were able to reopen the entire first floor of the building, and cleanup on the second floor is continuing.”  

Teammates from other city departments pitched in Wednesday afternoon, helping library staff with recovery efforts. “This entire event has demonstrated what a strong team we have at the city,” says Betcher. “They were part of the first response, and that assistance continues.”

Damage estimates are unknown at this time.

In addition to the city-wide response, other organizations are pitching in. The Rochester Art Center is providing space for library storage, until repairs are complete. RAC is also accepting book donations to help the Friends of the Library.

Betcher says the community response continues to be overwhelming. “People have commented about how grateful they are to see us back open, and that reminds us all how essential the library is in our community.”

The library’s first floor is open regular hours and the Bookmobile is operating on a regular schedule. Meanwhile, a majority of the library’s programs and events have either been cancelled or moved to other locations. For full details on all library events, visit check out our modified list of events or visit www.rplmn.org/events. 

 

 

9/24 4PM update

Library to partially open Wednesday following water leak

(Rochester) Four days after a major water leak, Rochester Public Library is set to partially reopen on Wednesday. 

Library Director Audrey Betcher says library staff, City of Rochester teammates, and other response crews worked on recovery and damage assessment during the closure. “Knowing how much the community needs the library, our number one goal over the last few days was to get open as soon as possible,” says Betcher.

Only the first floor of the library will be open to the public, as work continues on the library’s second floor.

“It’s not a perfect solution,” says Betcher, adding, “A complete reopening is what our staff will be focused on in the coming days.”

On Sunday, a water softener malfunctioned, causing water to leak in the central portion of the library building.

According to Betcher, the extent of the water damage is still unknown, but library books were largely spared. “We are fortunate that most of the leak affected staff areas and public areas that do not house collections.” 

Friends of the Rochester Public Library, one of the library’s two supporting organizations, lost thousands of books due to the water leak.  Pat Stephenson, co-manager of the Friends Bookstore, says book donations are not being accepted at this time.

For individuals wishing to offer financial support, the Rochester Public Library Foundation is accepting donations at www.rplmn.org/donate.

In addition to a partial reopen, the Bookmobile will run a regular schedule, and a limited number of library programs and events will be offered:
• Homework Help, starting at 6PM in the library’s Youth Services area
• Speed Friending, 5:30-7:30PM, at Grand Rounds
• Taxes for Retirement, 6:30-7:30PM, held at Mayo Civic Center

For the latest on the library recovery efforts, visit www.rplmn.org.

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9/23, 4PM update

Library closure continues following weekend water leak

Rochester Public Library will be closed for the third straight day, on Tuesday, to allow for more cleanup following a major water leak that occurred over the weekend. 

Library Director Audrey Betcher says the library’s bookdrop will still be open, and the library Bookmobile will be back on the road. Library holds will be extended and items will not be due until Wednesday.  

According to Betcher, only about three carts of books from the library collection were damaged by the leak. “We are fortunate that most of the leak affected staff areas and public areas that do not house collections. “ Meanwhile, books collected by the Friends of the Library to use in quarterly book sales and in the Friends Bookstore were heavily damaged.

Pat Stephenson, co-manager of the Friends Bookstore, estimates the loss of materials is equivalent to $20,000. “The last auditorium sale at the library brought in over $10,000 alone and the monthly sales in the bookstore average around $6000.”

A faulty water softener is to blame for the water leak that left several inches of standing water in the central portion of all three library floors. 

According to Betcher, library staff and city teammates helped prevent further damage by quickly responding to the leak.  Staff from the Rochester Fire Department, Rochester Police Department and Police Explorers, Rochester Parks and Recreation, along with a local restoration company, all assisted in the initial response on Sunday.

Damage estimates to the library building are unavailable at this time.

A planned League of Women Voters forum regarding the local school referendum will be moved to the Mayo Civic Center, but all other library programs have been canceled for Monday and Tuesday. 


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9/23, 10AM update 

Library assessing damage, modifying service after water leak

(Rochester) Rochester Public Library staff members were cleaning up Monday morning, following a weekend water leak.

Library Director Audrey Betcher says the library’s bookmobile is providing service near the library on 1st Street SE until 5pm today.  Library customers can borrow items and pick up holds using the Bookmobile. The library’s book drop will remain open, but no materials will be due on Monday. 

According to Betcher, only about three carts of books were damaged by the leak. “We are fortunate that most of the leak affected staff areas and public areas that do not house collections. “ 

“There were several inches of standing water in the central portion of all three library floors,” says Betcher, who cites library staff and city teammates for preventing further damage.  Staff from the Rochester Fire Department, Rochester Police Department and Police Explorers, Rochester Parks and Recreation, along with a local restoration company, all assisted in the initial response on Sunday. 

Damage estimates are unavailable at this time. 

Betcher says staff will reassess the situation later today to determine when the library will reopen.

A planned League of Women Voters forum regarding the local school referendum will be moved to the Mayo Civic Center, but all other library programs have been canceled for Monday.

 

 

9/22/19, 7:20 p.m. update           

Water leak forces closure of library on Monday, Bookmobile to offer services

(Rochester) Rochester Public Library regular service will be affected Monday, September 23 following a weekend water leak. 

Library Director Audrey Betcher says the library’s collection was largely unaffected, but staff areas and meeting spaces are damaged. The leak was first detected Sunday morning and caused by a broken water softener, located in the library’s third floor maintenance area. 

To help alleviate the disruption in service, the library Bookmobile will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. along 1st Street SE. Library customers can borrow items and pick up holds using the Bookmobile. The library’s book drop will remain open, but no materials will be due on Monday.

Staff from the Rochester Fire Department, Rochester Police Department and Police Explorers, Rochester Parks and Recreation, along with a local restoration company, started working to remove water from the building  and salvage items around noon on Sunday. 

“There were several inches of standing water in the central portion of all three library floors,” says Betcher, who cites library staff and city teammates for preventing further damage. 

With over 440,000 physical items in the library’s collection, Betcher says she’s grateful it was not greatly impacted. “The fear with any water event is damage to the books and materials,” says Betcher. “It will take some time to assess the extent of the damage to the building.”

Betcher says staff will work to formally evaluate the damage on Monday, with tentative plans to reopen on Tuesday. “We are so grateful for our city teammates who pitched in to help us,” says Betcher, adding “Their quick response limited the damage to the library.” 

A planned League of Women Voters forum regarding the local school referendum will be moved to the Mayo Civic Center, but all other library programs have been canceled. 

For ongoing updates on this story, visit www.rplmn.org.

 

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Water leak forces closure of library

9/22/19, 4:05 p.m. update

(Rochester) Rochester Public Library will be closed Monday, September 23, following a weekend water leak.

Library Director Audrey Betcher says the library’s collection was largely unaffected, but staff areas and meeting spaces are damaged. The leak was first detected Sunday morning and caused by a broken water softener, located in the library’s third floor maintenance area. 

Staff from the Rochester Fire Department, Rochester Police Department and Police Explorers, Rochester Parks and Recreation, along with a local restoration company, started working to remove water from the building  and salvage items around noon on Sunday. 

“There were several inches of standing water in the central portion of all three library floors,” says Betcher, who cites library staff and city teammates for preventing further damage.

With over 440,000 physical items in the library’s collection, Betcher says she’s grateful it was not greatly impacted. “The fear with any water event is damage to the books and materials,” says Betcher. “It will take some time to assess the extent of the damage to the building.” 

Betcher says staff will work to formally evaluate the damage on Monday, with tentative plans to reopen on Tuesday. “We are so grateful for our city teammates who pitched in to help us,” says Betcher, adding “Their quick response limited the damage to the library.”

For ongoing updates on this story, visit www.rplmn.org.

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Rochester Public Library is closed today, Sunday, September 22, following an overnight water leak.

Library Director Audrey Betcher says the leak was first detected this morning, as staff arrived in the building. "The library's water softener failed, causing a leak that affected all three floors of the building."

Betcher says it is unclear the extent of the damage, as well as how long the building will be closed.

Information will be updated on this page.