MANHATTAN — Nearly a year ago, on May 22, 2018, a fire broke out in Hale Library, the flagship building in the Kansas State University Libraries system in Manhattan.
While the fire was contained to the roof, several hundreds of thousands of gallons of water flowed through the 550,000-square-foot building during the firefighting efforts. In addition, soot and smoke damaged the interior and its contents, including most of the books.
The recovery process took a grueling eight months to complete. An estimated 85 percent of the building was gutted, including wiring, ceiling tiles and carpet. In some places, only the bottom 2 feet of the drywall was damaged by water. In other areas, entire walls were stripped down to the metal studs. Even today, the walls of the bottom two floors of the 1927 historic Farrell Library portion of the building are still drying out.
But now, after months of planning with PGAV Architects, the university’s next-generation library is starting to take shape.
“We could not be more excited to see the progress happening inside Hale Library,” said Lori Goetsch, dean of K-State Libraries. “Walls are going up, spaces are being reconfigured, and new infrastructure and wiring are coming in.”
Hale Library will reopen in phases, with the first floor Dave and Ellie Everitt Learning Commons opening this fall. It is estimated that the entire renovation will be complete by the end of 2020. The last phase to open will be the original 1927 portion of the building. The Libraries plan to restore historic Farrell Library to its original grandeur, including the Great Room murals, which are stable and currently protected from the surrounding construction work by large wooden boxes that were built around them.
In addition to the building renovations, the entire 1.5 million-item collection was removed from the library and moved into long-term storage. Because of the soot damage, the items are being cleaned one at a time.
“Looking back, it’s amazing to think about the ways in which we’ve been remarkably lucky,” Goetsch said. “No one was injured in the fire. Less than 1% of our collection was lost. And even though the fire was on the roof, our most rare and valuable materials in the Morse Department of Special Collections located on the top floor experienced only very minor smoke damage.”
The university will continue to work with the insurance companies throughout the rebuilding project. Insurance is expected to cover like-for-like replacement costs. However, while the building is nearly gutted, the Libraries would like to take this opportunity to enhance highly utilized student spaces. Those enhancements will require private donor support.
To date, $6.8 million in private support has been committed to the renovation efforts. Additionally, more than $280,000 has been raised through the Help for Hale campaign that launched after the fire last year. Dave and Ellie Everitt gave the lead $3 million gift for the first-floor learning commons, and several other spaces have received financial support, including a café and a two-story innovation lab.
“Philanthropic support will continue to play a vital role in our ability to create new spaces for student success,” Goetsch said. “We’re focusing especially on group study rooms, classrooms, improved graduate student space and new study areas on the first and second floors of the 1927 portion of the building.”
Online donations can be made to the Help for Hale campaign at give.evertrue.com/ksu/help-for-hale. For information about naming opportunities, contact Chris Spooner, associate vice president of development programs at the KSU Foundation, at 785-775-2130.
“We’ve always said that Hale Library is the heart and soul of the K-State campus,” said Richard Myers, president of Kansas State University. “There’s no denying that our students have felt its absence this year. We are committed to bringing our flagship library building back stronger than ever for our students and for the university’s future.”
More in-depth information about the books, preservation of historic spaces, the vision for rebuilding and amazing behind-the-scenes photos is available via the Libraries’ blog, Hale Library: The Next Chapter, at blogs.k-state.edu/hale/.