State College

Heating failure led to Schlow Library burst sprinkler pipe

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A failure in the heating system caused sprinklers to burst in the Schlow Centre Region Library, according to Director Cathi Alloway.

Alloway, speaking to the Council of Governments General Forum on Monday, gave an update on the work being done to the library in preparation for a reopening slated for Thursday.

Heating issues affected two corners of the library, she said, which lead to a temperature drop early Monday which froze a sprinkler pipe. It burst at about 2:30 a.m. Feb. 16, flooding a portion of the library and damaging about 1,500 books.

Alpha Fire Company responded quickly to the alarm, she said, with staff from the borough Public Works Department showing up shortly thereafter to start vacuuming up the water.

Alloway said they found about a half an inch of standing water on the second floor of the library which had damaged a large number of the music and book CDs, adult biographies and book kits — bags containing multiple copies of books for book clubs.

Water also cascaded down the walls to the first floor, she said, making its way into a storage closet where it damaged developmental children’s toys. It also came down in the art gallery, but fortunately didn’t damage the works on display.

The best news of all, she said, while water got into the main computer room, it wasn’t able to damage the servers as they are kept off the floor on racks.

“We didn’t just dodge a bullet,” she said, “we dodged a bomb.”

Books too far damaged needed to be discarded, Alloway said, adding that she spent a lot of time in the community assuring book lovers that they were indeed destroyed.

“It was the right thing to do,” she said, “because if you leave them on the premises, they act like sponges — they continue to absorb and radiate moisture.”

The depreciated value of the destroyed books came to about $21,000, she said. Whether or not insurance will cover the depreciated or regular value of the books remains to be seen.

The average cost of replacing the books will be about $30 per title, she said, including book jackets, labels and the things needed to make it ready to be loaned to the public.

Some plastic toys were easily cleaned with a bleach solution, she said, but dolls and toys with cloth and stuffing needed to be discarded, resulting in a $1,100 loss.

Alloway said she has been frequently moved to tears this past week thanks to the outpouring of concern and donations from the community. On Saturday, members of the State College Area School District started a fundraising campaign, canning in front of the library during Thon.

They raised more than $2,700, she said.

As of Monday, she said, donations from the community through the library’s website have totaled more than $8,200.

“People ask me why are you in a good mood,” she said. “Yes, it was a traumatic event, but it could have been so much worse.”

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