One shelf is barren after the damaged books were removed by the library clean-up team.
Credit: Karyssa Rose
Shelves, once full of books, now sit barren on the second floor of the Michael Schwartz Library following the flood clean up.

Thousands of books lost when pipes burst in Michael Schwartz Library

Extensive flooding in Cleveland State's main library over the winter break destroyed books and temporarily shut down the library while cleanup crews worked to limit the damage.
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Burst pipes over the winter break led to flooding in the Michael Schwartz Library, located in Rhodes Tower, destroying thousands of books.

Cleveland State University library workers were notified on Dec. 27 that water had poured down from floors above, turning books to pulp and damaging other library property. Workers moved quickly to dispose of the damaged books and dry those that hadn’t been totally ruined.

The library said that a hot water pipe broke on the fourth floor on Dec. 27. Then on Dec. 28 a second pipe burst, on the north side of the third floor, causing most of the damage to the first and second floors. The library estimates that more than 90,000 books were affected.

Patrick McIntosh, the library's user services and overdue associate, said that many of the waterlogged books were beyond saving.

“A lot of the books molded quickly because there was so much water,” McIntosh said. “It was shocking seeing water everywhere on the floor above.”

While the library's first floor didn’t get very wet, the second floor – where the quiet study corrals are – was soaked. 

Ann Marie Smeraldi, the library's interim director, said the clean-up started expediently and was "well coordinated." 

“We called in the library staff, and we worked through the stacks of books to salvage what we were able to salvage, and we dried out what we were able to dry out,” Smeraldi said.

Some books still have to be cleaned before the second floor of the library can be fully opened.
The library plans to replace the missing literature as soon as possible, while also attempting to preserve books that were only slightly damaged. Staff are still coordinating the effort to fully reopen. (credit: Karyssa Rose)

The library praised the FAST (Facilities, Architect, Safety and Technology) departments for their speedy response to the disaster.

"We are particularly grateful for the extraordinary efforts of our colleagues in FAST, who came downtown during the winter break and worked 24/7 to make repairs, put in place and monitor dehumidifiers, and replace fallen ceiling tiles and soaked carpeting," the library said on its blog, adding that valuable and irreplaceable collections on the second floor were not affected by the flooding.

Due to the actions of FAST and the library staff, the library was able to reopen most of its services and floors in time for the spring semester, but the second floor remains closed and will be off-limits until the library can dry out, sanitize and check the floor for safety. The library said it was hoping to provide access to that area as soon as possible.

“We want everything to be clean, safe and ready for students,” Smeraldi said.