Managing Disasters – Lessons from a Water Leak
Building leaks happen, especially with older buildings like the Indiana State Library. In April of this year, an air conditioning unit’s leak caused water to spill into the library. Two floors were affected by the leak. The fourth floor leak created a harmless pool of water on the floor, but the third floor leak caused damage to library printed materials.
The leak likely occurred on a Sunday, as the library’s conservator, Seth Irwin, found the water damaged material Monday morning. The water damaged several documents from the library’s federal documents collection. Library staff moved quickly to minimize damage. Tables were set up, and fans brought into the room, as the conservator and his intern worked to separate and gently dry the damaged material. The bulk of the damaged items were promotional material for the U.S. Nursing Corps. The material included books, pamphlets, photographs and a couple of large broadsides.
Treating the photographs was fairly straightforward, but one of the broadsides posed a challenge. The two broadsides were folded before they were damaged by water. The conservator was able to unfold the items, but one of the posters was rather large. Unfolded, the item barely fit in the conservation lab’s sink. The poster was treated, cleaned and re-enforced so that it can be displayed for a future exhibit.
Luckily, the damage was relatively small in scale. After the incident, new procedures to minimize the damage of a future leak were implemented. The area now has nearby tarp, which covers the tables and material when it is not in use. The two tables primarily serve as a work station for wrapping and enveloping reference material. Building leaks are scary events, especially in a library, but with previous training and an understanding of disaster procedures, the staff was able to minimize the extent of damage.