The Murphy Art and Architecture Library reopened Monday for the first time since a water line break flooded its Spencer Museum of Art home on Aug. 1, damaging about 10 percent of the library’s 170,000 books.
More than half of the damaged volumes — about 9,200 — have been returned from a repair facility in Chicago, said KU Libraries spokeswoman Rebecca Smith. They’ll be returned to the library’s shelves over the next few weeks.
The rest remain in Chicago and will be returning to KU throughout the fall semester. Officials don’t know yet if all the books can be repaired or how much the total cost of the flooding will be, Smith said.
“I think that we still have a long way to go from a recovery standpoint,” Smith said.
The water line break on Mississippi Street left several inches of standing water on the floor of the library, which is located on the Spencer Museum’s bottom floor. It was easily the largest-scale damage to any KU Libraries materials in recent years, Smith said.
But the KU Libraries have a conservation team that plans for disasters and it had practiced its plan shortly before the August incident, she said. The team was able to gather staff and volunteers to swiftly move the damaged books into cold storage for shipment to Chicago.
“They were able to act very, very quickly,” Smith said.
The damaged books did not contain any especially rare or valuable books, she said. Such materials from throughout the KU Libraries system are kept in a closed area at Spencer Research Library.
While the library was closed for the first month of the semester, art and architecture students and faculty depended on interlibrary loans from throughout the country for the materials they needed.
The water forced the replacement of carpet and wall paneling in the library, and building repairs are ongoing, Smith said.
“It’s hard to know for sure what the final outcome will be, but I think we can anticipate a strong recovery,” she said.