Local News

Broken Water Pipe Causes Problems At Duke University's Perkins Library

Posted October 4, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— A flood nearly sunk part of Duke University's main library Tuesday morning. Some good luck and a quick response helped prevent an academic disaster.

A hot water pipe burst atPerkins Libraryand sent hundreds gallons of water streaming into staff offices, storage areas and reading rooms. The flood ruined carpets and caused damage to books, rare international government pamphlets and other important reference materials.

Deborah Jakobs, collections services director for the library, says the damage could have been more significant.

"It could have been a lot worse. Water was pouring down all over the place," she says.

Thanks to just a few inches, water did not get to shelves packed with irreplaceable periodicals. A disaster response team of volunteers, trained just months earlier, helped in the salvage effort.

"They showed up. They rolled up their sleeves. They started loading stuff up and figuring out what to do with it," Jakobs says.

As the university begins planning for a multimillion-dollar library renovation, soggy staffers hope new infrastructure makes the table of contents.

"Unfortunately, the way this building was designed, it's happened before," says bibliographer Dr. Ornest Pelech. "Chances are it will happen again if we don't remodel it right the next time around."

Thousands of damaged pamphlets were sent to a special facility in Texas where they will be freeze-dried for preservation. Some staffers will be displaced for days, but students are not affected.