On President’s Day, 1992, a City holiday, I received a phone call at home telling me there was water coming from the library onto the Plaza. I called Michael Williams, the Custodial Supervisor and asked him to call in his crew.
The water was coming from a broken fire line under the library building. The assumption was that the water had been leaking for sometime and finally reached capacity and burst under the windows in the Children’s Department.
Water was ankle deep in Children’s and it was literally raining in the Government Publications backroom. Once the water was turned off, City Hall maintenance and fire crews moved vulnerable equipment and began wet vacuuming the water.
The next morning we contracted with a company who specialized in flood cleanup. They were quick to act and had equipment in place by that afternoon. The air conditioning was turned down to maximize cooling to help pull moisture out of the air. Giant fans and dehumidifiers were set in place. It was very cold and windy in the basement hallway.
The Library was closed to the public for a week. I remember meeting Diane Erdelyi in the hallway. She had this huge grin and asked if we could stay closed longer. “I’m getting so much weeding done.”
(Cannot recall the date – assume 1994) Someone dropped by my office to tell me “there’s a problem in the auditorium reception area. I walked over to see mud, about 3 inches deep, oozing from the auditorium. I called Building Services, donned my trusty flood boots and checked things out. It looked like the movie The Blob, as thick mud oozed over the stage to the floor and enveloped the first five rows of chairs.
Protecting the Reference area.
The Purchasing Department was able to find a contractor who had the necessary equipment and crew to clean it up. A 3-inch water line and a suction line to a sump pump in the back stage area had broken. It was assumed the break was caused by seismic activity.
The Main Library (which staff referred to as “the bunker) was built under Lincoln Park with planters that held trees and shrubbery that needed to be watered. The membrane that was supposed to protect the Library failed. As a result, whenever it rained or an area was watered, a leak would spring up somewhere in the building. It became a common sight to see trash cans placed in certain areas of the library to catch the water raining down from the park above.
Rain accumulation on library roof.
One of my fondest memories of the Library is how everyone —custodians (Michael, Glenn, Joe, Isaac, Tony, Tom, and Louella), librarians and staff, the crew from City Hall, Public Service, and the Fire Department all pitched in to get the job done. No one complained, “it wasn’t their job.”
Editor’s note: I always told everyone the water problems were because the library was built over the only water source in the early city…a spring. Also, the library had to be “buried” because William Willmore, the city founder, stipulated that Lincoln Park (called Pacific Park in his day) always be a park…hence the garden/park on the roof of the library.