Farber Library closed due to flooding, over 10,000 books damaged

October 23, 2020

Almost 11 thousand books are off the shelves and being freeze-dried due to water damage after a clean water pipe broke in a restroom on Farber 3 on Sunday, according to University Librarian Matthew Sheehy in an email to the Brandeis community on Oct. 21. Part of Farber Library floor 3 and all of Farber Library floor 4 will be closed for the next two weeks while repairs take place, but the Sound and Image Studios (SIMS) on Farber Library floor 3 will remain open, according to Sheehy. 

Director of Public Services Brenda Cummings told The Brandeis Hoot in an email that the library does not know the extent of the damage to the book collection but that the leak mainly impacted the Fine Arts Collection. Sheehy said that they hope that a majority of the wet books can be restored.

“The leak impacted materials located on Farber level 4, which houses our Fine Arts collection,” wrote Cummings. “The subject areas most impacted were art history, architecture, and architectural history. Small portions of the subjects sculpture, print media, and painting were also impacted. These collections were not specifically part of our rare or special collections, however, art books tend to be more expensive than books in other parts of the general collection.”

Cummings told The Hoot that once the library understood the scope of the water damage, they called in an outside vendor who handles disaster recovery. The wet books were boxed and brought to a facility to be frozen. 

“When books get wet, the best way to stop further damage is to freeze the books,” said Cummings. “The books will then go through a vacuum freeze drying process. We will not know until this process is complete if any of the materials are unsalvageable.”

Sheehy said that the library will adjust OneSearch in the next couple of days to allow requests for materials from the affected areas. If a requested item is offsite, the library will try to get a copy from a peer institution through Interlibrary Loan.

Vice President of Campus Operations Lois Stanley first emailed the university about the water break on Sunday, Oct. 18 saying that the Farber Library, including the Starbucks Cafe and SIMS, would be closed on Monday while repairs and mitigation efforts took place. She said that the Goldfarb Library would be open as usual.

The water in the library has been cleaned up and the carpets sanitized, but there is still moisture that is being dried with fans and dehumidifiers. 

Sheehy’s email said that community members can contact library@brandeis.edu with any questions.

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