Pipe burst damages Biomedical Library


Water-damaged books were taken to be salvaged by company in New Jersey


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Bookshelves in the Biomedical library were put under a plastic cover to protect from further water damage.

Photo by Huizhong Wu


Penn’s pre-med and medical students may need to find another place to study during finals week.

At 4 a.m. Wednesday, a pipe burst in a bathroom right above the Biomedical Library located at 3610 Hamilton Walk, flooding the eastern half of the library. The water covered the ground floor and also started dripping to the level below.

According to Associate Director of the Health Sciences Libraries Barbara Bernoff Cavanaugh, the leak was initially discovered by a member of the custodial staff a little after 4 a.m. and Facilities and Real Estate Services responded quickly soon after.

By the time the librarians arrived at 8 a.m. Wednesday, “it was like an army of people here [who] were already dealing with the problem,” she said.

Since then, the initial leak in the bathroom has been fixed, she added.

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By Huizhong Wu

Bookshelves in the Biomedical library were put under a plastic cover to protect from further water damage.

Anne Seymour, associate director of the library, said that the flooding was so heavy that the carpet was soaked, and one could hear the water when walking.

The flooded area is currently filled with staff from FRES and outside contractors who are trying to remove the remaining water from the area. After the initial burst, there was about three inches of standing water in the building, according to Assistant Director for Communications at FRES Heidi Wunder.

Many books were also damaged by the water from the burst pipe.

According to Cavanaugh, one of the librarians who came in around early Wednesday morning acted quickly to contact Ian Bogus, the MacDonald Curator of Preservation, in order to save the books.

“He came right down … and he just knew what to do,” Cavanuagh said.

Bogus, who received an email from the library’s staff as he came in to work Wednesday morning, said he “cleared” his day as soon as he saw the email.

“There was a lot of water. There were a lot of wet books,” he said. The question was “do we want to try and remediate the situation ourselves?”

Bogus eventually decided to call in an outside company to help salvage the books. The company took away 102 shelves’ worth of materials to freeze-dry and to save. According to Bogus, there were no rare books in the area that got flooded.

“There’ll be some books that will be misshapen,” Bogus said, “[but] the vast majority of them will be fine.”

In the meantime, Cavanaugh said that a large number of books will be available electronically, and if they’re not available, they can be borrowed from other places through systems like E-Z Borrow and BorrowDirect.

The library’s dry half remains open for student use.

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