The Case of the Library Flood
Torrential rain floods a 280,000 square foot library.
“You got that one!?” was my response after being told by Shannon Kasallis, owner of Integrity Contents, about a pack out at the Central Library in Phoenix. When it comes to high profile jobs, the massive five story structure that houses hundreds of thousands of books was a pretty big catch. Shannon’s crew had done large scale jobs before, but large jobs like these are never easy. So, what is required when undertaking a job this size?
Monsoon season in Phoenix can be devastating. The dry, arid climate breaks into sporadic bouts of dust storms and torrential rains. The flat, dry Valley of the Sun does not take in the rain very well. With nowhere to go, the water floods the streets, highways, and homes. Trees collapse and the flat mid-century modern roofs that make the “older” neighborhoods charming get tested. The roof at Burton Barr Library on Central Avenue in Phoenix was tested on July 15, 2017. The rain came in sideways by winds so strong that the roof of the 280,000 square foot library lifted ever so slightly as to set off the sprinkler system inside, cascading water down the interior of the five story building.
I live less than a mile from the library and often use it as a work space when I need a change from my home office. Many of the slides for my training program where created on the fifth floor. So, I was eager to know about the reopening and disappointed to learn that it would be a year before I could use the library again. The library is an anchor for the community, as it provides many after school programs and other public services. “The library belongs to everyone” was a sentiment that was shared many times during the remediation.
Shannon Kasallis is a fixture in the Phoenix/Scottsdale restoration scene. Her company performs hundreds of pack outs a year and she is someone I often stay in touch with. So when I checked in on her and she told me that she’s running her crew in shifts at the Central Library, I was amazed and happy she had landed such a huge job. Having packed out universities and retail spaces myself, I understood the challenges and the pride of taking on a project of that scale.
On the evening of the event, there were many people on the scene evaluating the damage caused by the sporadic and brief micro-burst. The general manager for Integrity was onsite early and saw what may be the biggest contents job of his life. Frank Oviedo didn’t waste much time. He began preparations and had his crew securing as many assets on the property as possible with plastic tarps. His long night turned into several weeks of command center meetings with government officials, police, fire, security, insurance representatives, and restorers. Once the dry-out was complete, Frank oversaw a year-long effort to move and relocate books and media equipment to a temporary location that would serve the community for the next year.
Unlike most contents jobs, the client in this case actually had a full inventory of their contents before the disaster happened. The crew from Integrity Contents worked hand in hand with the library staff to evaluate which books were deemed total loss and needed to be replaced. Due to the scale of the job and the relatively low replacement value of the books, a decision had been made to replace books that had been affected. Fortunately, rare books and first editions were stored carefully and not damaged by the fifth floor sprinkler system.
All of the public use technology, the staff workstations, and many of the telecommunications portals all had to be disconnected, packaged, relocated for temporary use and eventually brought back for permanent use.
Furniture was moved around in sections as carpet and flooring were replaced. An unanticipated challenge was presented when the bookshelves on several floors had to be moved. Normally, libraries have devices to move stacked bookshelves. The device at the Burton Barr library had been loaned out and returned damaged by another library. An effort was made to find a similar device that could move the bookshelves, but no such device was available so Integrity improvised by creating a system for moving the bookshelves with plywood, furniture dollies, and a little man power.
When I asked Frank what part of the job stood out to him, he responded without hesitation and talked about the personal growth of his employees:
“It was a huge learning experience for all of us. We already work really well as a team but when we bring in that many outside temporary workers, it posed some problems and we were able to overcome them by putting regular employees up as management to where they each had their own crew rather than being part of a crew, so the teamwork that we built here at Integrity showed through (on this job) because those that are normally an hourly employee were able to rise to the occasion as supervisors.”
A recipe or a formula for a job like this can be created in a vacuum - number of man hours, boxes, supplies, trucks etc. What cannot be counted on is how well a group of individuals can work as a team. Shannon, Frank, and the crew at Integrity had been working on the possibility of doing a job this size everyday whether they knew it or not. The repetition and teamwork on all the little water losses and the larger ones would all serve as practice rounds for the day that a quick and powerful storm struck downtown Phoenix.