Air pipes

Burst pipes close children’s section of Billings Public Library

BILLINGS – Library patrons approaching the children’s area of ​​the Billings Public Library are greeted by the hum of clothes dryers and a sign that reads “Children’s area will be closed indefinitely.”

The sign was installed after a pipe burst in the ceiling on Monday afternoon.

“Indefinitely” might seem like an eternity, but library staff are hoping to start reopening parts of the kids’ zone as soon as this Friday, or possibly Monday of next week.

The pipe burst happened during scheduled HVAC maintenance for some leaks. Because of this, the children’s area was to be closed all day and no library staff or patrons were injured.

Library workers spent Monday sorting through books to determine which are salvageable and which have been destroyed.

Children’s Librarian Allynne Ellis accessed the library’s catalog and estimates around 2,400 books were in the area affected by the burst pipe.

After sorting, Ellis believes two-thirds of those books were destroyed.

The books were not only coated in water, but also in a non-toxic chemical called propylene glycol, which is used in HVAC systems.

Children’s fiction suffered the biggest loss.

Library and facilities coordinator Jamie Bratlie predicts it will take months to replace destroyed books, but some can never be replaced.

“Some of them that we may not be able to replace, they’re burnt out,” Bratlie explained.

The first section of the children’s area to reopen to customers will probably be the 5 and under collection.

In addition to the books, a computer was destroyed and several ceiling tiles and carpet squares need to be replaced.

The floor panels have been removed to circulate the air under the raised floor which houses the electrical cables.

May being a slower time of year for the children’s sector, many of the usual library programs take a break during the month and resume in June.

Bratlie assured that the summer reading program, which is due to start on June 6, will not be cancelled.

“Our programs will not be affected at all. Access to collections will be impacted for a while. Put the items on hold, we’ll get them as fast as we can and as soon as we can,” Bratlie said.

When asked what the public can do to help in a situation like this, Bratlie asked for patience and understanding.