UCSC’s McHenry Library remains closed after fire
UC Santa Cruz’s McHenry Library may soon have a projected reopen date after a fire last Thursday night forced its closure. University Librarian Ginny Steel says that they should know by Friday, April 20, what that date will be.
McHenry Library, which originally opened in 1965 as one of the very first buildings on campus, houses UCSC’s arts, humanities, and social sciences collections. It has been undergoing renovation since 2005 to make it seismically sound and to accommodate growing collections and a growing student population. The fire, which officials believe was triggered by an overheated electrical cord being used to charge batteries for power tools, took place in the original building, under renovation and unoccupied at the time—which is pretty lucky, says Steel.
“It was a terrible thing to have the fire and we’re very concerned that it did happen, but it could have been much worse,” she says. “The fire could have burned the collection or the sprinklers could have been going off… This was about the best we could have had, under the circumstances.”
While the fire itself didn’t reach the library’s new addition, smoke and soot did, covering the furniture, walls, and ceilings, and necessitating the cleaning of the library’s 700,000 volumes. Crews had to painstakingly remove, clean, and put back all of the books. While that part of the cleanup is almost done, cleanup in the portion where the fire actually was is just beginning, and could take weeks or months, says Steel.
The fire will also delay the renovation’s completion date, which was expected for late 2010, but it is too early to say by how much.
Students, faculty, and library staff are coping as well as they can without the use of their library. Steel says that the library is a “very heavily used facility,” and that in the 2008/2009 year, it received more than 500,000 visits by students, faculty and community members.
“Students use it to study by themselves, work in groups, [and] we have some faculty who hold office hours or meet with their classes in the library,” says Steel. “We’re also publicly available, anyone an come in and use our collections.”
While McHenry is closed, available operations and services, such as research assistance, library classes, interlibrary loan, and books on reserve, have been moved to the Science and Research Library. Anyone needing to contact McHenry staff is encouraged to e-mail them, as they cannot get to their offices but are checking their e-mail regularly.
For updates on McHenry’s status, visit the library website: library.ucsc.edu.