Sausalito library loses 300 books damaged by rain


A blocked drain on the roof of Sausalito City Hall caused water to cascade through the public library, damaging approximately 300 books beyond repair.

The leak waterlogged a 15-by-20-foot section of carpet on the ground floor and a 15-by-15-foot section of the library mezzanine at 420 Litho Street. It has resulted in the partial closure of some collections and rest areas, which will remain in place until midweek, city librarian Abbot Chambers said.

A program featuring former diplomat and Sausalito resident Wilford Welch was ending Thursday night in city council chambers when the leak was discovered. Chambers said he “interrupted everyone with a cry for help”.

Mayor Janelle Kellman and more than 20 other attendees rallied to move books, set up tarps, bail out filled bins and deploy wet books.

“Things would have been much worse without their help, as they were able to quickly get the endangered books out of harm’s way,” he said in an email.

About 300 books were soaked to the point that the pages began to sponge and warp. They will be discarded and included in a pending insurance claim filed by the city. Books that only supported damp covers or damp edges were fanned to dry on flat surfaces and stored.

The affected area was the history section of the adult non-fiction collection on the ground floor and the science fiction and biography section in the library’s mezzanine.

A “notable casualty”, Chambers said, was William Manchester’s biographical trilogy on Winston Churchill.

The blockage was removed by the public works department within an hour of its discovery. It was caused by pine needles clogging a protective screen, allowing water to pool on the roof. It reached a height of about 15 inches and flooded the library through an HVAC vent.

“Libraries are always very careful with wet books because they can start to grow mold, which is a public health concern,” Chambers said.

Chambers said a full damage assessment was still underway.

On Friday, the city called on San Rafael-based damage restoration company West Coast Fire and Water to install fans and dehumidifiers in affected areas. Downstairs dehumidifiers filled an industrial trash can about 3 feet tall with water.

The library is partially closed until late Wednesday, pending a report from the restoration company. When dehumidification equipment is removed, unaffected and partially affected books will be returned to the shelves.

The library may extend the closure due to warping of a layer of plywood under the carpet on the main level. Shelves in this area may remain closed until the area is repaired.

Chambers said there were no concerns about flooding during an impending storm. The Public Works Department is investigating additional precautions to reduce the likelihood of clogs, such as with a sensor.

The following collections and services remain open: reservation pick-up, children’s room, new releases and bestsellers, DVD, children’s fiction, information point and public computers.


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