- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2003

BALTIMORE (AP) — A clogged pipe at Johns Hopkins University’s Peabody Library sent water seeping through five floors of books, damaging as many as 8,000 volumes from the 17th through the 19th centuries.

Cynthia H. Requardt, Hopkins library curator, said the damaged books are a cross section of the library’s 318,000-volume holdings: history, literature, art and architecture studies, periodicals and more.

Hopkins officials discovered the damage Monday.

University spokesman Glenn Small said officials suspect the leaking air-conditioning drainage pipe may have become clogged with calcium buildup, a risk in older pipes.

The damage occurred along the eastern wall of the library, famous for its five levels of stacks and cast-iron balconies, which ascend to a skylight 61 feet above the floor. The library was built in the 1870s to house a collection bequeathed by philanthropist George Peabody.

Moving from floor to floor through electrical conduits, the water ran down the five levels of books, harming the top floors the most.

Hopkins officials called Document Reprocessors, a restoration company, and general manager Quintin Schwartz and 12 employees drove through the night from their facility near Rochester, N.Y.

Workers moved the books Tuesday into two 53-foot freezer trucks to take them to Document Reprocessors. There, the books will undergo a freezing process to dry them and undo as much of the damage as possible.

Company and library officials said some books, including those with elaborate illustrated bindings or handwritten text, could be difficult to restore. But Mr. Schwartz predicted most would be returned in a month in good condition.

“They’re wet, and they need to be fixed, but it’s not like a flood,” he said. “These books can be brought back.”

Mr. Small said Document Reprocessors won’t be able to give an estimate for the restoration until it assesses the damage more closely. Insurance will cover the cost, he said.

Miss Requardt said the library was intended to hold the best books in every subject that a Baltimorean might seek to study, except for law and medicine, which were housed separately.

“It’s a fabulous collection,” she said. “It’s a real study of what a scholar would need in the late 19th century.”

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