TAMPA — Heavy rain last week dumped 30,000 gallons of water — more than the capacity of many residential swimming pools — into the Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library.
As a result, Hillsborough County's busiest library was closed most of last week while workers pumped out, dried out and made repairs. But it is scheduled to reopen Tuesday.
"We don't want to open too fast and then find that we've got mold and mildew in there and things are not working," Hillsborough County Library Services director Joe Stines said last week.
The library is in the midst of a $2.9 million expansion, and during a major storm Tuesday, water ran off the roof and onto the expansion's slab, then flooded under a temporary wall into the building. Little or no printed material was lost, but the carpet was soaked and the library's electrical and computer lines are in the floor, as are many electrical outlets.
Library administrators expect contractor Ellis Construction's insurance to cover the costs of reopening the library. With the expansion, the library will go from 25,000 to 35,000 square feet. The project is scheduled to be done in early December.
The Jimmie B. Keel library had nearly 308,000 visitors last year and checked out more than 857,000 items, making it by far the most heavily used the library in the county. In second place, the Bloomingdale library, which is undergoing a similar expansion, checked out about 663,000 items last year.
The Jimmie B. Keel library, at 2902 W Bearss Ave., serves the Carrollwood, Northdale and Lake Magdalene areas. (It is named for a former longtime assistant county administrator.) Most of the money for the original building was donated by the Austin Davis-WD Charities foundation. It opened in 2001, and from the start county officials planned for an expansion. That's why the library's east wall consisted largely of glass. For the expansion, that wall was removed and replaced with the temporary wall that did not stop the rain on Tuesday.
As the library flooded, librarians determined that the electricity was off, then moved books from the bottom to the top shelves of the stacks, just as they would in a hurricane.
For the rest of the week, workers ran pumps and dehumidifiers to dry out the library and head off lingering damage.
"If mold and mildew get started in our books," Stines said, "it spreads like a fire."
Richard Danielson can be reached at (813) 226-3403, Danielson@tampabay.com or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.