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Leaky roof puts collection at library in jeopardy
Librarians and facilities management staff have to resort to tarps and buckets to protect the books and computers at Riverton Branch Library from water leaking through the roof when it rains. Photo by Eric Blom

Leaky roof puts collection at Riverton library in jeopardy

Oct 13, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Rain is not common in Riverton, but when it starts, those in the right place can see on odd sight: fast-moving librarians covering shelves and computers in plastic tarps and placing trashcans under drips. Leaks in the roof of the Riverton Branch Library mean that when it rains in the city, it rains in the library.

"My concern is if this starts when we're gone, it could affect the collection," said branch manager Gloria Brodle. "Once a book is water damaged, it's gone."

When it rains, water leaks through the roof and hits the beams running the length of the library's slanted ceiling. The beams carry the water from one side of the building to the other, stopping to drip sporadically along the way.

In addition to the leaks, the ground around the building does not drain well, said library facilities manager Tom Norwood. Water collects around and under concrete areas, causing structures to lift when the water freezes.

The county is taking steps to plug the leaks and improve the drainage permanently, but a solution is not yet in sight. In July, Fremont County commissioners authorized a $12,000 study to examine the problem, identify a solution and figure out how much it would cost to fix those issues.

Experts from Dubbe Moulder Architects of Jackson and engineering firm Trihydro studied the facility about three weeks ago, Norwood said. He expects their report on the situation soon and plans to submit it to the Fremont County Library Board and the county commissioners.

Performing the renovation to fix the problems will be harder to accomplish, however.

"I'm sure our board is ready to pursue this, but it's a matter of funding," Norwood said.

No money exists yet for the fix.

Long-standing problem

Brodle has worked at the Riverton library since 1985, and the roof has leaked since then, she said. A letter Norwood wrote in May details 17 years of attempted solutions that did not work.

The Riverton library replaced the roof on the building's south end in 1994 and that of the north end with roofing membrane in 2003. In 2005, staff replaced a leaking skylight, and in 2007, the library had a contractor try to seal the roof with urethane foam and a rubberized spray.

But still the roof leaks.

Librarians and maintenance staff chase the drips down and catch them with buckets. When the rivulets run across shelves or computers, employees shield them with plastic.

The snowstorm Thursday and Friday brought five or six leaks, Norwood said.

Water from those leaks lead employees to cover several computer work stations in tarps and set out more than eight trash cans. Several days of rain earlier in the month necessitated covering four shelves with tarps.

Compounding the problem of the leaks is their sporadic nature. During one storm, water will drip from one constellation of spots, but on the next rainy day, water will drip from other places, Brodle said.

"There are spots that could possibly leak, you just never know when," she said. "It's a little confusing where it's coming from."

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