The University Record, March 1, 1993

Arson suspected in Graduate Library fire

Five hundred books were burned and another 10,000 suffered water damage in a fire that began around midnight Feb. 14 at the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library.

Lt. James R. Smiley said samples have been sent to the State Police Crime Laboratory in Northville to determine if an accelerator—gasoline or lighter fluid—was used to start the fire. Arson is suspected.

The fire, which broke out in a section of the first floor stacks, was contained by a newly installed sprinkler system. Water from the sprinklers dripped through the cantilevered stack system to books on the floors below.

Fire alarms alerted Library staff, who evacuated the building.

The clean-up process started immediately. Damp books and other materials have been spread out to dry. About 1,500 books that were completely soaked are being stored in Food Stores freezers.

Freezing the wet books buys time, says Carla J. Montori, head of the Library’s Preservation Office, because they won’t deteriorate further.

Library staff are repairing some books. Others will be sent to commercial binders and some will have to be replaced, if they are still in print.

Among the burned volumes were books on socialism, communism and anarchism. Uncataloged books on the Near East, Southeast Asia and South Asia were among those suffering water damage.

Library staff are working with the University’s Risk Management Office to determine the dollar amount of the loss.