MGPL’s First Flood

In January 2016, a burst pipe in the Morton Grove Public Library caused a moderate flood in the building. After the damage from the flood was cleaned up, Assistant Director Kevin Justie wrote this recollection another time a burst pipe wreaked havoc in the library.

You might be surprised to learn that this was not the first time this has happened; MGPL suffered a very similar fate almost exactly 34 years ago.

Overnight on Jan. 6-7, 1982, a sprinkler pipe froze and broke over the high ceiling area where the Info West desk now sits. While last week’s break triggered an alarm at the fire department, so water flowed only for a relatively short period before it was turned off (perhaps 20 minutes or so), in 1982, despite the sprinkler system connection to the fire alarm, for reasons that were never determined no alarms were sent to the fire department. As a result, water poured out of the broken pipe for hours, until a policeman driving by noticed water coming out of the Lincoln Ave. doors. That was long enough to leave 1-2” of standing water in some areas on the main floor, in addition to what ran down and soaked the entire YS department. Fortunately, as with last week’s flood there was virtually no damage to any books in 1982, but there was significant damage to the current year’s magazine issues, which at the time were shelved in the space that’s now the front halves of the Teen and Quiet Reading rooms.

The 1982 flood occurred overnight on a Wednesday evening, and the library remained completely closed through the following Sunday. But the west end of the main floor high ceiling was severely damaged, and took about two months to repair. During that time, it was not safe to walk under this area — from the current location of the new books to the west room that now contains the adult nonfiction. Back then, that room was the Reference Room: a reference desk, study tables, and reference books (remember them?!) lining the walls around the entire room.

This was over a year before the first computer at MGPL, and 10 years or so before the Internet, so it would have been impossible to provide any kind of reference service without access to the Reference Room and its materials. So, a covered walkway was built from the door at the top of the Lincoln Ave. stairway, under the damaged ceiling and into the Reference Room. This was for staff only; patrons were not allowed in the Reference Room until the ceiling repairs were completed and the walkway was removed.


While the floods last week and in 1982 were by far the worst, they are not the only times parts of MGPL have been under water. In the 1990s, two areas of CSS (west end of the lower level) were soaked in separate incidents, and in 1997 the area that is now the staff lounge was flooded due to… a tennis ball stuck in the gutter downspout on the north side of the building!

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