$2.8 Million to Restore Books OKd

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday approved spending $2.8 million to restore 700,000 books that suffered water damage in two 1986 arson fires at the Central Library.

The council voted unanimously to approve contracts with two companies that will use different procedures to repair the books, which have been frozen and stored since fires on April 29 and Sept. 3, 1986. The blazes destroyed 400,000 volumes at the downtown landmark.

An army of volunteers and library staffers cleaned 900,000 volumes which suffered little or no smoke damage, library officials said. Those books are now stored in two Los Angeles warehouses, “waiting for a new home,” officials said. Another 200,000 volumes which were in storage before the fires escaped damage.

A company called Document Reprocessors of San Francisco will restore 80% of the books, said Los Angeles Public Library spokesman Robert Reagan. The other company, Houston-based Airdex Corp., will restore the remaining 20%, he said.


Six-Month Process

Library officials said the restoration process will take six months.

“Once the books are dried, they have to be further cleaned and inventoried,” said assistant Central Library Director Joan Bartel. “They will then go back on regular shelves.”

Those “regular shelves,” however, will be temporary since the Central Library is now being housed in the former Design Center of Los Angeles at 433 S. Spring St.


“Even before the fires, we were looking for space for a temporary facility for the Central Library,” Bartel said. “The main library is now being expanded and renovated, and the work won’t be completed until 1992.”

To Open in March

The temporary main library in the design center will open next March, Bartel said, “with any luck at all. There’s a good possibility that the 700,000 damaged books may be back when we reopen in March.”

The books are now stored in Los Angeles refrigeration facilities that normally handle frozen foods, Bartel said.


“The books are there with the shrimp and the frozen artichokes,” she said.