Warm Welcome Is Ready for Frozen Library Volumes

Times Staff Writer

The 55,000th and final cardboard box of frozen library books is out of cold storage, almost three years after two arson fires gutted the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles.

The books, which had been stored at subzero temperatures amid rock lobster tails, school lunches and egg rolls in a Pasadena warehouse, were taken out of deep-freeze Wednesday and should be at the library next week.

The timing could not be more perfect.

The library will open its doors to the public Monday at its temporary site, 433 S. Spring St.

"It has been a long trial," library spokesman Robert Reagan said. "We are really excited about having the collection available to the people on Monday. That's the important thing."

Rushed Into Storage

Library workers whisked 700,000 water-damaged books into cold storage after the fires in April and September, 1986, to prevent mold and mildew from ruining them.

Then came the second step of the $2.8-million restoration process--defrosting and restoring the damaged books and magazines.

Two companies using different restoration methods in what the library called the largest-ever book-drying project finished the bulk of the work by January, Reagan said.

Don R. Hartsell, president of Houston-based Solex Technologies, was all handshakes and smiles on Wednesday after he arrived at Pasadena's Los Angeles Cold Storage in a rented truck to pick up the last load of books.

"This is a glorious moment for us," Hartsell said. "It is the culmination of a very successful renovation. It has been almost a saga."

Will Be Restored

Hartsell said the books will be restored in his downtown Los Angeles plant.

In the event of another library disaster, the restoration process will be easier and less expensive, thanks to lessons learned in Los Angeles. Books can be dried and restacked without ever leaving the library, using techniques developed during this project, Hartsell said.

"That is the advance that has come from this particular project," he said.

The new Central Library building is scheduled to open in 1992.

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