Workers at the Loussac Library got a nasty surprise Tuesday morning when they discovered a broken water pipe in the ceiling of the oldest section of the library.

Library Director Mary Jo Torgeson said the pipe spilled at least 300 gallons of hot water down on the Alaska Collection, where some of the state's oldest and rarest books are kept.

"A lot of this collection did get some damage," said Torgeson. "We are trying to assess how deep that goes."

The water soaked through the floor and ran down to the next level where important books and documents on city history are kept. Torgeson said that for the most part, rare and valuable works were spared, but newer books in the collection, that are made with a different kind of paper, didn't fare as well.

"When that gets damaged, when it dries, it's glue," said Torgeson. "The books we can't redeem we'll be throwing away. We'll be throwing away hundreds of books."

Torgeson said there's no estimate on the damage or what caused the pipe to break. But, she added that the plumbing in that section of the library is old.

"This is 30-year-old plumbing," said Torgeson. "These days, construction architects are more conscious of where they put the pipes so they don't break over rare books."

Torgeson said the damage could have been much worse, and the concern moving forward is mildew and mold. She said the Alaska Collection, including the Ann Stevens Reading Room, will be closed until further notice while they work on the cleanup and fix the damaged pipe.

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