A leaky roof atop the new, $72 million Denver Public Library has caused damage to hundreds of books and has allowed rain to trickle into the office of the city librarian, but DPL officials are looking for a silver lining.

"We've had great adventure here," says City Librarian Rick Ashton, no trace of irony apparent in his voice. "The rains of the past few weeks have tested the new roof. We're having free testing. We're all grateful, I'm sure."

Phase One of the new main library was opened to the public with great fanfare in late March. The profusion of colors and forms, said by its admirers to resemble a city skyline, makes it a distinctive addition to the Civic Plaza. The new edifice abuts the old library building, the renovation of which is considered Phase Two of the construction project, expected to be completed later this year.

Library employees first noticed the drips and dribbles May 16. At first it was a minor irritant--ceiling tiles here and there became mottled and brown with dampness. But then heavy rains during the weekend of May 27-28 left standing water and soggy books in the library basement.

The basement storage areas had been draped in plastic before construction began, Ashton says, "but water will find a way." He estimates that a few hundred books got wet, "although I don't think anything got really soaked. They're drying out, and most of them will have no permanent damage."

Considering the fact that the library has approximately a half-million books stored in the basement, Ashton points out, things easily could have been much worse.

The leaks, no matter how unpleasant, are not altogether unexpected, says DPL facilities manager Don Guizzetti. "There are always going to be some leaks on a new construction project," he says. Generally, says Guizzetti, the contractor will perform a flood test to check for leaks. This time, however, nature beat them to it.

Construction workers are presently at work sealing and caulking, and, says Ashton, "in a short period of time, it'll be sealed tight and buttoned up."

A spokesman for library contractor Hyman-Etkin referred most questions about the roof to the library staff. But he has a ready answer when asked if he knows what caused the leaks. "Rain," he replies.


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