File photo

Library Board members approved restoration of the Forest Park Public Library’s roof during a regular meeting last month, after staff have endured years of leaking.

“It’s been leaking on and off for years, and we just have been patching it as necessary,” said Pilar Shaker, director. “But last summer every single rain resulted in a leak, followed by a patch, followed by a leak, so it seems no use continuing to pay for patches when the roof itself needs to be addressed in a bigger way.”

For the last three years, the roof has been leaking in the same few spots, near the periodicals section that happens not to hit any shelving, and also near the quiet area and the biographies, where the roof’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units are located. About five years ago, the library replaced its roof HVAC system and had to perforate the roof.

“We’ve just done little spot treatments here and there, the roof is 24 years old. So we’re lucky that we’ve gotten this far, but we don’t want to risk it anymore,” said Alicia Hammond, community engagement manager, adding: “We were lucky that where it came through wasn’t over too many materials or people.”

Hammond said damaged areas have been patched at least twice a year for the last four years.

At the start of this year, staff knew something more permanent had to be done to the roof. They solicited proposals from architects, and decided to work with the Itasca-based Williams Architects, which also did work on the Roos Recreation Center. The group liked the proposal from Williams because, rather than replacing the whole roof, Williams suggested doing an infrared survey, which would use an infrared camera to measure solar energy.

During the daytime, wet roof insulation absorbs more solar energy from the sun than dry roof insulation, according to Williams’ study. When the insulation cools at night, the wet roof insulation retains more solar energy. The infrared camera detects these temperature changes to determine which parts of the roof are “wet,” or damaged beyond repair. 

Staff went along with the survey, and found that about 11 percent of the roof is wet. Contractors will remove parts of the roof identified as wet, but also build up portions of the roof to make them more robust.

Shaker said she plans to issue bids in either July or early August, since “we’re in prime building season right now, so we aren’t going to bid it out right now because I don’t think we’re going to get competitive prices,” she said. She hopes to start construction in September, and expects restoration of the roof to take about eight days.

“The funds for it are in reserve, we have capital funds for it,” Shaker said. “So it’s not one of those things where we need to ask people to support the library roof project or something like that.”