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Michigan State UniversityMichigan State UniversityInfrastructure Planning and Facilities
Tim Dennany, (left), and Sheryl Shay, maintenance mechanic IIs, check the shaft of the supply fan in the subbasement of the MSU Main Library.

Tim Dennany, (left), and Sheryl Shay, maintenance mechanic IIs, check the shaft of the supply fan in the subbasement of the MSU Main Library.

Building Services employees save Library Special Collections

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Oct. 31, 2011 

The morning of Monday, July 25, Sheryl Shay, maintenance mechanic II, expected nothing more than an average day. She responded to a call from Dave Bentley, refrigeration mechanic II, to replace the belts of the supply fan in the basement of the MSU Main Library.

As Shay turned the fan sheaves to position the belts, she noticed something was wrong. The fan became increasingly difficult to turn. She realized that the fan shaft was sheared off. Shay notified Rich Lilly, metals skilled trades supervisor. They met with Ken Crowell, Maintenance Services manager, to discuss the circumstances and how they should expedite repairs. They formed an action plan to repair the equipment and simultaneously keep the environmental conditions ideal for Special Collections.

Special Collections, housed in the basement of the building, contains a variety of rare and precious material. Some of the books are hundreds of years old, meaning they are also fragile. According to Peter Berg, associate director for Special Collections and Preservation, “The worst thing for [these volumes] is wild swings in humidity and temperature. When we lost the air conditioning during that very hot period in July, we became very concerned that there could be a mold outbreak or that it could exacerbate the condition of the paper.

A portion of the Special Collections area is a vault containing the rarest material such as first editions of Darwin’s “Origin of Species,” Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” and “[books pertaining to] the history of our civilization that are extremely important,” Berg said. Due to the library setup, the main areas still had air conditioning while the vault containing the most precious material did not. Berg called it the “worst possible scenario.”

The ideal environmental conditions for the collections are 45- to 55-percent humidity and a consistent temperature between 60 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. The outdoor air temperature that day was 87 degrees.

After Shay’s call came in, Lilly contacted the refrigeration shop. Sue Alchin, Central Control planner/ inspector/analyst I, and the refrigeration crew (Gary Allen, refrigeration mechanic II, Dan Feldpausch, refrigeration mechanic II, and Josh Henry, maintenance assistant II) delivered portable A/C units to the site. These units are kept in the Physical Plant* storage room for critical areas of campus in case of mechanical failure. On second shift, Bill Colter, electrician II, provided cables and connected the units to an electrical panel for immediate use.

Mike Ouderkirk, second shift operations skilled trades supervisor, received the news that the second-shift crew would be needed as soon as he got to work that day. He called Pam Hebeler, preventative maintenance worker, and Bill Zlotek, maintenance assistant II, to come in as soon as possible, which was outside of their normal work hours. Those two, as well as Nate Gauf, maintenance assistant II, worked into the night, staying as late as 10 p.m. to run for materials and keep an eye on everything.

Meanwhile, in the sub-basement of the library the 1,000-pound fan wheel that measured approximately five feet in diameter was secured to hold it in place so the shaft would be removed and repaired.

Upon removal of the shaft, Tim Dennany, maintenance mechanic II, worked tirelessly to fabricate a new shaft. The process over the next three days included ordering steel stock,

milling areas of the shaft to fit the fan wheel, assembling bearings, and arranging the belt sheave properly. Steve Smith, maintenance mechanic II, and Kevin Bolles, plumber II, set up rigging

equipment for use to remove and replace the fan shaft. The shaft was machined by

6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 28. The fan and bearing crew reinstalled the shaft that evening. The HVAC unit was up and running by 8:30 p.m.

Due to the rapid response of Physical Plant employees, the temperature in the Special Collections vault never reached more than 75 degrees and the humidity stayed less than 60 percent.

Berg was thankful and impressed by the work. “[The Physical Plant workers] did a wonderful job. It was really remarkable how quickly they responded.”

Ouderkirk expressed his appreciation as well. “In time of need, they all stepped up and got the job done. I think it shows the employees take pride in what they do and are concerned about the wellbeing of campus.”

September/October 2011

*Prior to the creation of Infrastructure Planning and Facilities in January 2013, several IPF departments were a part of the now-dissolved MSU Physical Plant. Some historical articles on this website reference that former unit.