Repair & Restoration

Waukegan Public Library experienced water damage due to a failed pipe in July 2023. As water removal began, staff worked immediately and tirelessly with our insurance agency, vendors, inspectors, and restoration experts, and reorganized spaces to prepare the library for reopening within 3 days. While we shared initial information about the emergency closing with the public, we understand that we did not do a thorough job with covering the extent of the damage. It is important for all residents and library users to understand the impact of the flood and that it will take time to repair and restore all our spaces to their full use. 

We hope you find the following outline helpful in understanding the impact of the water damage and the extensive work done thus far. We will continue to update this webpage with steps in the repair process and other documentation as it becomes available.

11/14/2023 Update: Pop-up ELC (Early Learning Center) Reopens

The Waukegan Public Library is proud to announce that the pop-up ELC (Early Learning Center) has now reopened. Currently the ELC features temporary and flexible activities that support early learning, gross motor development, sensory discovery, creative play, STEM exploration, and much more. During your visit we’d love to hear from you. We’ve created a survey for adults and kids to share their favorite activities and priorities for the space.

Thank you to all of the kids, parents, educators, and community members for taking our survey, sharing your favorite items in the ELC, and providing feedback as we work to create permanent features. We started working with an architect in winter 2023 and will be designing and adding items throughout early 2024. We’ll share designs, photos, and other information as it becomes available.


  • Is the ELC reopen?
    • Yes, the ELC is reopen. The space was damaged down to the studs- all carpet, ceiling, and a lot of drywall was fully removed and restored to ensure the safety and integrity of the structure.
  • Is this how it will look now?
    • For now, yes, this is the temporary ELC space we have been able to create to ensure the shortest turnaround time to reopening. But we will continue to work to create a permanent space as we collect feedback from patrons (including kids), staff, our Board, our architects who created the original ELC, and our community. Temporary play materials will continue to be replaced with permanent fixtures as the public helps us understand how they want to best use the space.
  • I have suggestions for what to put there?
    • Please share. We encourage adults to fill out the parent survey and we encourage all people who enjoy the space to write down what they like and what they hope to see in the future. Use the interactive giant post-its just outside the ELC to share your ideas.
  • What will the new theme be/why isn’t there a theme?
    • After the original ELC was designed by our architects, there were several other themes created over the years. These themes took months to develop, design, and build. We may have a new theme in the future, but did not want to delay the opening for 6+ months while we made determinations about the design. Plus, we wanted YOU the patrons to give us input about how you use the space and what you’d like to see.
  •  I thought this space was under construction, why is it not redone?
    • The ELC was not under construction for cosmetic reasons. In July the library experienced a devastating flood and the entire ELC space was damaged beyond repair. In the months that followed we were following safety remediation guidelines to structurally repair and restore the space. This is only the beginning for the ELC. More exciting and interactive parts will keep being added!

Overview of Flooding  

In the middle of the night on Sunday, July 16, a pipe leak on the top floor of the library caused significant damage affecting several staff and public spaces on all 3 floors of the library building. While repairs are taking place, these areas will remain inaccessible until they are safely able to be reopened. For pictures of water damage, please view this slideshow. For pictures of mold inspection and need for mitigation work in the ELC, please view this slideshow. For a video of the damage to the lower level ELC, please see the video in the right-hand sidebar.

  • The source of the leak was in a staff office that is approximately 1,050 square feet and houses the important functions of 9 staff responsible for ordering and processing books and other materials for check out. Damage to carpet, cupboards, walls, and tile was sustained.
  • The water spread on the top floor to two other spaces – the staff breakroom and kitchen and the inventory room which is the hub for our mobile delivery, inter-library loan services, and houses Friends of the Library materials. These spaces are approximately 1,200 square feet. Damage was sustained to carpet, laminate floor, cabinets, furniture, and walls.
  • The water moved to the main floor through the drop-ceiling of Classrooms A/B (the glassed-in meeting room) and water spread from that room to 5 of the 6 study rooms, the Teen Corner, the computer seating area along the west wall, and adjoining staff offices. Damage was sustained to ceiling tile, insulation, carpet, walls, cupboards, and furniture.
  • This area is above the Children’s Department, so as the water moved to the Lower Level, it went down the ceiling tile grid in many places, ran along the soffit in the picture book area that leads into the ELC, and came down through ceiling tiles, light, vents,  walls, and other fixtures. Damage was sustained to books, book shelves, carpet, ceiling tile and walls, fixtures, ELC houses, tree with reading nook, furniture, copy machine, and supplies.

Timeline of Work: Staff, Vendors, and Contractors  

7/17/23, 6:45-7:00am: Water leak reported by Custodian, the first staff member on site that day.
7/17/23, 7:30-8:00am: Source of leak determined by Custodian and Facilities Manager. Water turned off. Emergency water removal services contacted.
7/17/23, 8:30am: Executive Director contacted insurance company reporting service, as well as local property claim supervisor. Adjuster was on site within the hour.
7/17/23, 10:00am: Water mitigation company arrived on site to start pumping out water, running fans, dehumidifiers, and air scrubbers after the water was removed. Water on the carpet was removed by the end of the day. Dehumidifiers, air scrubbers, and fans ran through 7/23/23.
7/18/23 – 7/19/23: Work by staff began to clear office areas of files, furniture, computers, phones, and relocate to new areas. Approximately 3,000 picture books were relocated to new public areas and a storage room. Staff developed new public seating areas, shared information with the public, City officials, etc.
7/17/23 – 7/19/23: Samples taken to test floor tile for asbestos in staff areas of the library. Received test results and made determination of office area that requires mitigation. 
7/18/23-7/19/23: IT infrastructure, Electrical, HVAC, Fire Alarm system inspections completed with some repair work required. Insulation and ceiling tile damage assessed. Completed removal of all wet, damaged ceiling tile.
7/19/23 – 7/22/23: Carpet removed in all affected areas and antimicrobial spray put on floors as a preventative measure.
7/20/23: Library reopened with damaged spaces tarped off. Temporary seating and spaces were created for library users. Carpet vendor measured space to prepare quote.
7/21/23 – 7/25/23: Mitigation, drywall, insulation, and tile removal companies on site to complete inspection and prepare quotes. 
7/24/23-7/25/23: Reviewed carpet samples online and made initial selections. Carpet sample booklets dropped off.
7/27/23-7/28/23: Furniture movers on site to remove large, modular furniture and built-in counters and shelves from main floor offices.
8/1/23 – 8/4/23: Carpet samples received. Remeasuring of space, and order placed for Main Floor. Initial selections made for lower level, waiting for final samples.
8/3/23-8/4/24: Furniture movers on site to remove large, modular furniture and built-in shelves from top floor offices.
8/6/23: Children’s Department carpet selection finalized and order placed.
8/9/23:  Final walk-through of the building with mitigation company to confirm areas that required removal due to asbestos and as potential hazards for mold growth. Mitigation work begins.
8/11-8/13: Office area asbestos mitigation completed, drywall removal on top floor and main floor complete.
8/15: Drywall removal on lower level begins, mold was discovered in the lower level on several walls. Mitigation work takes place. Drywall install and taping begins on top floor and main floor.
8/25: Drywall repair and replacement completed, painting of new drywall completed.
8/28-9/1: Painting
9/20: Carpet delivered (first batch)
9/25: Carpet installation begins in offices and study rooms
9/28: Study rooms reopened for public use
10/13: Carpet/flooring installation on the 2nd floor completed
10/16: Collection Management Department returned to their reopened office space
10/17: Carpet delivered (second batch)
10/20: Carpet installation on main floor completed
10/21: Room A/B reopened to the public
10/21-11/10: Carpet installation in the Children’s Department
Anticipated reopening of the picture book area
11/13: Picture book area reopens
11/14: Pop-up ELC (Early Learning Center) reopens

September Update: Reopening of distinct public spaces will happen through September and October as carpet is installed, and shelves, books, and furniture are put back in place. All staff offices will return to regular functioning as carpet is installed and furniture and technology is put back in place. The picture book collection in the Children’s Department will reopen first as that area opens into the Early Learning Center. The Early Learning Center will reopen with a variety of interactive stations, including family favorites, such as the kitchen and imaginative play/stage area, as well as some changing items, such as a train table, building activities, and more. This will allow the library to open the space as we plan and rebuild. Staff will be able to engage and observe use, and allow all library users to give their feedback about preferred activities and priorities for skill building supports (fine and gross motor skills, learning concepts, cooperation, sorting, independence, creativity). 


  • Why are there tarps covering parts of the building? 
    • Due to flood damage, these areas are under construction and temporarily closed to the public. The tarps are covering the following public areas due to carpet removal and drywall repair: 5 study rooms, Classrooms A/B, and seating in the teen area on the main floor, and the picture book area and ELC on the lower level. These areas will be reopened as soon as repairs are complete.
  • What other parts of the building sustained damage?
    • In addition to the public spaces listed above, the Collection Management Department, Inventory Room, and staff breakroom on the top floor, and Children’s Department office and supply closet on the lower level were damaged.
  • This doesn’t look so bad. What else do I need to understand about the damage?
    • Areas on all 3 floors of the building were water damaged, including several staff office spaces. The public spaces you use and see covered by tarps are only ½ of the damage. The non-public areas were over 3,000 square feet and required relocation of almost 15 staff workstations (computers, phones, furniture), in addition to carpet removal, drywall repair, painting, etc.
    • After a flood, preventative safety measures and health and safety guidelines and requirements must be followed. The library consulted and took direction from experts who each have over 25 years of experience in their respective fields, including the library’s insurance company and adjuster, architect of record, facilities manager, and 2 mitigation companies. After the flood, wet insulation, carpet, and ceiling tile were removed. Tile in the area of the leak was old, asbestos tile and it sustained damage requiring mitigation of a 1,000 square foot office. Preventative safety precautions also require that 1 1/2 – 2 feet of all affected drywall be removed to inspect for and prevent mold growth. During the drywall work, mold was discovered in lower level walls. Along with the 2 feet of preventative drywall removal, all drywall containing mold was removed, which also required that items affixed to those walls, or that sustained irreparable damage, also be removed including windows, counters, shelves and cupboards, 3 play houses in the ELC, and the tree with the reading nook.
  • Who is repairing the damaged areas?  
    • The Library has worked with many vendors throughout the process and has used recommended experts provided by our insurance company. All companies are licensed and insured. Mitigation companies require special permitting from the State of Illinois which were obtained, as well as post-work air quality clearance tests, which were completed and passed.
  • When will the repairs begin/be completed? 
    • The repair and restoration project has started and is expected to be completed sometime in September or October. We have scheduled vendors and contractors in the quickest, most efficient way possible. A review of the timeline above and the inspections, repairs, and other activities completed in 6-weeks time is impressive and we are very grateful for the responsiveness and flexibility of our staff, vendors, and contractors. 
  • How much will it cost? 
    • After the deductible, the Library’s insurance will cover the damage caused by the broken pipe. The Library’s operating budget will be used should there be differences in cost of coverage and replacement items chosen by the Library.  
  • Where will the books be moved during renovation? 
    • Books located in the ELC (Early Learning Center) and picture books have been moved and are available for check out. Some books are out on the Children’s Department floor, and other books are in storage but are still available for checkout. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, staff are happy to help. 
  • I like the library the way it is. Why are you changing it? 
    • We like the library, too, and are working diligently to repair damaged spaces after a devastating flood. The library is not being remodeled at this time, but it will have to make changes to carpet, wall colors, shelving, and other structures that experienced irreparable damage. We hope to get the spaces you use and love back up and running as quickly as possible. While not everything will be exactly the same, the intent and purpose of all the damaged spaces will be used in the way they were before the flood.

  • How do I share my ideas, make comments, or ask questions about library services, collections, programs, and spaces? 
    • Please email the Library’s Executive Director Tiffany Verzani at with any questions or ideas you have. 
    • Suggestion boxes with comment forms are available at all public service desks. This is an excellent way to provide feedback in real time and will be permanent.
    • The Library will be planning additional surveys, online forms, interactive idea boards, and listening sessions to gather ideas and feedback as we continue to enhance and expand our offerings and increase the library’s positive impact in the community.
  • I was told that the library is developing a strategic plan and there was a survey. Why don’t I know about the survey? Is the flood repair related to this? 
    • The library has been working with FastForward Libraries since March 2023 to develop strategic directions and goals for the next 3 years. Community focus groups, interviews, and surveys were conducted in May and June 2023. The survey was shared in our newsletter (mailed to all homes), website, social media, within the library, and at community events. While the consultants have closed the online form, community input continues to be sought as part of the process. Print copies of the survey are available on our website’s strategic plan page. Waukegan Public Library ( 
    • The repair work is not related to this process. The flood is an extremely unfortunate situation that was accidental in nature and unrelated to the strategic planning process. 

Ongoing Library Services 

Our collections and services are fully available. Please ask staff for any assistance during your visit as they can direct you to all accessible areas, collections, meeting rooms, and programs. 

  • All collections for adults and teens are available on the main floor, including fiction and nonfiction books, DVDs, videogames, and music. As always, you can access eBooks, eAudiobooks, and streaming services via our website with your library card.  
  • All collections in the Children’s Department are available, though you may need to ask for items you find in the online catalog but do not see on the shelf. Due to the flood, staff had to relocate over 3,000 books to storage areas. We are so grateful that we only sustained damage to approximately 200 books. 
  • All computers are available on the main floor and Children’s Department, and both computer labs are open. We are also grateful that no computers or servers were damaged. 
  • Programs will continue as scheduled but may be relocated to different areas around the building. Our computer labs, Bradbury Room, and lower-level study rooms are all available. Our online calendar is fully up-to-date. We’ve also added a Pop-Up ELC to keep our young people engaged and ready for the school year. Check here to view details about programs, check locations, or to register.  
  • Several study rooms on the main floor were damaged, but we can schedule visitors on a first-come, first served basis for our available rooms. Meetings held with our partner agencies, such as ConnectLakeCounty, are listed in the calendar as planned

Updating a Well-Loved Space 

Unfortunately, one of the flooded spaces was the Early Learning Center in the Children’s Department. The ELC has been a well-loved destination by countless Waukegan kids and families for over 15 years. Dedicated staff and designers have led its many iterations and design themes, making the ELC a welcoming play, learning, and discovery space that stimulates the imaginations of kids and their caregivers. It is a place that not only supports the development of preschool readiness milestones and social-emotional growth, but also fosters the creation of lasting friendships and a love of reading and the library. We are eager to repair and reopen this wonderous and unique space in our community. 

While repairs are being made, the Children’s Department staff have harnessed their enthusiasm and creativity to incorporate hands-on play and learning opportunities throughout the department. We know many happy memories were made in the ELC and that this dedicated area is greatly missed, but we want to ensure you that the goals of the ELC are a foundational aspect of library service and the temporary spaces we have at this time will continue to build skills, confidence, and a sense of wonder in our young visitors. To reflect and share stories, please check out pictures of the ELC, which was unveiled in 2007 and regularly changed themes, fixtures, and engaging activities. Together we can remember where we have been and look forward to making new memories with family and friends when we are able to safely reopen.