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Sprinkler Mishap Soaks Exam Cram in Dartmouth Library 

Matt Smith of Dartmouth College Facilities Operations and Management spreads salt outside Berry Library’s north entrance after a malfunction in the sprinkler system sent water cascading down the building’s main staircase yesterday.(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Matt Smith of Dartmouth College Facilities Operations and Management spreads salt outside Berry Library’s north entrance after a malfunction in the sprinkler system sent water cascading down the building’s main staircase yesterday.(Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

Dartmouth College students looking to hunker down in the library for the last day of fall exams got an unexpected study break yesterday afternoon.

The college’s Baker-Berry Library was evacuated around 1 p.m. after a construction worker accidentally hit a sprinkler head, triggering a fire alarm and causing minor flooding on the ground and lower levels of the library.

According to Dartmouth’s public affairs office, the accident was a result of ongoing maintenance work at the Carson building, which is connected to the library.

Dartmouth junior Eirik Voll was working at the information desk at the top of the stairs leading to the Novak Cafe, which was roped off with yellow crime scene tape yesterday, along with several entrances to the building near the cafe.

“The fire alarm went off, lights were flashing, it was quite dramatic,” Voll said, laughing. “As dramatic as it gets here, I suppose.”

Another Dartmouth junior, Mandy Bowers, said she was right near the information desk when the sprinkler head was struck.

“It was a lot of water,” said Bowers. “We saw it gushing out.”

At the bottom of the stairs near a seating area for the cafe, Dartmouth officials shuffled in and out for much of the afternoon, ducking under the crime scene tape and ushering in industrial cleaning crews.

Students often rushed to a nearby printer to print out exam materials but were halted by Dartmouth security officers and told that the printers were temporarily out of service.

Given the brief period of time the library was closed for yesterday, Dartmouth’s Senior Media Consultant Amy Olson said that exams were “not affected by this inconvenience.”

She said the college is still in the process of mopping up the affected areas and assessing the damage.

Outside the back entrance of the library, some of the water had spilled out onto the sidewalk and froze into slick ribbons of ice.

At least one student slipped on it yesterday afternoon, though it happened just as Dartmouth ground crews were pulling up to the scene with road salt to absorb some of the moisture and make the pathway walkable again.

Olson said that the majority of the library’s facilities reopened yesterday between 1:30 and 1:45 p.m, but Novak Cafe on the north side of the library would remain closed until further notice.

According to Voll, the Dartmouth junior, an Apple computer store used to be located in the affected area, but it was moved about a week ago.

“That would have been a lot worse if it was still there,” Voll said.

He said that the students evacuated the library in an orderly fashion, and deadpanned about the level of commotion yesterday.

“There’s not usually too much action going in the library,” Voll said. “But, yeah, today was exciting.”

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.