Floods Devastate Libraries in Southwestern Poland

By Kniffel, Leonard | American Libraries, September 1997 | Go to article overview

Floods Devastate Libraries in Southwestern Poland


Kniffel, Leonard, American Libraries


Libraries in 23 of Poland's 49 administrative districts have reported heavy damage to collections, buildings, and equipment as a result of July-August flooding, the worst the nation has seen in many decades. Waters from the raging Odra River have killed at least 33 people and left some 100,000 homeless in Poland and the neighboring Czech Republic, and have paralyzed the region for weeks.

The National Library of Poland in Warsaw is organizing aid to the beleaguered institutions with a central database to collect and disseminate information on the damage. Assistance coordinator Jan Wolosz reported to American Libraries August 8 that a nationwide cost estimate was not yet available, but calculations of much of the damage had not come in.

At the University of Wroclaw in southwestern Poland, damage to the campus has been estimated at more than $600,000. The dramatic efforts of sandbag workers were successful, however, in protecting 300,000 priceless volumes in the university library located on Ostrow Tumski, an island in the Odra in the heart of the city of 700,000 people.

Volunteers built a sandbag barricade around the university's main building, a landmark 293-year-old Baroque structure that houses one of Europe's largest collections of old prints and manuscripts. By the time the water hit, the workers had safely moved the materials from basement rooms to upper floors. Still, 20,000 books were destroyed in the main library and the law library.

Other libraries in the stricken city and in nearby Opole and Nysa were not so lucky.

The library of the Academy of Medicine in Wroclaw suffered flood waters up to 1. …

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