Magazine article American Libraries

Torrential Rains Flood Libraries in Illinois, Pennsylvania

Magazine article American Libraries

Torrential Rains Flood Libraries in Illinois, Pennsylvania

Article excerpt

Libraries and their collections fell victim to torrential rains that inundated several states in mid-July. The storms dumped 17 inches of rain in less than a day in the Chicago suburb of Aurora, falling just short of the national record for a 24-hour deluge.

Although most of the flooding took place in the southwestern Chicago suburbs, the most extensive library damage occurred in eastern Pennsylvania, where the Redbank Valley Junior-Senior High School in New Bethlehem lost its entire library when the building was gutted by flood waters from nearby Redbank Creek July 19.

"There were places in the school where the water was up to the ceiling," Librarian Carrie Kopas reported. In the library, she said, everything below a level of five feet "got wiped out." Some 16,000 volumes were destroyed--the entire collection except for three books Kopas had brought home. "And those weren't checked in yet," she observed, "so they didn't count in the total." The library also lost five-year runs of 62 periodicals, bound volumes of National Geographic going back to the 1920s, and six of its nine computers.

The library was renovated last fall, said Kopas. "The furniture, carpeting, computers--everything was new." No dollar amount had been placed on the losses by mid-August, but Kopas said Federal Emergency Management Agency workers had estimated the collection alone would cost some $400,000 to replace.

Fortunately, although all the computer records were destroyed, the library had just converted its circulation system to Follett, and the company was able to supply a copy of the entire shelf list, which will prove valuable for insurance purposes. Even so, Kopas warned librarians to "keep a copy of your shelf list at home."

Kopas said she hoped to have some materials in place by the school's targeted September 30 reopening.

In the storm center of Aurora, Illinois, sewer backup sent three feet of water into the lower level of Aurora University's Charles B. Phillips Library July 17-18. Library Director Susan Craig reported that the media services department, located on the lower level, lost some $500,000 in materials and equipment. Losses included some 225 software titles, 2,000 videotapes, and two-thirds of a 5,000-volume phonograph-record collection dating back to the 1940s--"the covers just disintegrated. …

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