Putting Ourselves Back Together

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Most staff upon returning to the Main Library were able to just turn on his or her computer and pick up where s/he had left off. Not the Preservation Department. Book repair, binding, and marking are in the basement which was flooded. Since we were completely dismantled, we decided it was a good time to get the floor waxed and walls painted. We also decided that the first thing to get up and going should be the marking unit. This would get the most students back to work and take care of our highest volume of work. Marking processes about 8,000 items a month.

Once the floor was waxed, Shannon’s desk and computer would be installed and a table set up for students to work on. Painting, reinstalling book shelves, etc. would go on around them.

Temporary Quarters, Again!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Since book repair is in the basement along with marking and binding, they can not move back into their original work space. We decided to move them in after marking and binding. Painting will probably be done on Friday but it’ll still take some time to get equipment, shelves, etc. squared away. Susan has setting up a temporary shop down to an art and can do it quickly. They are now set up in a cubicle just across the aisle from me. Everyone is happy to be back at least in the building they usually work in. I’m enjoying having book repair so close to me. It’s nice to be able to pop in and say “hi.”

Moving Back

Monday, July 7, 2008

After three days of guests and almost no flood related activities, it was very hard to get mentally back to work. My host, Engineer Librarian John Forys, gave me a tip on where to find great coffee — The T-spoons. Fortified, I tackled my close to 700 emails, hoping to get part of my work life back in order. At 9:58 AM we received word that we could begin moving back to the Main Library at 1PM. The move back will be spread out over 3-4 days. I wKaren At Fenceas part of the first wave along with Conservation, Reformatting, Circulation, Media Services, InfoArcade, Administration office, PR, LIT Technical Support, Special Collections staff and a few students in these units.March of the Penguins

We moved back while the barriers were still up. Our north entrance is still closed and will be closed for a while as the buildings to our immediate north are still being remediated. We had to enter by the south entrance and be checked in – no gate crashers allowed. It was very exciting. I felt a little bit like the March of the Penguins.

After moving back – which involved docking my laptop and turning it on – I listened to my 10 phone messages. Oops! I neglected to deal with my office phone while vacated from the Main Library. Then I headed out to our Oakdale site to see if we can improve the environment. I was greeted with a totally amazing sight of 10s of LPs and covers hanging to dry.Czech LPs Caitlin and Elizabeth are doing a great job of working through the Czech Slovak LP collection.

Still no solution for an improved environment. We decided to investigate upgradingStarbrite the air conditioner filtering system with a HEPA filter, charcoal filter and pre-filter and setting up a small air scrubber. In the meantime I set out Starbrite anti odor/mold units. We’ll see if they reduce the smell.

Although I don’t feel stressed, I must be. I continue to be forgetful. I almost forgot to take the Starbrites with me and had to go back and get them. Then when I went to pick up my spouse after work, I took the wrong street and got lost.

Book Repair at Geoscience Library

Monday, June 30, 2008

It’s a challenge supervising staff who are scattered all over. However, they’ve done an excellent job of managing themselves. At the Geoscience Library, Bu Wilson decided she was best suited to pulling books for repairwork rather than doing the repairs. Bill and Linda worked on repairs.

Book Repair at Hardin

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Although staff would like to be back at their regular work stations, they are enjoying doing something different for a change and making a difference with the collections at the Hardin Library. We’re also able to keep some of our students in pay status.

Back At Work Sorta’

Monday, June 23, 2008

It’s very weird to be at work. Twenty university buildings have been shut down due to flood waters. Three of buildings have library collections in them which means that we are busy shuffling staff around. The preservation department was assigned to work in the Business Library. Actually, this was just a spot for us to meet to decide how to proceed. Susan Hansen, Book Repair Supervisor, thought to pack our book repair equipment into her car before heading home on Friday the 13th. Brilliant!

Susan and I had discussed off and on over the years that we’d like to set up temporary book repair stations at some of the branch libraries. Here was our chance to test the idea out. After some discussion we decided to set up two temporary book repair stations, one at Hardin Library of Health Science and another at the GeoscienceLibrary. We also decided that staff could stay home part of the time, working on the online Preservation 101course. Kristin planned to work with Jane Meggers at the State Historical Society of Iowa conservation lab on some of the Czech/Slovak items.

We all agreed to keep everyone posted via email every day as to where we were for the day.

We Dodge the Bullet

Monday, June 16, 2008
Shelving Height from Floor
Mike Lee and the Facilities folks who are based out of the Main Library checked our basement.  There is about 1/2 – 2 inches in various parts of the basement, including the Special Collections and books stack areas.  No collections are wet and do not appear to be in danger of getting wet.  The utilities are still on, which will be a big help.  We are working to see that the area is checked regularly and to see how soon we might be able to begin getting that water out of there.  Turned out that just what it was. We only got 2″ in the basement.

The University of Iowa is on the Iowa River. It came up slow, giving us a lot of time to prepare. It, too, exceeded all previous records but did not get as high as projected. Our Art and Music Libraries are on the 2nd floor of flooded buildings. We’re very concerned that we’ll have lots of mold. We think we’ll be ok with the collection in Main Library.

In the morning I met with the African American museum staff at their temporary office and suggested that they coordinate recovery efforts with the Czech Slovak museum. They, too, thought this would be a good idea. They, also, have found temporary storage for their dry items.  We then headed out to join the Czech Slovak museum staff who has arranged a meeting with the disaster response company. It’s a good meeting. We’re hoping to get into the disaster area tomorrow. The Brucemore director is anxious to assist with recovery efforts. I stopped to talk to him on my way home. He plans on acquiring preservation supplies and has office space if needed.

Resting Up

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Gary Grout caught an announcement that volunteers should report to the Main Library this morning at 9AM. The report was meant for volunteers to report for sandbagging. Gary was at the door this morning to re-direct volunteers and Kristi alerted the UI Press that they needed to have a better statement out.  We’re having quite an adventure. It’s all very surreal. All our utilities are on but we are on restricted water use and plan to visit a friend outside of Cedar Rapids tomorrow to have a much needed shower. The water in Cedar Rapids is starting to recede. Firemen are escorting people into their businesses or homes so they can get essential things out and to check on the structures. We’re starting to think about the recovery process. I’m not sure how long it will take for the water to recede so people can actually start repairing, cleaning, etc. so they can move back in. 
In Iowa City, the river still hasn’t crested. The crest is predicted Tuesday morning. I don’t know if I can survive the suspense. So far the University of Iowa Main Library has stayed dry. But I’ve looked at the flood level projections and the building elevation. It’s not good. We might make it through. We have over 250,000 books in the basement that could get wet.  Today we are spending time recovering. I was too wound up to sleep more than 6 hours. But I did treat myself to a 1 1/2 hour massage and should sleep really well tonight. I plan on using my week “off” helping the Cedar Rapids libraries and museums in their recovery efforts. So getting rested up is really important.

Evacuation of the University of Iowa Main Library

Friday, June 13, 2008
At 6AM, I sent the following email to Nancy Baker and others: “After seeing the Czech/Slovak Library/Museum under water almost to the roof top and many roof tops and church steeples and watching flood level forecasts, I’m thinking we should revise our scenario of about 1 foot of water in Main to 5 feet. Last night before I left, I talked to Greg, he feels that emptying the next shelf up will go quickly and most if not all will fit into the same room. I’m thinking we should go up 3 shelves instead of 2. Maybe this sounds radical but officials are now starting to say they don’t know if all the dams, etc. will hold. We can discuss the storage book collection. We need to get some of those out, too. I’m starting to think I’d rather pack out dry rather than wet books.” We packed our bags, planning to stay overnight, and left around 6:15 so we could be at work around 8AM. It was very eerie as there was hardly any traffic on the road; we arrived around 7AM.

We had a very brief meeting around 8 AM. We agreed that Paul Soderdahl would direct evacuation of computer equipment, I would direct my staff evacuation of their work area, Sid and Greg would direct move of Special Collections, circulation staff would coordinate volunteer sign up and I would coordinate removal of collections out of the basement. We agreed on the proposed 5 foot mark.

One of my staff was in tears as she was concerned that her house would be flooded. We agreed that after all equipment and materials were out of the preservation department, staff could go assist her in sandbagging her house.

At the time we decided to remove materials up to the 5 foot mark, we were being denied sandbags. Of course, once we had most materials out, the sandbags arrived after all. On Thursday we were told we had two days to evacuate — Friday and Saturday. Knowing that dams might break, we assumed one day. We were told sometime on Friday that a dam or levee of some sort did break and that we could not come back on Saturday. Actually we were told to stay home for a week.  We had hundreds of volunteers. Our evacuation was phenomenal. I’ve never seen anything like it. We have 3 elevators and 2 stairwells to the basement. Our collection storage is crazy making, unfinished floor, compact shelves, and narrow aisles. We used carts and elevators, human book handing chains in the stairwells, box brigades. I told everyone that I hoped my worst fears were just that and that all this evacuation was just a practice exercise.  We had a hard time keeping up with our volunteers. We’d identify a section for packing out, point them to it and like locust they’d swoop in and empty the shelves out. H Pedelty did an incredible job of keeping everything coordinated in the circulating collection storage area. When we were short of carts, we packed items in boxes. We had 3 and 4 human chains going at a time, sometimes belly to belly. A couple volunteers suggested that they could organize the evacuation better than we could and get stuff out faster. I’m sure they could have. But we were mindful that we would need to put everything back in place and were trying to keep some semblance of order as items were stacked on tables on 2nd floor.

Meanwhile the Library IT staff moved the servers out of the Main Library with the goal of having them operational by evening. They sent out a reminder that in the interim all the Libraries’ electronic resources would be unavailable. We had until noon to save everything to the H or L drive so we could have access to our files from another location while we are evacuated.

At 2:11 PM we received the following email notice: “With the closure of University classes and programs, University faculty and staff are not to report to work effective immediately, unless involved in providing patient care, utilities, security, facilities or other essential services.  …  Faculty and staff not needed to meet emergency needs should stay away from the campus to assure their safety.  Individuals whose work place is closed or unavailable will continue to receive their normal earnings for the immediate period (June 13-22).  Additional information will be provided to address any period beyond June 22.  During this period of time, those who can perform work at home should do so, or consider volunteering their service to the community to meet emergency needs.  Please watch for public announcements as to when University faculty and staff will be asked to return to the workplace.” Course none of us had access to our computers to get this announcement!

At one point we were told we needed to be out by 5PM. Then they heard that the Governor and other dignitaries would be visiting the campus, including the library. Suddenly we were given until 9PM for our evacuation efforts. Par for the course, the Governor and his entourage arrived during a break. No one was working. Everyone was taking a well deserved food and water break. We’d had problems acquiring food and water. The UI Libraries credit card could not be used for food and water. Ed and Paul finally ended up using their personal funds to buy food and drink for our volunteers.

We very effectively used our elevators and stairwells and successfully evacuated all staff (150), over 100 computers, all Special Collections material up to 4-5 feet from the floor, a majority of theses, plus dewey, art, and music books up to 4 feet from the floor and our 16 mm film out of the basement. Priorities were set in storage based on collective knowledge of what might be the least likely to be replaced balanced against how to make the best use of our volunteer labor without running into each other. It was incredible.  We worked until 8:30PM. We had several offers for places to stay overnight. We were a little concerned that if we didn’t get home, it might be a while before we could get home. Almost all roads are under water and closed. It took us over 3 hours to get home as we had to go over an hour west (Grinnell) before we could head back to Cedar Rapids. We got home around midnight.

Constantly Changing Picture

Thursday, June 12, 2008

In the morning we were told that there are no current plans to evacuate the Main Library. The Main Library is one of the buildings that they know MAY need to be evacuated at some point because of our location– but we are NOT at that point now nor do we anticipate this today. 

In the afternoon we learned that the Corps of Engineers expects the flow to increase and we are under a 5pm Friday deadline for what we need to move from the basement.  At this time, we are concentrating on the lower shelves of Special Collections in the basement. Plus we started working with the members of the Preservation and Shipping departments to prepare to move them out of the lower level, if necessary.

Our attempts to organize sandbagging the dock to prevent any flood waters from entering the lower level is having its ups and downs. First we hear we can; then we hear we can’t. The UI is having problems with keeping a steady supply of sandbags. One encouraging note is that the power to the Main Library is on fairly high ground and not in an underground tunnel.

Joel Maxey, Sid Huttner and Greg Prickman worked with teams to move Special Collections materials out of the lower level storage area. Some material was moved to higher shelves; the rest was moved up to the 5th floor study lounge at the south end of the building. Enough staff pitched in to help that the move is completed before the end of the day. The move was accomplished with a combination of human chain to aisle to UI Main Library Elevationscarts to elevator.

I believe we are all in agreement that if we do a 2nd phase of removing material from the basement, we should wait and make that decision during our 9AM meeting. Ed Shreeves is reviewing a crude list of items in the basement storage and Sid Huttner and Greg Prickman are regrouping/reviewing what is in the special collections area of high value.  

At some point we get new high water levels : Iowa Avenue to Burlington Street – 650.5. That’s us! As Gary Grout stated, “Not good news.”

At 5PM, Nancy Baker received word that the Main Library will be closing, Friday, June 13 at 5 p.m. for an indeterminate period of time. All staff members will evacuate by Saturday, June 14 at 5 p.m. Libraries and University officials are re-locating staff to other campus locations for the duration.With so few roads and bridges open, it took us 2 1/2 hours to get home. We are met with the unbelievable sight of our town, Cedar Rapids, under water. Sight seers further delay traffic. It is hard not to cry.