Friday, August 14, 2009
You may have heard about the flooding that Louisville, Kentucky experienced on Tuesday, August 4. The city received about six and a half inches of rain in less than two hours which caused flash flooding around the city. Churchill Downs (where the Kentucky Derby takes place) looked like a lake. Many roads resembled rivers. Among other places, the Louisville Free Public Library's Main branch sustained heavy damage. The basement, which contained new acquisitions and requests (books that patrons had requested to check out at their branch from another one) and housed the entire system's server, was completely flooded. The book mobiles that delivered patron's requests to different branches were completely under water. The estimated damages are currently at 5 million dollars. If you're interested in learning more about the damages or seeing photos, here's an article giving the details.
I can't stop thinking about what this loss means for the community. The first few days it was painful even to think about because it still wasn't clear what would happen. The library website was down which meant you couldn't renew books you had out or request books you wanted to read. With the server down, this also meant that the librarians didn't know what the due dates were either and possibly that books couldn't be checked out at all.
I know that even just a few years ago most books were checked out by a paper system, but they aren't anymore. And with a a paper system, it's much more difficult for the whole community to have access to all the resources the library has to offer. I've often found that many of the books I am interested in reading are located in branches in parts of town I'm not familiar with. I wouldn't even know that if it wasn't for the library's website.
Over 10,000 books were lost during this flood, many of them new purchases. Hopefully, this loss will be covered by insurance, but since patron holds were also lost that means that many of the books could be out of print and not able to be replaced. Many of the books that I've read in the past year, that I've counted on to be there when I needed them again (like doll and toy patterns) could have been destroyed and there may not be a way to get another copy.
This is a blow to the community. I hope that this disruption of service over the past few weeks shows the community how much the library is a part of their lives. I've heard of people who never check out a single book on anything and that's not something I understand. We usually check out books (or request that the library buy books) that we are interested in purchasing. I often go on to buy those books, but I appreciate the opportunity to look through them first. We also enjoy checking out audio books for long trips. It makes the time pass so quickly and gives my husband and I something new to discuss. My daughter has long recognized the library when we drive up and enjoyed storytime, checking out her own books and the summer reading program. She was so proud just a few weeks ago to receive her second library backpack (from the summer reading program) and wanted to wear it for days.
For anyone local who doesn't already know this, you do not have to be a Jefferson County resident to have a library card at the Louisville library system. You or your spouse simply has to work in Jefferson County or you can pay a small fee each year for a card. I was shocked at the number of people who didn't know this during the vote on the library tax last year.
If you are not local, take the time to visit your library system and take advantage of all it has to offer. Libraries are a gift.