Coping with a leak in your library

Flood 07022013

This morning Wellington saw some torrential rain. My library saw its third serious roof leak in 4 months. In February it leaked in the Archive room and behind the DVDs. In March it leaked in the Archive room and on the new books at the front of the library. Today it leaked in the Archive room, behind the DVDs, and on the TV and viewing chair. (No roof leak in April – we were in drought.)

Today we were lucky. Although we’d moved the boxes back into the Archive room they weren’t back on the shelves. So when the water started pouring in like someone had turned on a tap the boxes were nowhere near the water. We managed to get them out before there was too much splashing. We started taking the DVDs off the shelves in the library proper as a precautionary measure – halfway through there was water dripping down the wall. We were too late to shift the chair and TV but luckily they weren’t too badly soaked.

I say ‘luckily’ because it was. Despite assurances and guarantees that the spaces would be waterproof, despite leaving the tarpaulin over the Archive shelves (and the shelves themselves, empty) until the first heavy downpour, despite all that, it was pure luck that made me check the room and pure luck that my colleague checked the DVDs.

So what does one do in a situation like this?

1. Curse. You’ll feel better. (Although maybe that’s just me…)

2. Don’t panic. Panicking, blame, and fury can come later. Use that energy to start…

3. Shifting stuff. Triage as you go if you can – this stuff is wet, this stuff is not wet, this stuff is soaked and needs to be frozen etc

4. Take a break once things are out of immediate danger. Have a cup of tea and some biscuits. Time is of the essence but nothing is going to get better or worse in the 30 mins you’ll spend planning the next bit. Which is…

5. Salvage. You will most likely need lots of space to spread things out. The way to dry things like books and magazines is to lay them in front of a fan so the pages are gently ruffled and unstick themselves as they dry. Even completely soaked magazines can come back from the dead with this method. If things don’t have too many pages, and the pages peel apart without sticking to each other, then you can use waxed paper (from the supermarket) to keep the pages separated as they dry out. Stuff that is completely soaked can be frozen. Use the same methods once it comes out of the freezer.

6. Repeat step 1 and 5 as often as needed. (In my experience this will be frequently. Paper takes a long time to dry out.)

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