College & Research Libraries News

Quake damages stacks at University of Washington

The University of Washington Libraries, the largest academic library in the Pacific North- west, experienced extensive stack damage in several library units, although most librar- ies came through fine. An estimated 35,000 volumes were knocked off shelves, about half in the libraries’ off-site storage facility. Immediately after the earthquake, all or portions of ten library units were closed due to stack damage, potential ceiling damage, or the building being closed for inspec- tion.

Betsy Wilson, director of University Libraries, quickly formed a damage assessment team that worked with library units and the university physical plant to assist libraries in reopening. Coincidentally, the Suzzallo Library (part of the main social sciences-humanities library) is in the midst of a major two-year seismic project, which was about 60 percent completed in the 1925 and 1935 sections. That work prevented significant damage to those portions of the library.

One day after the earthquake, service areas in all library units were open with the exception of Health Sciences Library and KK Sherwood Library in the Harborview Medical Center (in each case the entire building was closed), although access to collections in some units was restricted or not available. Those two units opened on Friday, two days after the earthquake.

One week after the earthquake, all collections and services were available to users in all libraries except Engineering and Fisheries-Oceanography.

The Engineering Library was hardest hit with its collection of 125,000 volumes not accessible due to extensive stack damage. Mel DeSart, head of the Engineering Library, noted: “There’s a certain irony that, of all the branch libraries at UW, it was the Engineering Library that sustained probably the greatest damage. But, if nothing else, much of our shelving is now a great laboratory for any classes studying struc- tural design or metal fa- tigue and deformation.”

A view of the earthquake’s damages to the University of Washington’s Engineering Library.

In the Fisheries- Oceanography Library, 40,000 volumes were still not available due to stack damage on the lower level, although stacks there had been stabilized and plans were underway to provide limited staff access. Both libraries were using article delivery and expedited interlibrary loan to provide materials to users.

Finally, the damage was documented extensively and communicated widely to the broader community. A libraries’ earthquake Web page was set up within hours (http//www. to keep our users and staff informed of unit closings and damage. Damage photographs were scanned or posted directly from digital cameras. Carla Rickerson, head of Manuscripts, Special Collections and University’ Archives, lamented that we had no photographs of the library’ damage from the 1965 earthquake. Not a problem this time; we have plenty’ of images to remember the 2001 Nisqually earthquake.

Steve Hiller,

University of Washington Libraries,

Copyright © American Library Association

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