Santa Cruz County History - Disasters & Calamities

"There Was No Place to Hide"
by Donna Swedberg

A staff member's experience at the Downtown Branch

What I remember most about the earthquake is noise. Rumbling and roaring. When the earthquake began, I was walking down a hallway on the second floor of the Central (Downtown) Branch library. The hallway is outside the storage area where row after row of books and magazines were tumbling to the floor and bookshelves were tipping over like dominoes. [See photograph of the storage area, below.] I looked around for a place to take shelter but the hallway was bare and all of the doors were locked so I dropped to the floor and put my hands over my head. Fortunately, no ceiling tiles or light fixtures fell in the hall.

Downtown Branch Storage Area
Downtown Branch Storage Area

When the movement stopped, I continued down the hall to the Art and Music Department (now the Young People's Department) where there were books and broken light covers scattered over the floor. Clouds of dust were in the air and people were grabbing their stuff and running for the stairs. The staff person in that department was urging them to use the front stairs since it leads directly to the lobby and out the door.

Seeing that the situation was under control in Art and Music, I continued down the central staircase, stepping over ceiling tiles and broken light covers. Downstairs, staff was calmly helping patrons out of the building and making sure no one was hurt and that no one was stuck in the elevator.

Reference Book Stacks
Book Stacks in the Reference Dept.

I walked through the nonfiction section looking for people in need of help and saw books piled knee-high down each row. No bookcases had fallen over in the public areas but several were leaning toward one end, looking like a parallelogram rather than a rectangle. All of the public were out, in some cases abandoning their school books, backpacks, purses and all.

The day after the earthquake, many of the staff were back at the library-- putting books back on shelves.

Return to: The Loma Prieta Earthquake & The Santa Cruz Public Libraries

View similarly tagged articles:

earthquakes, libraries, Loma Prieta earthquake


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