Santa Cruz County History - Disasters & Calamities

What a Mess! 295,000 Items on the Floor
by Anne Turner

Cleaning up and Re-opening the Branch Libraries

On Day 1 (October 18) we began re-shelving books and clearing up the mess at nine of our ten Branches. I was not able to communicate with some of the Branch Managers for several days, but each of them took that approach independently.

We opened most of our Branches on the Monday following the quake, after a spectacular effort by staff and volunteers who came in off the streets to help. Volunteers included a group of University of California, Santa Cruz, students who walked down from campus to help.

Photo of Staff Reshelving Perodicals
Reshelving Magazines
Photo credit: Donna Swedberg

In fact, we cleaned up and reopened so quickly that many people did not realize the library branches had had serious earthquake damage. It was truly galling for staff who had slogged through mountains of books on the floor, re-shelving by flashlight while the power was still off, to be told by patrons, "Gosh, the library sure did okay in the quake. At my house everything was on the floor.

The Santa Cruz Central (Downtown) Branch reopened for service on Monday, October 23rd. And very complacent I was, as I talked to Library Hotline on the phone, began returning worried phone calls from colleagues around the State, etc. At 4:30PM on Tuesday we had to evacuate the Central (Downtown) Branch because a lab report (ordered by a worried staff person) revealed that the asbestos level of dust on the second floor exceeded safe standards. Seven days later, after two rounds of testing, consultation by Cal OSHA, the purchase of something called a HEPA vacumn and wand kit ($1,200), further cleaning, and infinite reassurance meetings with staff, we opened again.

The periodical mess is something that needs to be experienced to be appreciated. Thirty years of Time, Newsweek, New Yorker, et all, interfiled on the floor... and the recurring nightmare that an aftershock will knock down the entire storage collection of back periodicals AGAIN.

View similarly tagged articles:

earthquakes, libraries, Loma Prieta earthquake


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