Thursday, June 19, 2008

Podcast on MPR re Iowa Flooding

Paul Huttner, Chief Meteorologist at Minnesota Public Radio has a weekly podcast called "Jet Streaming" that is described as "an insider's look at the weather and climatology. It's everything you wanted to know about the weather, but were afraid to ask." This week's podcast (June 18) is all about the Iowa floods. It includes an interview with University of Iowa president Sally Mason.

Chronicle Article on Iowa Flooding

Here's a link to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the flooding at the University of Iowa.

Aerial Photographs of U of Iowa Flooding

The University of Iowa Flood Information blog has posted some amazing (and sobering) aerial photographs of the flooding on campus. This map may help you orient yourself to the campus and place the pictures in context. My thanks to Kevin Driedger and his blog for picking up a lot of the news and conservation/preservation concerns with the flood and sharing them with us.

Iowa Flooding: A Personal Account

Here's a personal report from Nancy Kraft, preservation librarian at the University of Iowa, taken from the Preservation Administration Discussion Group.

Some of you have voiced concern/support to us here in Iowa. I'm the Preservation Librarian at the University of Iowa and past PARS chair.

I live in Cedar Rapids on a hill. We drove our real estate agent crazy insisting that we live on a hill! Cedar Rapids is on the Cedar River. The River came up fast and ugly, going way beyond the 500 year flood plain, more than 12 feet over projected flood level, exceeding all past records. On the plus side, it is receding very rapidly allowing us to begin the recovery process.

Most of our cultural resources are along the river -- the public library, art museum, opera house, African American Museum, Czech/Slovak Museum & Library. You get the idea. The 1st floor of the public library is wiped out. Luckily it's all replaceable books. The rare material is on 2nd floor but they can't get to the library yet so we may be dealing with mold here soon.

I've been working primarily with the Czech and African American museums -- talking through the recovery process, etc. Today with the help of some local politicians we were able to get an exemption and get a recovery team and freezer truck into the Czech Museum area. The mud and guck was so thick that we weren't able to do much today except get some of the mud out. Tomorrow we plan to start packing the material out and "fight the good fight" to get the African American museum exempted so we can start packing them out, too. Gary Frost joined me today and will continue to help this week.

Travel is difficult and patience-testing, taking at least double the time to get any where. Roads have been washed out so even if the water goes down, the road isn't there anymore anyway.

The University of Iowa is on the Iowa River. It came up slow, giving us a lot of time to prepare. It, too, exceeded all previous records but did not get as high as projected. My director went along with my request to evacuate all special collections material and selected book areas out of the basement 5 foot above floor level. At the time I made the request we were being denied sandbags. Of course, once we had most materials out, the sandbags arrived after all. The help was phenomenal. At 6PM Thursday we were told we had two days to evacuate -- Friday and Saturday. Knowing that dams might break we assumed one day and got all our staff relocated, computers out and collections in the basement per my request of 5 feet out by Friday 8PM. We were told sometime on Friday that a dam of some sort did break and that we could not come back on Saturday. Actually we were told to stay home for a week. We had hundreds of volunteers. Our evacuation was phenomenal. I've never seen anything like it. We have 3 elevators and 2 stairwells to the basement. Our collections are crazy making, unfinished floor, compact shelves, narrow aisles. We used carts and elevators, human book handing chains in the stairwells, box brigades. I told everyone that I hoped my worst fears were just that and that all this evacuation was just a practice exercise. Turned out that just what it was. We only got 2" in the basement.

The Iowa River came up slow, it's going down slow. Our Art and Music Libraries are on the 2nd floor of flooded buildings. We're very concerned that we'll have lots of mold. We think we'll be ok with the collection in Main Library.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Update on U of Iowa Flooding

This from the Library Journal Academic Newswire:

University of Iowa Remains Closed, but Library Escapes Significant Flood Damage

With flood waters from the Iowa River said to have already crested, the University of Iowa (UI) library appears to have escaped major damage, but the university remains closed and classes suspended as public safety issues linger and flood relief efforts ramp up. As receding waters began to reveal the extent of the damage, President Sally Mason told reporters that while it was still too early to estimate the cost, "millions is a good way to start to think about this." According to press briefings, floodwaters hit as many as 16 campuses, ranging from just a few inches of water in the basement of the main library to "several feet" on the hard-hit Arts Campus.

The good news is that the flood waters mostly spared the main library—and excellent and early preparation by librarians, beginning June 9, mobilized a remarkable effort by library staff and students to both fill sandbags and move collections to higher ground. On Friday, June 13, after the main library was ordered evacuated, "hundreds" of volunteers began "handing books along a book brigade that snaked down hallways and up stairwells," noted the library web site. Volunteers moved "tens of thousands of books from storage, including thousands of theses of University masters and doctoral candidates," with one volunteer "estimating they passed nearly 100 books a minute." Sandbaggers, meanwhile "built a dike along the west side of the Main Library and around the loading dock entrance."

About 9 p.m. that evening, the main library was "locked and alarmed," with officials satisfied that materials were safe from floodwaters—although concerned about the additional weight added to the upper floors. As the waters receded, library officials reported about two inches of water had entered the main library basement, but that no collections were damaged. In addition, as the libraries' systems and air conditioning never went out, mold concerns were minimized. About two thirds of UI's five million volumes reside in the main library, the largest library system in Iowa. For the moment, flood relief efforts are still focused on public safety, and UI officials request that all non-essential personnel continue to stay away from flood-affected areas.

Unfortunately, not all of Iowa's libraries fared as well. Flooding in Cedar Rapids, IA, caused the Cedar Rapids Public Library (CRPL) to suffer significant water damage, as some 100 blocks of the city were submerged and 3200 homes evacuated, according to the AP. Also seriously damaged was the National Czech & Slovak Museum and Library. "The staff of the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library does not yet know the extent of the damage to the Museum and we will not know for some time," stated Gail Naughton, president and CEO, on the organization's web site. "We were able to remove many items from the collection to safety before flood waters came. The board and staff are holding emergency meetings to begin coordination of our plans for disaster recovery." Check the Library Journal web site for updates.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Another Blog on Iowa Library Flooding

I just came across another blog that has additional information on the flooding in Iowa and its impact on libraries. I haven't had a chance to look at all the entries yet, but it looks like there are photos and videos as well.

The University of Iowa Library website is back up and running. There's a timeline there that provides more on the flooding.

Following another link will give another angle.

A quick search on YouTube for "University of Iowa flood" provides more images.

Friday, June 13, 2008

An upside to floods

I just finished reading a piece on the flood of 1993 and U of Iowa employee memories of that event. There were a lot of good things that happened as a part of the flood, but this one caught my eye, from Julia Golden, curator, geoscience:

“A very pleasant surprise that summer was how many geological features were revealed by the floods. The Devonian Fossil Gorge [adjacent to the Coralville Dam] has become a very valuable educational resource for the Department of Geoscience. New graduate students are taken there as an introduction to the local geology. Undergraduate students taking beginning geoscience courses also go on field trips there, and we give tours to school and community groups.”

What will be the positive things that come out of the flood of '08?

Iowa Floods: What are the backups when technology is down?

As I continue to click through the links on the U of Iowa flood info blog, and find more and more of the links inoperable, I'm wondering about backups and redundancies and mobility. I'm sure that for folks on the ground in Iowa City they have a number of contingency plans at hand and ready to execute if something goes wrong. And I'm sure that they have multiple ways to communicate the most urgent information to those that need to know, should one channel of communication fail. What we're seeing on the blogs are best attempts to keep everyone else up to speed, given the urgency of the situation and what's actually working (and what's not), and our need to know (versus what is really important, i.e. getting those sandbags down and taking care of top priority concerns). At the moment I'm sure offices and staff are relocating to other sites. Its M*A*S*H but at an institutional level, covering lots of different situations, and probably without the laugh-track of the sitcom.

What is also interesting (and very encouraging) is the comprehensive sense of planning that an outside viewer like me gets from this electronic perch. For instance, this just popped up on the U of I flood blog a few minutes ago:

"Mental health and counseling services are available on the University of Iowa campus and in the Iowa City community to assist in flood-relief efforts, and UI and community counseling professionals offer suggestions for managing the stress and anxiety caused by recent flooding."

To me, this comment provides a sense of a well thought out plan and that the folks in Iowa City have covered all (or most) of the bases. They're doing everything that they can do in the face of who knows what nature's going to throw them next. If its possible to cheer you on with words of encouragement, absent being there to help fill sandbags or move special collection materials out of the lower levels of the library, then this Gopher is yelling at the top of his lungs "Go Hawkeyes!"

More on U of Iowa Flooding

Here's another link to show what blogs are doing to help communicate in the midst of the flooding in Iowa City and preparations at the University of Iowa. This is the blog for the Iowa Memorial Union. I'm noticing that a lot of the links to regular U of I sites are not working at the moment, so am assuming that servers are being moved, etc.

Notice the Flickr images down on the right side of the page. Clicking here will take you to the Flickr site and a chance to look at more images.

More on University of Iowa Libraries, Flooding

Blogs are helping get out information on the floods and impact on the University of Iowa. The U of I flood blog notes the following:

The Main Library will be closing, Friday, June 13 at 5 p.m. for an indeterminate period of time. All staff members will evacuate by Saturday, June 14 at 5 p.m. Libraries and University officials are re-locating staff to other campus locations for the duration.

Moving Special Collections out of the lower level storage area continues today. Volunteers are asked to sign-up at the South Circulation Desk and wait for an assignment.

Library IT staff will be moving servers out of the Main Library today. Servers will be shut down early this afternoon and are expected to be operational by this evening. When the servers are shut down, all the Libraries’ electronic resources will be unavailable.

Library news is also being posted at:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Emergency Preparedness in Libraries and Archives

My little rumination on the Iowa flooding prompted another thought. I have no idea how this all fits in with Web 2.0 kinds of concerns at the moment (something I might think a bit more about), but I was reminded last week, during a meeting on emergency procedures, that we live in a different world. There was a new section in our procedures notebook that gave me pause -- "Gunman in the Building." In this "active shooter scenario" there are basically two options: escape if you can or lock and hide if you can't.

None of this was part of the curriculum in library school "back in the day." But its there now, at least in the preservation and conservation class I teach as adjunct at the St. Kate's MLIS program. Its part of the disaster planning section of the coursework. I didn't have the gunman scenario in the mix, but that will be added this fall. I don't know if its exactly the kind of conversation we'd like to have, but I would be interested in hearing about other experiences from those of you who have found yourself in emergency situations. I'm thinking especially about the recent shootings at Northern Illinois and Virginia Tech. What happened to you and your staff during these events?

Our procedures are good and we review them regularly. They're part of orientation for new staff members (including student employees). They include calling lists and detailed procedures for evacuations, fire, weather, water damage, medical situations, criminal behavior, bomb threats, incident reports, suspect descriptions, and building maps. The key is to get this stuff ingrained into your head so that you can almost act on instinct. And there's one key phrase that shows up on almost every page of our emergency manual, in caps and bold type: NEVER ENDANGER YOUR PERSONAL SAFETY.

Our disaster plan is due for review and updating. I'm sure that revisions to our emergency procedures will get folded into the update. What's the status of your disaster plan?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Iowa Floods

Just a quick note on the weather and its effects on special collections operations. Yesterday morning I saw a note in an Iowa paper about state archives being moved from the lower levels of buildings to escape the oncoming flood waters. This afternoon I spotted a note in the U of Iowa blog that stated: "Some Special Collections materials stored in the Main Library’s lower level are in the process of being moved as a precaution against a rising water level. This shift in location may make some collections difficult or impossible to retrieve through the duration of the flood."

I have family in the Iowa City area and Mason City, both of which have been hit by floods (I'm wondering how the Music Man Museum is holding up in Mason City as I write this). My sister-in-law lives near the Coralville reservoir and according to the folks from the government that monitor water levels, the reservoir was at 105% of capacity as of yesterday morning, with all that water headed towards Iowa City and the university.

So this promps a general question: how many of us have stuff stored in lower levels of buildings where there's a history or potential threat of flooding? I just have too many bad memories on this front: getting caught in flood waters when the Chicago River came pouring into some of my basement space (in an earlier job), the water main break that hit the Chicago Historical Society, the North Dakota floods that hit the universities up there in the late 1990s. . . the list can go on.

So here's a shout out to Sid and the other folks at U of I libraries, archives, and special collections: hang in there! Here's hoping and praying for a little less rain and the lowering of water levels in your neck of the woods.