Contributed by Joan Overfield

The minimum price to replace all of the 2,583 books lost in the damage done to the library by the recent Nor’easter is $88,519.41.

That assumes each book that was damaged was a hardcover, meaning none were academic, which some probably were.

The 2009 Library & Book Trade Almanac lists the average cost of a hardcover book as $34.27. It lists the average cost of an academic book at $83.71. Processing materials and staff costs to acquire the books and make them shelf ready are additional costs.

Joan Overfield, director of Library Services at Fairfield, who was among the first to witness the damage, said that after about 30 seconds of feeling shock and horror at the damage, the urge to assess all the damage and begin immediately to do everything they could to prevent any further losses kicked in.

“I’ve attended many workshops on disaster planning and the library has a disaster manual. You hope to never have to use that training,” said Overfield.

According to the DNL Report, which covered the damage, beginning around noon on that Sunday, a Save Our Stacks (SOS) team was organized. Immediately upon seeing the damage, the three librarians present checked the extent of the damage to all three floors and started gathering plastic tarps to cover the stacks, Pritchard staff was called to begin cleanup efforts and a few hours later a roofer and a disaster recovery firm manager arrived.

“Everyone worked very hard and very quickly to clean up the damage and to prevent it from spreading to dry materials. The response and dedication by all was amazing,” said Overfield.
The librarians moved swiftly to salvage as many books from the disaster as possible.

“There is a window of about 72 hours before mold sets in and our goal was to save all that we could. The roofer patched the roof, the carpeting and stacks were cleaned, and the wet ceiling tiles were removed,” said Overfield.

According to a press release, about 120’ x 30-40’ of roof peeled back along the parking lot side and caused significant damage to the stacks. Water leaked to the two floors below and caused similar damage there.

The 12 librarians divided up the affected areas and took responsibility for checking each section of books to be sure none were missed.

“A second team reviewed the tagged sections while Peter Morris developed a barcoding program so we could quickly scan all the items we were discarding and have an accurate record,” said Overfield.
The lost books now appear in the catalog as “WET BOOKS Unavailable.” Each book that was discarded was evaluated a minimum of three times and up to five times by different librarians.

According to Overfield, they were able save several dozen that had minimal damage during this final review. But unfortunately, 2,583 books were removed from the building the following Wednesday. The parts hit worst were sections on Shakespeare, film, modern languages, science and some social science. The remaining adjacent book stacks are continuously monitored to be sure no mold is developing.

Liaison librarians will be working with faculty to review the lists of lost items and select those to replace since some of the books are out of print or newer editions may be available.

Overfield explained that the library will get some insurance money for replacements but she don’t know when that will arrive.

“We’ve been building this collection for years and once the reality of the devastation hit it was heartbreaking,” said Overfield.

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