When it rains...

Last June, before summer vacation, I oversaw the packing of 107 boxes of books (about 4000 items). Why? Because my library was being expanded by about 1/3 and the books were in bookcases along a wall that would no longer exist.

Over the summer I kept hearing about the horrors of the construction: the cost overruns, the delays, the mess, the noise. I stayed far, far away.

September 7 was my first day back in the library and it was everything I expected. 107 boxes of books that had been neatly packed, labelled and stacked were strewn around the library in no particular order and with no particular care. Some had even been repacked (not so neatly). The wall was indeed gone and in its place were spaces for an ADA-required lift to the (new) 8th floor, a door to the (new) inside stairs on the west side, a (new) fiction nook, and a (new) extension to the conference/research room. The lights were clearly temporary and there was an aura of "half-finished work" about the place.

I started to plan how I'd attack the reshelving, got some stuff out of the storage space and went home.

September 8 was The Day Frances Visited New York City. Walking to work with water filling the roads and sloshing over my shoes up to my ankles was my first clue that not all was well with the world. As I approached the building, I saw a wave of water escaping the front door, quickly followed by a broom. "OK," I thought, "it's just water that got in when the door was open for the contractors."


It was whitewater rapids cascading down the east stairs. It was a plume of water descending through the elevator shaft. It was tiny rivulets of water on the (new) west stairs. And it was 1.5-2" of water pooling on the 7th floor. What saved the library? The fact that eight years ago, during the first renovation, they'd laid greenfield cables under the floor and hadn't removed them during this renovation. However, another inch or so and I'd be as underwater as the rest of the floor.

Breathing an ill-advised sigh of relief, I went back to the cafeteria to get something warm to drink. On my way back, something prompted me to look in the conference room. Sure enough: a rather persistent leak was emerging in the corner. A corner that hadn't had books unshelved. A corner in which we had all the art books (aka "the 700s").

Springing into action, a contractor and I removed an additional four bookcases of books from harm's way. A colleague and I then moved all 107 boxes to tables and study carrels so that they, too, could remain above flood level.

Needless to say, very little else got done Wednesday. Thursday as spent trying to rearrange the library shelving so as to maximize the new space. That and tracking down missing summer orders, many of which had mistakenly not been placed. Friday was more of the same, but plans were afoot to start reshelving books on Monday.

Over the weekend our electrical system shorted out, killing our intra- and internet access. So when I got to school Monday the 13th, all I could do was shelve. About half the books got reshelved then, with the notable exception of the art books (the corner was still leaking the occasional droplet of water). Tuesday, the rest got shelved, again with the exception of the art books.

Wednesday we regained intranet access and I was able to enter all the patrons into the catalog. Today, Friday, two weeks after school started, I am finally able to work on-line cataloging the new books and chasing down the last of my missing orders.

Still to be done? An inventory (with luck, everything that came off the shelves went back on). And all the other start-of-year things that I'm woefully behind in accomplishing. Still, I can teach and check out books and that's all that really matters, right?

Until Ivan Visits New York City this weekend, that is...

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