A library flooding experience

It could have been a lot worse, but with so many people expressing their empathy, I thought I would take the time to blog the story of my library being flooded.  I will blog later about the implications further down the track.

Yesterday in Melbourne (Thursday 26th November), a severe thunderstorm came through, causing widespread damage across Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.  I had seen the warnings via Twitter and had warned library staff, but we didn’t expect the impact that we got.

At about 3pm, the sky went so dark that our carpark lights came on automatically.  The area also went very still – trees stopped moving, as did many birds. At 3.05pm the wind started really moving and a few minutes later the rain came down. The best way I can describe it was cyclonic. I was watching from the staff room and it reminded a little of those TV reports you see live from cyclone affected areas.

The childrens area at the time of recarpeting

The children's area at the time of recarpeting

Moments later, we heard the fuss out in the library and raced out to discover a waterfall running down from the roof, near the windows  in our children’s area – along a length of about 20 metres.  You can see the windows in the background of the picture here, this one taken at the time of recarpeting.

Fortunately, most of our children’s shelving is on wheels, so staff had quickly moved it out of harms way in just moments.  However, rain was still pouring outside and still waterfalling inside.  Every bucket and bin we could find was placed under the downpour, but it didn’t make much difference, the amount of water coming in was too great.

Fortunately, 10 minutes after the storm had begun – it stopped.  The storm front moved on and we began the process of assessing the damage and clearing up as best we could.  We dug around for equipment to help, finding a couple of mops, a stiff brush and a long armed window washer (which is great not only for windows, but only for squeezing water out of carpet tiles).

Calls were made to the Council and to our HQ for assistance and direction.  Unfortunately, due to the state of other Council buildings in the area, there was not much assistance available from Council, so we got to work ourselves.

We were concerned about the state of our roof tiles, especially after hearing the news of roof collapses in the nearby shopping centre, Council offices and swimming pool.  Ours held.

Flooding at Narre Warren Library

Flooding at Narre Warren Library

The clean up involved sopping up the extra water, which had spread close to our front desk, with the mops and using the brush and squeegee to push as much of it out the emergency exit as possible.  Once there was no longer a flood on top of the carpet tiles, the next job was to try and squeeze the excess water out of the sopping ones.  Fortunately, as we had only been recarpeted a year ago, the tiles were still relatively clean.  Still it meant, shoes off and pants rolled up – not the usual library staff look.

In the meantime, other staff were checking for other leaks (none fortunately) and removing stock which had been affected by the downfall.  Much of it just needed a quick wipe down, but even with the speedy response by staff, there was some stock damaged (I’d estimate up to 100 titles), so they took them out the staff area to remove the excess water and set them up to dry, in the hope of saving at least some of them.

Drying out water affected stock

Drying out water affected stock

The library did not close at any time during this whole affair and we were able to provide access to at least part of the childrens collections during that time.

After all that, a reassessment of the flooded area and some more judicious shelf rearranging, staff were able to reopen access to all of the children’s collections, whilst leaving the flooded areas and a good safety margin, roped off to all access.

When I left work at 6pm, the cleaners had arrived, with equipment to sop up even more water, before putting the blowers to work on drying out the tiles.

We were very lucky.  Even though it was a short storm, because of the leak’s  location and the quick action of staff, major damage was averted.

Will report more on the aftermath next week, when I know more about what we’ve lost in terms of collections and the condition of the roof.


1 ping

    • Monique on November 28, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    You will all be happy to know that we possibly only lost 12 titles to water damage (mostly mags and humor – not so funny!) and the floor is dry, shelves back in place and the floor sparkly clean. Thanks to the quick action of the team we were able to minimise damage – a great emergency team at Narre Warren – A1!

    • Margaret Hull on November 29, 2009 at 4:59 am

    Bless you. What an experience. Kudos to your staff on their quick action.

    • snail on November 30, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Good recovery and very well done. I had a similar experience when working at Bankstown Public Several years ago. We had hundreds of books drying in a separate room as the leak was straight on to a couple of bookcases in the middle of the building.

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