More than 750,000 books picked up following Oct. 17 earthquake

Courtesy of Stanford University Office of Development Fallen books

Reshelving books in the proper order will be an enormous task, campus librarians say.


Most of the Stanford campus libraries reopened for business within three days of the earthquake that struck Northern California on Oct. 17.

By Thursday, Oct. 19, the majority of libraries were declared safe and staff volunteers were allowed to pick up many of the more than 750,000 books tossed off their shelves in the temblor.

The 9-year-old Green Library East — the University's main library — reopened for business at noon on Friday, Oct. 20, following the hasty reshelving of some 200,000 to 300,000 volumes.

Even earlier on Thursday, several branch libraries already were open, according to Maxine Reneker, director of instructional and research services at Stanford University Libraries (SUL).

By Monday, Oct. 23, only four campus libraries remained closed: Jackson Business Library, the Hoover Institution's East Asia Library, the Jonsson Library of Government Documents and Special Collections and University Archives. However, access to the Auxiliary and Food Research Institute libraries was restricted to library staff.

The University Libraries system is made up of 16 campus units including Green Library, Meyer Memorial Library, and other specialized and branch libraries.

Other major campus libraries operating independently but in cooperation with SUL are the "coordinate" libraries: Hoover Institution with its Archives, Tower, and East Asia collections; Jackson Business Library; Lane Medical Library; Robert Crown Law Library; and the SLAC Library.

Putting books back in place

A top priority in the mammoth job of restoring library service was simply getting books put on shelves near where they fell.

Correctly refiling the fallen publications within the University's collections of more than 5 million volumes will be "an enormous job," according to Reneker. Now that most books are off the floor, staff will sort volumes onto their proper shelves; then they will go back and carefully line up the books in precise order.

Meanwhile, SUL officials were trying to come to grips with one of their biggest problems: how to relocate the important functions normally carried out by 165 employees in what is now called Green Library West — the original Main Library built in 1919.

Some of the most dramatic quake damage on campus occurred there, and officials expect portions of the building to be closed for a long time.

In the west wing, basic public services have been suspended in the Jonsson Library of Government Documents, Special Collections, and the University Archives. Other departments housed in the closed wing include Serials, Acquisitions and Cataloging and Preservation. As a result, the processing of books and other material into the library has been halted.

Library officials on Monday were to begin discussing possible relocation of affected functions,

Reneker said. If the Green West closure is long-term, "we may have to look for some temporary space on or off campus. But it's possible that the lower floors could be reoccupied," she said.

According to Bruce Jones, director for administrative services at SUL, damage to all campus libraries will add up to "millions," the bulk of it building-related.

Books and other reference material came through relatively unscathed.

"It's one heck of a lot better than it could have been," Jones said. "Even the buildings came through much, much better than we could have possibly expected."

Seismic bracing a success

Over and over, library officials expressed appreciation and relief that the University spent $5.5 million to seismically brace the seven levels of the tiered book stacks in Green West, a project that was completed only last December.

The bracing consists of a lattice of heavy steel beams painted red that ties together all shelves on each of the floors.

"The lattice extends right down to the ground to give everything a great deal of rigidity," according to Phil Leighton, building projects manager for the University libraries. It was designed not to support the load, but to keep the shelves from toppling, he explained.

Had the project not been done, some 700,000 books in stacks "would have been in a pile at the bottom of the basement because the structure would not have held," one official said. Water pipes would have ruptured, compounding the disaster.

That would have crushed largely irreplaceable books, archival records, and government documents that are stored in this old and very large book stack.

As for Leighton, he's convinced that lives would have been lost.

In fact, collections housed in the tiered stacks fared better in the 6,9 quake than those in the newer Green East wing. It appeared that only about 2 to 3 percent of the books in the Green West stacks fell off their shelves. In the upper floors of the Green East stacks, books were piled knee-deep.

The Green West stacks run perpendicular to those in Green East, and those stacks simply had a "different resonance" to the quake, Leighton explained.

Elsewhere in old Green West, the structural framework and reinforced concrete around it appeared in good condition, Leighton said, but the brick and hollow tile "infill" walls were shattered in many places, posing serious risks.

Though brittle, the hollow tiles add some rigidity to the building. Experts recommend that "we don't just take it all out at once." Leighton said, but instead remove broken material, build a new wall, brace it, then go on to the next one.

"It may take awhile to get this building back on line."

Green West heavily damaged

The quake opened up giant cracks — some 20 to 30 feet long — in the walls and dome of Lurie

Rotunda at the top of Green West's wide stairs, sending chunks of plaster raining down on the area where the Special Collections department three days before installed an exhibition about its recent acquisitions. In one of many campus miracles, the glass exhibit cases and their contents were not damaged, although the glass tops are covered with plaster debris.

In the nearby Field Room — formerly the library's Reference Room — some of Special Collections' rare books fell down in the locked glass cases that line the walls. Staff members were allowed in to set the books upright and prevent further damage to book bindings. A chandelier fell and broke in the adjacent Barchas Room, but the valuable collection on the history of science housed there was not damaged.

Despite the grim appearance in the Field Room and rotunda, Michael Ryan, director of library collections, said the rare books and valuable manuscripts in Special Collections "fared very well."

Ed Souza Meyer Library was among several libraries on campus that sustained quake damage.

Meyer Library was among several libraries on campus that sustained quake damage.

Maggie Kimball, archives and manuscripts librarian and acting University archivist, was in the rotunda area helping a student when the quake hit. Minutes before, she had finished making a presentation in the Barchas Room to a class studying historic photographs. The student, who stayed behind when the class left at 5 p.m., dove under a table and Kimball got dusted with plaster as she stood against a wall, but no one was hit by flying objects, Kimball said.

After making sure everyone was out of the Field Room, Kimball and another staff member made their way to the Bender Room, the library's fifth-floor penthouse and home of the University Archives, where colleague Pat White had been waiting for the 70-year-old elevator — the oldest working elevator on campus.

White already was gone, having chosen to run back through the Archives and down the central stairs rather than take the emergency exit catwalk to the tiered stacks. Leighton says that if White had gone out the emergency exit, she might have been hit by pieces of a hollow tile wall next to the catwalk that collapsed.

Kimball said the most frightening part of the quake experience was being in the Bender Room during an aftershock.

University's historic records undamaged

The University Archives' extensive collection of historic Stanford photographs in the Bender Room was undamaged, with the exception of one broken glass slide, even though a number of old glass negatives slid to the floor along with many books and other materials.

The University's historical records, stored in the basement and the tiered stacks, also were not harmed, according to University Archivist Roxanne Nilan, who is on leave this year establishing an archive at SLAC. When it became apparent that SLAC was not damaged, Nilan returned to help Kimball and her other library colleagues.

Nilan said it was "remarkable" that there were no problems in the basement storage area, which is riddled with water and sewer pipes that leaked in the past. Special Collections and Government Documents share that storage area with University Archives.

Although the Bender Room was littered with plaster and debris, all portraits of Stanford presidents and of Leland Stanford Sr. were unharmed. There was minor damage to the frame of Leland Stanford Jr.'s portrait.

Also in the Bender Room, a section of the library's front wall bowed inward near the desks of staff members.

Down one floor, the library's Preservation Department was hard hit and closed to staff, who spent their time helping reshelve books and deal with water damage in the Branner Earth Science Library.

Preservation's basement work area, including its freeze dryer, also is off limits. Initially, arrangements were made to use an off-campus freezer, but it turned out not to be necessary.

Connie Brooks, head of preservation, said she had expected more water damage in the libraries.

"We've been very fortunate, and I'm very grateful there weren't any fires," she said.

She is monitoring libraries for leakage from rain. Plastic coverings have been placed in vulnerable areas, including the Bender Room.

Meyer Memorial Library

At Meyer Memorial Library, about 120,000 of the library's 160,000 books fell off the shelves. All were replaced by Friday afternoon, and the library reopened Saturday morning.

"We tried to get open as soon as possible as a way of helping students displaced by the quake," said Susan Perry, head of Meyer.

Perry said it was "very scarry" being in Meyer during the tremor. But the building "rode the quake beautifully," she said. When the shaking stopped, Perry and a staff member searched the whole building looking for patrons, but all of the many students in the building had gotten out.

The 40 Macintosh II computers in the building came through in fine condition, but there was some damage to five IBM PCs. IBM replaced them with new donated computers on Friday, but the timing was coincidental — the switch had been planned earlier.

When the quake hit, computer manager Amy Tzon saved the papers of those using Macintosh computer under the file name "Quake." One returning student "thought that was awfully smart of the computer," according to Perry.

Branch libraries recovering

Among the branch libraries, two of the hardest hit were the Branner Earth Sciences and Food Research Institute libraries.

Water from a leaking pipe damaged the reference area and the extensive map collection at the Branner Library in the Mitchell Earth Sciences Building, but librarian Charlotte Derksen reopened her facility at 10 a.m. Friday. Because the maps were not saturated, staff members were able to dry them with portable hair dryers.

Glass shelves collapsed under the valuable gem collection around the second floor library entrance, which was declared unsafe and closed. Access to the library is through the back door.

The Food Research Institute Library was the site of the most significant stack failure in SUL, according to Reneker. Rows of shelving toppled over like dominoes, affecting about 35,000 volumes and nearly pinning first-year Ph.D. student Andy Mason.

Mason was reading at his "secluded and quiet" assigned carrell in the library basement when the shaking started. He ran to a doorway and watched as the stacks of books "came tumbling down where I had been sitting."

He later admitted he probably would have been "hurt quite seriously" had he stayed put. "I wasn't scared until I had time to think about it afterwards," Mason said. "As time goes on, it sinks in deeper" because heavy news coverage makes it difficult to put the incident out of his mind.

While he was standing in the basement doorway, Mason grabbed graduate student Renneth Mano of Zimbabwe as Mano tried to run up the stairs. "He's now been thoroughly briefed about what to do in earthquakes," Mason said.

As of Monday, Oct. 23, the Food Research Building was closed, but library patrons were told to call 723-3943 for limited access.

The Art Library had about 1,000 volumes to reshelve, and some sound recordings and rare materials were damaged at the Music Library, along with card catalog cases. Both libraries opened Friday.

Cubberley Library in the School of Education remained closed until Saturday, Oct. 21, while authorities checked for possible asbestos problems. About 100,000 volumes were on the floor, Reneker said.

In the science and engineering area, the Terman Engineering Library reopened Friday, despite wall cracks, broken ceiling tiles, and damaged equipment. The Physics Library also opened Friday, but the mezzanine collection was available only through paging because of problems with shelf bracing. Falconer Biology also was open, but accessible only from the south stair since the bridge on the north has not yet been declared safe.

The Mathematics and Computer Science Library was closed until Saturday for asbestos tests. Swain Chemistry Library, where there was some shelf damage, was opened Saturday when the building was declared safe to enter.

In the Stanford Auxiliary, some of the mechanisms controlling the compact shelving are damaged. Portions of the collection are not available, and access is by staff only.

Coordinate libraries

At the Hoover Institution, Associate Director Charles Palm said the "collections are virtually unscathed." The Hoover Archives sustained no damage in the Herbert Hoover Memorial Building and reopened Thursday morning.

A ceiling water pipe burst Monday morning in the East Asia Library in the Lou Henry Hoover Building, spilling some hot water on the card catalog.

Palm said he did not anticipate serious damage to the catalog because staff immediately covered it with plastic and Operations and Maintenance, which was there checking what started as a small leak, quickly turned off the water supply. The library may reopen Wednesday, Palm said.

The western languages collections in the Hoover Tower reopened Monday morning. More than 1.3 million volumes are stored on 17 stack floors in the tower.

At the top two levels — floors 13 and 15 — some stacks failed. Overall, about 10 percent of the books in the tower fell down, Palm said.

Three staff members who had accompanied University Carilloneur James Angell to the 13th level for his 5 p.m. concert climbed over fallen volumes to flee down the fire escape.

Jackson Business Library suffered extensive damage and was closed indefinitely. Bookshelves on all three floors of the library split apart as they fell, and a burst pipe on the third floor caused water damage. Officials feared asbestos contamination under the third floor roof, according to Rich Kurovsky, news director at the Business School.

Jackson Library officials plan to set up a room where students can make arrangement to page materials they need.

Lane Medical Library reopened Friday, but only to members of the Stanford community. Reference, reserves, and the core collection of journals are open, but the stacks are closed because some shelves are leaning precariously. Staff members will attempt to page material for clinically related emergencies, according to Lane Director Peter Stangl.

Stangl said more seating is being installed to make up for the loss of seats in the stacks.

The SLAC library stayed open following the quake, and Library Director Bob Gex and his staff spent 90 minutes reshelving about 500 books that fell down.

The Robert Crown Law Library reopened at 4 p.m. Thursday after 60 to 80 student volunteers helped staff members picked up about 100,000 books that fell. The Law Library contains 330,000 books.

According to Associate Law Librarian Rosalee Long, 24 ranges of stacks holding about 30,000 books toppled over in the basement, but no one was injured. The books are being moved to temporary shelving in a storage area under the Law School's front patio, while plans are made to rebuild the collapsed stacks.