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Two libraries: One year after the flood

Photo: Alumna Julia Choate maintains story hour, albeit without furniture and with books on carts.
Posted September 27, 2016

By Dr. Heather Moorefield-Lang, assistant professor

Dr. Heather Moorefield-Lang, assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Science, looks back at the impact of, and recovery from, the 2015 flood on two local school libraries.

The Thousand Year Flood
On Friday, October 2, 2015, the rains started in Columbia. The precipitation continued through the next two days, never ceasing. This led to unprecedented flooding with rainfall totaling over 20 inches in some areas (National Weather Service, 2015). Parts of Columbia that were never considered flood plains were filled with water. Shops, schools, and homes were flooded, people were evacuated, the city closed down for over a week, and tragically, lives were lost. A year later Columbia continues to rebuild and recover from this devastating event.

Satchel Ford Elementary
Julia Choate (SLIS '02), a school librarian in Columbia, has an elementary library with a theme of oceans and water. Sea animals and ocean life are represented all over the library. The space is blue and incredibly peaceful and welcoming. The water theme was never meant to be taken so literally. Julia’s school, Satchel Ford, is located in an area of Columbia known as Forest Acres, a neighborhood highly affected by the flooding. Due to issues with drainage and outdoor courtyards, the Satchel Ford Elementary School Library was flooded. The library had to be closed, all of the furniture was destroyed, and the school lost approximately $30,000 in library books.

Once she was able to get back into the school Julia found that all of her books were packed in boxes by flood relief, and she had to temporarily create a library in the computer lab. Because she was unable to access her books and materials, the students were only able to circulate the books that they had checked out during the flood. The Satchel Ford Library has about 13,000 books and nearly 1,800 were checked out by the students, so these were the titles the students circulated back and forth until December. Julia had the books on carts and would go from class to class — for the two months she was completely mobile.

In November a crew came in and checked the books for mold, discarding what couldn’t be saved and Julia and her library team were able to pull books and supplement the “mobile collection.” Once the library was cleaned up and the carpet pulled out, they were able to set back up in the library with book carts borrowed from peers across Richland County. There was no furniture in the library but they had the space for book circulation and story time. Julia was even able to have a Scholastic Book fair in the library in December.

Bradley Elementary School
Betsy Russell, at Bradley Elementary School returned to a school library with no carpet, books in boxes, and all of her furniture stacked up after the flood in October, 2015. With quick thinking she requested a classroom down the hall and set up shop with her books on card tables and carts, she was able to continue running Accelerated Reader, check out books, and have story time with her students. The temporary library remained in this space for four months. Like Julia, she too, circulated checked out books that the students had with them until she was able to supplement from the boxes in the library.

When Betsy was able to return to her original library space, she would eventually have new carpet, new furniture, and a selection of new books. Just like with Julia’s library, a crew had to come in to aid with going through the boxes of books to weed out those damaged from the flood. It took a while for the new furniture to arrive, so card tables and boxes were set up by Dewey Decimal system and Accelerated Reader levels for student access.

A Year Later
Now, almost a year later, both Satchel Ford and Bradley Elementary Schools have fully operational libraries. Unfortunately, Satchel Ford Library had another flood in summer 2016 and had to replace all of their carpet a second time. The students are incredibly excited to be back in their new, shiny library spaces. There have been lessons learned. Furniture is now on wheels. At Satchel Ford for example, Julia made sure to order tables, shelves, and even riser seating that could be quickly and easily moved. Both librarians have learned that flexibility is incredibly fundamental to their practice.

National Weather Service. (2016). Historic rainfall and flooding October 2015. 

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