Saturday, November 13, 2004

Paging system offers
limited access at
UH library

Books at Hamilton are available
within two hours of a request

Students now have limited access to collections at the University of Hawaii-Manoa's main research library, two weeks after floodwaters swept over the campus and just in time for final exams.

Under a so-called "paging system," students can request books at Hamilton Library's second phase -- the only area with power -- and have them in about two hours.

The books are retrieved by assistants, who use flashlights to find titles in parts of the library without lights.

Hamilton Library was hit hard, along with several UH research labs, when a flash flood swept over the campus on Halloween eve. About 150 Manoa homes were also damaged in the flood, which forecasters have called a 50-year phenomenon.

University officials still have not tallied an estimate on the disaster's damage, though it is thought to be in the millions.

At Hamilton more than 230,000 maps and historical photos, about 100 computers and thousands of books were damaged when an 8- to 12-foot wall of water deluged the library's basement.

UH-Manoa Associate Librarian Jean Ehrhorn said yesterday that about 95 percent of Hamilton's maps and nearly all of its government documents collection were destroyed.

She also said several donated collections sustained heavy damage, and as many as 3,000 new books that librarians had yet to catalog or shelve were ruined.

Ehrhorn said it is still unclear how much it will cost or whether there will be enough funds to replace all that was lost.

She also could not say when the library would fully reopen, but estimated it could take months. Parts of the library not damaged in the flood are expected to be reopened as soon as power is restored, which could be as early as next week.

A Texas-based disaster recovery team is working alongside dozens of volunteers and UH employees to save Hamilton's water-soaked and mud-encrusted collections.

BMS Catastrophe Inc. has a $1 million contract with UH, which is expected to grow to more than $5 million after additional expenses are tacked on, officials have said. The company is also working to repair about 40 offices in the library's basement and several other buildings damaged in the flood.

Ehrhorn said officials will likely re-evaluate what they put in the library's basement after the restoration, but added the space has to be well used.

"Nobody expected this," she said, "but we have to rethink things."

At the library yesterday, several students were lined up to request and pick up books. Dozens of students had already asked for books throughout the day, and an influx was expected Monday once word got out about the new system.

"I'm very happy they got it open as quick as they did," said Matt McNicoll, an East Asian language and literature graduate student who was checking out books yesterday for his master's thesis. He said the texts were available only at Hamilton.

Ehrhorn said about 70 percent of the library's books are retrievable for checkout. The rest have either been damaged or are not accessible.

The library's paging system started this week and is available weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.



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