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Dismantling a library

April 5, 2012

Beware the Ides of March…on March 15, 2012 at about 5 am, a furious thunderstorm poured so much water in such a short time that it flooded our finished basement room, where we kept most of our books in shelves that lined the walls.  All the walls.

We called plumbers and a water restoration company, who pulled apart some of the bookshelves in their efforts to move them and get the room dried out.  In a wry way, I kind of enjoyed how they referred to the books: as “a ton of content.”  Some of the books, in boxes and on the smaller shelves, were moved to the garage.

Now we are in the process of trying to repair some of the less badly-damaged bookshelves and move them to the center of the room, so that a construction company can come in to replace the drywall and the molding between the carpet and wall.

We finally realized that we can store books in Eleanor’s room until May 19, when her semester is over.  That gives us a deadline for getting the walls painted, too.

We will reassemble the library, thin the ranks a bit (I have two bags full of books to donate already), and put it back together with more deliberation than the collection has received over the past twenty years we’ve been assembling its, um, tonnage.

34 Comments leave one →
  1. April 5, 2012 3:06 pm

    Oh, that’s awful! I hope the books themselves fared well. Hopefully your library will be back together soon!

    • April 6, 2012 7:54 am

      Only a few got wet and had to be thrown out, and only one of those was not replaceable–it was a copy of Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October that he had signed for Ron back in the 80s. We tore out the signed page and saved it.

  2. April 5, 2012 3:11 pm

    I think it’s always a good idea to look through a collection every now and then. If you can avoid rereading as you go, which is generally impossible.

    • April 6, 2012 7:56 am

      Avoiding rereading when moving your books around would make you what Samuel Johnson called someone who only looked at the definition of one word when he got out a dictionary.

  3. April 5, 2012 3:13 pm

    The photo of the tall bookshelves all together (second group, first row, right) gives me an idea. Why don’t you install some of those movable metal bookshelves that the larger libraries and archives seem to have? It could net you some more space.

    • April 6, 2012 7:57 am

      Oddly enough, the idea has been discussed. There is some concern about the fate of our four resident cats, in the same spirit as tails and rocking chairs.

  4. farmlanebooks permalink
    April 5, 2012 3:17 pm

    I love your little basement library, but it is sad to hear that it was damaged. I hope that you manage to sort it all out soon. Hopefully you’ll be able to sort it out and have it better than ever before. Good luck!

    • April 6, 2012 7:58 am

      It will be better; we really did need to go through it. The bad part is that books will be more triple-shelved than ever until we can replace the bookshelves that were too damaged to stand.

  5. freshhell permalink
    April 5, 2012 3:20 pm

    It’ll be okay. I can’t fathom a basement that big.

    • April 6, 2012 8:01 am

      It is a huge basement; the finished part is about 1200 square feet.

  6. April 5, 2012 3:29 pm

    You know I sympathize.

    • April 6, 2012 8:07 am

      Oh, I know! Anyone who has lived through water damage never forgets having to throw out all the sodden stuff and start over.

  7. April 5, 2012 3:41 pm

    Sounds like you have a ton of work ahead of you. Good luck

  8. April 5, 2012 3:45 pm

    Oh no! This is my worst nightmare, fire or water destroying my beautiful books. Good luck!

    • April 6, 2012 8:09 am

      Hiring the water restoration company ensured that the rest of the books didn’t get damp. Expensive, but probably worth it.

  9. April 5, 2012 4:56 pm

    We had a flood in February (busted pipe under the stairs), so I feel your pain. But not to the fullest extent since our flood only involved moving out one bookcase full of books.

    We’re trying to keep a good attitude about it and regard it as a catalyst for getting things done that needed being done anyway.

    I bet Eleanor won’t mind sleeping on the couch for a few nights if it comes to that. 😉

    • April 6, 2012 8:10 am

      So far we’ve had a crisis that kept Eleanor from sleeping in her room as she knew it every single time she’s come home from college. Cue the Thomas Wolfe jokes…

  10. April 5, 2012 6:49 pm

    Ugh. What a terrible annoyance that is. Did you lose many of the books?

    • April 6, 2012 8:12 am

      We had to throw out about twenty–some that were on a low shelf, and a couple (a huge Star Wars book and an Atlas) that were sitting on the floor because they were too tall for any of the shelves.

  11. April 5, 2012 7:40 pm

    Your basement library reminded me so much of the basement library of the home I grew up in. What a horrible event. I cannot believe a bad thunderstorm wrought so much havoc (except, of course, that I can totally believe it.)

    In other news, I like the Flexible Flyer on the wall of your garage.

    • April 6, 2012 8:14 am

      It was a combination of bad storm, old house, and deteriorating county storm drains in a rural neighborhood. But yes, a great place for sledding!

  12. April 5, 2012 9:35 pm

    John Quincy Adams once observed something along the lines of, “I have had all my life a passion for books, a feeling of which I now feel the danger”

    • April 6, 2012 8:15 am

      Yeah. Mostly I feel it in my back (since I don’t lift with my knees!)

  13. April 7, 2012 5:13 am

    Writing to express sympathy. We experienced a flood which wrecked a few hundred books about a decade ago (most books were above the waterline, phew). It was a mess, and very sad, although our insurance did cover some of the loss. This reminds me I need to get our books out of stacks on the floor and back into proper bookshelves…. Good luck!

  14. April 7, 2012 8:24 am

    Our insurance covered the water restoration bill and fixing the holes in the walls. We had to pay for the plumbing and to replace the molding. We’re also painting down there once the construction is done. The walls are white, and we’ll paint them white again, but we’re painting the new molding and the trim around the doors a color called “peach champagne” that will go with the wood of the bookshelves.
    I suggested your idea of books in stacks on the floor, at one point, but we don’t really have the space on the floor upstairs. It looked cozy in your pictures, but we’re a little past cozy right now.

  15. April 8, 2012 12:16 pm

    Whew! Glad to hear the books are ok. Sorry about the mess!

  16. April 9, 2012 10:26 am

    Today the contractors are here, repairing the drywall, and they’re going to pick up the new molding so we can paint it. At the end of the painting party, we’ve decided to serve bellinis (in honor of the name of the paint color, peach champagne).

  17. April 13, 2012 2:11 pm

    Oh no!! I hope no books or bookshelves were ruined! Tha would be awful. YOu do have quite the library!

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