Wednesday, September 02, 2009

FEMA and the Tulane University Library

The good news is that FEMA has come through with a nice chunk of change to help repair the University's main campus library's physical plant infrastructure. [ASIDE: This not only will help maintain the Library's significant collection, but will also help reduce the University's energy expenditures and help to save the environment in the process; for, as most anybody who passes by the library will know, the temporary repairs made to the AC/Heating system have huge cooling and heating seepage problems outside the building. At certain locations on the outside of the Library building, one could find it actually chilly in the midst of a sweltering August day, or one could find it toasty warm in the midst of a near freezing February night. The claim that Tulane was making a valiant attempt to cool down the neighborhood in August is not an exaggeration.]

In the middle of this good news story, I came across this little tidbit which has particular meaning to me:

Joining the books and equipment from the library's basement will be contents of the library's Special Collections division, which had been in the basement of nearby Jones Hall. Those holdings, along with the building's mechanical equipment, were also flooded.
What is of particular interest to me here is the mention of materials stored in the basement of Jones Hall. Although not a part of the Library's Special Collections Division, my own department's historical archives had been stored in the basement area of Jones Hall. In fact, the bitter irony of our story is that, not more than a month before the storm hit, we had just transported all of our archives down into our small basement storage area. When we returned after Katrina, of course everything in our basement storage area was long gone with nary a mention to us from the authorities about what had happened to it. We had all just written off these archives as forever disappeared; but this comment makes me think there is at least a glimmer of some hope that our archives have been preserved, cleaned, and restored. Now that would be a nice silver lining in a story that is already pretty golden.

For all its bungling, FEMA gets some credit (and some redemption -- at least in my eyes) for doing right by the Tulane Library.

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