Libraries Share and Share Alike

By Adam Lederer
BI Columnist

Like many people, I watched the flooding down in Ft. Collins with horror.

Cars floated down the street and a trailer home complex was totally obliterated. A total of five lives were lost in the murky waters that covered the city.

At the same time, water was doing a number on nearly 480,000 books located in the basement of Colorado State University’s library.

There are many lessons for UW to learn from the flooding. There are also questions students should be asking.

The most obvious question concerns our own libraries: Are we prepared to cope with any unexpected natural disaster?

The answer surprised me, yes.

Bruce Hooper, director of risk management, has said federal documents located in the basement of Coe Library are replaceable.

However, Hooper overlooked the existence of the microfiche, microfilms, and student theses and dissertations. Those include a priceless collection of Wyoming newspapers that I’ve used in much of my research.

I’d also like to see Hooper replace “Wildlife Review February 1938-October 1939,” one of those “replaceable” federal documents.

However, the picture is not complete until you consult with Library Director Keith Cottam. UW’s libraries have Wyoming’s library disaster recovery coordinator on staff, Cottam assured me.

The library has three underground facilities including: the basement of Coe Library, the Science Library, and storage space for the Geology Library.

Additionally, the library has dealt with floods in the recent past.

On July 28, 1994, the Science Library suffered from a flash flood on campus.

Water poured through the roof of the library on the east end, which damaged 1,270 books. Quick action by library staff and friends minimized the damage from inbound water.

The water got into the library roof, the plaza like area between the Biological and Physical Sciences buildings, while it was being reconstructed.

There were two other minor floods in the UW libraries that same year.

It is clear, however, that the libraries are well positioned and equipped to handle any floods, or other disasters, which threaten our stacks.

What is sad, however, is that some people on campus are opposed to UW libraries granting the same borrowing privileges to CSU faculty and students that UW faculty and students enjoy here.

Those opposed to sharing information must not understand the mission of universities or have never needed material that’s not located in our libraries.

I have spent many hours in CSU’s library and I can tell you the flood will hurt my research efforts. It stored much of the information I needed in its basement.

I can also tell you I’ve checked out books from its library and carry one of its library cards around with me.

More importantly, if I’ve ever needed a book that either UW or CSU does not have, I’ve relied on interlibrary loan to get me the books.

Libraries and universities are about sharing knowledge. UW’s libraries are doing the right thing by sharing our books. I am sure CSU would do the same if the situation was reversed.

Adam Lederer is a graduate student in political science minoring in environment and natural resources. He earned his bachelor’s from UW in 1996.

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