Rainstorm causes flooding at STM Library

By in News

Saskatoon has experienced unusual amounts of rain this summer, and one unexpected result of this rain, combined with the current construction of a new addition to St. Thomas More College, took place on July 24 after a turbulent storm.

Beginning summer 2016, STM launched its North Building Renewal Project, a $5 million undertaking, with completion expected in the late spring of 2017. The project includes the expansion of the Shannon Library and Choices cafeteria, as well as the creation of a new student lounge and a five story elevator. Due to construction on this project, books from the library stacks were moved into a temporary storage space.

On July 24, Linda Huard, desk assistant at the STM Shannon Library and recent University of Saskatchewan graduate, went to retrieve a book from storage and was shocked to find water.

“Luckily, we actually had a book request that morning, because we don’t always go into the stacks first thing in the day. And so I went in to get a book and I thought it was stain on the floor, but I quickly realized that it wasn’t a stain; it was actually a large puddle,” Huard said. “I quickly ran back to the office and I told Amanda [Gieni], our technician, and I was like, ‘We have a big problem!’”

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Donna Brockmeyer preserving a wet book with tissue paper.

Because of the flooding, caused by both the storm and the compromised drainage system due to renovation, 400 books from the library’s collection had to be discarded. According to Donna Brockmeyer, library director at STM, some special edition items were lost, but the special collections and rare books remain undamaged. Topics of the lost items include St. Thomas More, Shakespeare, World Wars I and II, Jewish history, Aboriginal history and studies, gender equity and globalization.

This loss, combined with the construction itself, will reduce access to the library’s books. In order to borrow Shannon Library books, students must either request a hold on their desired book and have it sent to another campus library or visit the library desk assistants who will retrieve available books from storage.

Brockmeyer expressed her grief at the loss.

“It’s quite heartbreaking to have to throw away 400 books that you had hoped to keep … We had just weeded and we’d gotten rid of the ones that we didn’t want and those were the ones that we did want,” Brockmeyer said.

While many of the books were unsalvageable, the immediate action of Huard, Gieni, Marina Ellis, another desk assistant at the library, and the construction workers saved a portion of the books that might otherwise have been lost. One rare Shakespearean folio, William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life, was saved by Brockmeyer herself who placed tissue paper between the pages.

Although the damage is significant, Brockmeyer pointed out that the loss comprises only a small portion of the items in the library.

“Just to put it in perspective, we have about 50,000 items in the library and we’ve lost 400. So it’s a small percentage and many of those I think we can get back, but it will take some time.”

Huard has been working with Ellis to find replacements for lost books on sites like Amazon. However, progress is slow as many books were lost. Some books are now out of print and some, like signed copies, are impossible to find. Brockmeyer estimates that about $40,000 will be needed to replace the books, a cost that will be covered by insurance.

Despite this loss, Brockmeyer remains enthusiastic about the renovation project, stating that, when completed, the library will be the best Catholic college library in Western Canada and will feature a secure study space for students.

Huard is also excited for the finished project, particularly for some of the special features, like the fireplace, and although the ability to browse the stacks is compromised, she hopes that students will continue to visit the library.

“I just don’t want people to avoid STM Library because it is a wonderful place. So I want people to know that they can still come here and still use the wonderful services that are available.”

Jessica Klaassen-Wright / News Editor

Photo: Brad Klebaum / Supplied