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Louisville's Main Library at York and Third streets was damaged by flooding Tuesday, with thousands of books damaged and the building's mechanical systems knocked out along with all of the computers at branches system-wide.

Main Library hit hard by flooding

By Sheldon S. Shafer
sshafer@courier-journal.com

Louisville’s Main Library at York and Third streets was damaged by flooding Tuesday, with thousands of books damaged and the building’s mechanical systems knocked out along with all of the computers at branches system-wide.

“Everything’s under water,” Mayor Jerry Abramson said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference at the Main Library after he and Gov. Steve Beshear surveyed the damage in the building.

Abramson gave a preliminary damage estimate of $1 million at the Main Library alone, and it will remain closed until further notice. The Shawnee and Iroquois branches were also closed Tuesday because of flooding and several other branches were damaged but remained open, said Library Director Craig Buthod.

Buthod said up to 4 feet of water had poured into the basement of the Main Library, much of which is used for operations. Buthod said at least 10,000 books, audiobooks, CDs and DVDs were damaged. Many of the items were new and awaiting distribution to the branches. Buthod said the average cost per item was conservatively $20.

All three Bookmobiles parked at the Main Library were damaged by floodwaters, and water pressure blew out some basement windows. Conference and meeting rooms and offices located in the basement and their furnishings and finishings also were damaged.

Perhaps more seriously, all the Main Library’s boilers, air-conditioning controls, chillers and air-handling equipment were water logged, with the extent of the damage impossible to assess until the water is pumped out, Buthod said. Some of the mechanical equipment was less than 10 years old, but some of it is much older, he said.

All the computers at all the branches were rendered inoperative when flood damaged the central computer unit and wiring n the Main Library’s basement.

Also ruined, officials said, were about 40 new computers awaiting delivery to the new Newburg branch, which will be dedicated Aug. 15. Buthod said the dedication will go ahead as planned, with or without computers. The Newburg computers cost about $50,000.

Buthod said library officials will begin to assess the damage at the Main Library Wednesday. He said the location will be closed on Wednesday, and he declined to speculate on when it might reopen. He said the damage was worse than when the Main Library had a fire about 10 years ago; afterward, it was closed for a week.

Buthod said the library’s Web site is down and that notice will be provided through the media when the Main Library and the closed branches will reopen.

He said people who want to donate to help pay for the damage can mail checks to: The Library Foundation, 301 York St., Louisville, Ky. 40203, Attn: Flood. Or they can call, 574-1709 for information.

Reporter Sheldon S. Shafer can be reached at (502) 582-7089.

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