NLS damaged by water again
Students faced with delays accessing collections for the second time in 18 months after fault develops in sprinkler system
The National Library of Scotland on George IV Bridge was forced to close temporarily on 26 February after flooding threatened the building and its collections.
The incident occurred after a fault developed in the sprinkler system on the building’s twelfth floor. Although the leak was quickly contained, up to 5000 liters of water poured down lift shafts and stairwells, causing damage to some of the library’s collections.
While staff at the library have worked to minimise disruption, some students have been adversely affected by the floods.
Laura Castle, a History student from Aberdeen, was forced to cut her research trip to Edinburgh short after the library shut its doors on Friday 27 February. She told The Journal: “I had planned to do three days of research for my dissertation before going back to Aberdeen. But when I turned up there on Friday morning, I found it was closed and was told the reading room would stay shut for the rest of the weekend.”
“I will need to go back at some point but I hadn’t planned to pay for two trips’ worth of travel and accommodation.”
The flood comes less than 18 months after a similar incident in September 2007, when a construction worker damaged a sprinkler pipe, inundating five floors of the building with water.
The latest incident occurred just after 6pm while the building was still open to the public. Staff were able to contain the sprinkler fault within five minutes but were unable to prevent water from reaching other areas of the library.
Firefighters remained on the scene for over three hours, directing water to the building’s basement where it was pumped out onto adjacent Chamber Street and Cowgate.
Whilst the damage was not found to be extensive, the library was forced to close the following day and some services will remain disrupted for several weeks. The reading room, however, has since reopened and the majority of collections have not been affected. Nonetheless, the library has advised users that more than 4,500 items have been temporally relocated to allow them to dry.
A further 200-300 books and manuscripts will require more serious conservation work and may be unavailable for some time.
The library has also warned that reprographics services have been disrupted, meaning that some printing and copying requests may temporarily take longer to fulfil.
The John Murray Archive, due to host Stanza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, later this month, will remain closed for several weeks.
Traffic on both streets was temporarily diverted as drains overflowed with the excess water, while the area around the library’s main entrance was closed to pedestrians. Staff worked late into the night to save a number of valuable manuscripts. Fortunately, no major damage was incurred to the collection.
The library building on George IV Bridge currently holds more than 7 million items, roughly half of the National Library of Scotland’s total collection in the city.