This is an archived article.

March 5, 2001

University Libraries earthquake update

News and Information


The rolling 6.8 earthquake that hit the Puget Sound region the morning of February 28, 2001 knocked tens of thousands of books off the shelves, damaged stack ranges, and impacted service in a number of University of Washington Libraries units. A student in the Odegaard Undergraduate Library was hit by a piece of falling ceiling tile but was not seriously hurt. We are extremely fortunate that more people were not injured and that the Libraries did not suffer greater physical damage to its facilities and collections.

Staff have been busy cleaning up and in most of the 20 different University Libraries units it’s now impossible to see any apparent effects of the quake. However, several units were and remain seriously impacted. Updated information on the status of earthquake-affected libraries and photos of quake damage are available on our Information Gateway page at http://www.lib.washington.edu/.

? Suzzallo Library: The 1963 section of Suzzallo was closed and staff sent home on February 28 until the facility could be inspected. There was no structural damage to the building and the 1963 section opened again on March 1, except for the 4th floor where three ranges of stacks collapsed. Books from the 4th floor are being paged for users, but it is expected that the floor will be open again to the public early in the week of March 5th.

Happily for all us, the 1925 and 1935 wings of Suzzallo have been undergoing a $42.6 million seismic retrofitting construction project since last summer. The construction site was shut down temporarily after the quake so structural engineers could inspect it, but it’s anticipated that construction will begin again the week of March 5th. Four finial caps at the front of the historic building fell 70 feet to the steps below, but the seismic work that has been done already did make a big difference in how well the building fared during the earthquake. More detailed information about the Suzzallo Library Renovation Project is available at http://www.lib.washington.edu/about/suzzren/.

? Odegaard Undergraduate Library: The 3rd floor of the library has been closed to the public since the earthquake. Several hundred books fell from the shelves, but the main concern is the ceiling. 107 ceiling tiles fell during the quake and those that remain are a safety hazard. An engineer is coming March 5th to see if all of the ceiling tiles should be removed.

? Engineering and Fisheries-Oceanography Libraries: The Engineering and Fisheries-Oceanography branch libraries, especially the former, are our most impacted public facilities. Circulation, Reserve, and Reference services are available at each unit, but they both suffered extensive stack damage and, because of safety concerns, most of their collections are inaccessible to staff and users at this time. Because Fisheries-Oceanography is a smaller collection, we plan to start recovery work there first. Engineering is our largest branch library and suffered extensive stack collapse. It’s anticipated that it will take several months before all parts of the collection can be reopened. Materials from the Engineering Library will be temporarily unavailable for Cascade requests until then. In the meantime, we have begun discussing how to expedite interlibrary borrowing and article delivery for these and any other quake-impacted collections and should have more detailed informat!
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ion to share next week.

? Mathematics Research Library: The Math Research branch library suffered some stack damage. Circulation, Reserve, and Reference services are available but staff and users have had no access to their collections since the earthquake because of safety concerns. It’s anticipated that access to the collection will be available again early in the week of March 5th.

? Physics-Astronomy Library: This branch library, located on the 5th floor of the new Physics-Astronomy Building, suffered no interruption in service, but dropped approximately 5,000 volumes from its book and journal stacks. Some stack bracing will need to be repaired. Photos are available at
http://www.lib.washington.edu/physics/quake.html.

? Health Sciences Libraries: The Health Science Library in the T-Wing of the Health Sciences complex on South Campus and the K.K Sherwood Library at Harbor Medical Center were closed Wednesday and Thursday, but reopened on March 2nd. The libraries themselves made it through the quake relatively unscathed, but there were significant safety concerns about the buildings in which they operate. The Social Work Library suffered some stack damage, but the affected shelving units have been braced and the library is in full operation.

? East Asia Library: Few books dropped in the stacks, but several pieces of decorative trim from the ceiling in the ornate Reading Room fell. Because of safety concerns, portions of the room are roped off but all library services are available.

? Sand Point Shelving Facility: The Sand Point Shelving Facility contains approximately 750,000 volumes of important but low-use material. It is also serving as temporary surge space for collections and staff displaced by the Suzzallo Renovation Project. The building suffered no structural or stack damage, but the quake dropped approximately 15,000 volumes on the floor. The Circulation Division is still paging books for users twice a day and plans are being made to reshelve the downed volumes.


Our extensive offerings of electronic services and computing infrastructure were not affected by the earthquake. The Libraries is still gathering information and assessing damage to the collections. We have no firm count yet, but at least several thousand volumes suffered damage during the quake and several collections, most significantly Engineering and Fisheries-Oceanography, remain closed to staff and public because of safety concerns. We are grateful, however, that we suffered as little damage as we did. We are also grateful for the hundreds of calls, emails, and faxes we’ve received from friends and colleagues offering moral support and assistance in our time of need. It could have been much worse, but we will need the support of the University Community, the State and Federal Government, and the Public as we recover from the earthquake of 2001.

We are especially grateful to our dedicated and talented University Libraries staff members, who have taken the past week in stride and worked long hours to restore services disrupted by the quake. Libraries are sometimes spoken of in terms of collections and buildings, but it’s the staff and the work they do that make libraries the valuable and vibrant service organizations they are today.

Updated information about the impact of the earthquake on the University Libraries will be posted on the Libraries’ Information Gateway page Questions about the impact of the earthquake on the University Libraries may be directed to:

Gordon Aamot
Acting Associate Director of Libraries for Research and Instructional Services
206-685-1903
aamot@u.washington.edu