Natural disaster creates giant replacement project
When the man-made canal walls collapsed during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the basement of the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library flooded. Howard-Tilton is Tulane's main library and supports the university's undergraduate and graduate programs in the humanities, social sciences, and science and engineering. A disaster recovery firm removed and froze damaged but salvageable materials. Items that fell off the shelves into the muck were not recovered.
The basement housed the music library, government documents and microforms. We needed help replacing the music books that were destroyed. But our replacement needs extended beyond what was lost in the Howard-Tilton basement. Library staff, faculty and students whose homes were damaged or destroyed lost library books they had checked out, too. We waived all fines and fees and asked our patrons to report materials that had been lost in the flood so we could create a record of what needed to be replaced.
Managing the replacement process with Alibris
Before the flood we ordered title-by-title and through approval plans. We hadn't used Alibris very much. But we didn't have the staff to do a title-by-title search for all the items we needed to replace. With Alibris, we were able to turn over our entire list of titles and leave the rest to them.
So far we have given Alibris four Excel spreadsheets of titles and bib records. The titles are a combination of items patrons lost from throughout the library and those things we need now to support the Music Department's curriculum. The titles are generally out of print, but not necessarily old. Some of the replacements are for titles that were published in the summer of 2005 and that we had just acquired before the flood. We've set parameters on price, quality, condition, etc. and Alibris follows up with us to ensure there are no surprises.
Although the rest of the country has 'moved on' from Katrina, we are still dealing with daily challenges. We expect it will take two more years to return replacements and recovered materials to the library. We are slowly reinstating into the catalog items returned from restoration and rebinding as well as adding donations from other libraries and individuals.
Ultimately we will be able to produce a report from our integrated library system to show which items have not been returned. The ability to turn a report like this over to Alibris for their help in securing these items for us will save us an enormous amount of time and support the library's efforts to return our collection to its former strength.