Thursday, November 08, 2007


Think twice before donating books to the University of Hawaii

by Larry Geller

When I wrote Disaster unpreparedness yesterday I had only the breaking news item for reference. Today's papers reveal far more information. The articles describe a loss that was both tragic and avoidable.

Tens of thousands of books and rare documents on the third floor of the University of Hawai'i-Manoa's Hamilton Library are being moved to safer locations after heavy rain leaked through the roof.

Dozens of rare Tibetan scrolls were among the items seriously damaged by water during the weekend.


The latest damage was discovered Sunday after heavy rain Friday and Saturday in Manoa.

"It was like it was raining in the library," said Ann Rabinko, a reformatting specialist with the library's preservation department.


This area had existing roof leaks," [UH spokesman Gregg Takayama] said, referring to Phase I of Hamilton Library, which was built in 1965.

"Leaks have been a longstanding problem," he said.

In fact, buckets to catch leaks have been a common sight over the years on Hamilton's third floor. [University of Hawaii's library roof leaks again - The Honolulu Advertiser]

Buckets? To protect rare Tibetan scrolls? There needs to be an investigation of this.

While the library staff's responded quickly, the roof leak caused about $200,000 in damage that highlights a backlog of maintenance at the university, said interim University Librarian Paula Mochida.

Library employees had known about the leaking roof for years, and before Saturday's heavy rain, tarps had been hanging over books to collect dripping rainwater.

In the open stacks, several hundred books might have been seriously damaged by water, Mochida said. There has yet to be a value assessment.

"The library is just another example of neglect ... because we haven't been funded adequately," Mochida said. [ | News | /2007/11/08/]

"Library employees had known about the leaking roof for years???" If so, how come there were still books and valuable materials where they would inevitably be damaged?

The Star-Bulletin article mentions that the Sinclair Library roof is also leaking.

Sure, budgets are tight. If the UH can't move money around to get the roofs fixed at its iibraries, neither rare Tibetan scrolls nor anything more valuable than a comic book should be kept there.

We donated books and video tapes to the library when we came to Hawaii from Japan. I hope they are still safe somewhere. In the meantime, a little advice to donors: place your valuable materials elsewhere. The University of Hawaii has proven they are not competent to care for the valuable materials entrusted to them.


Please aim your remarks at the Legislature, not at the librarians. I'm on the UH faculty, and some months ago we received an announcement that the library was cutting back on subscriptions to electronic journals by about $500K because of budget problems. I'm not in the sciences, but for those who are, that sort of thing is just devastating to your ability to do research. A few weeks ago, the zoology building was flooded out because of a defective air conditioner that was known to need repairs. About the same time as the announcement of the journal cuts, the Athletic Department whined to the Legislature about some inadequately splendiferous facility and got taken care of right away. As long as the Legislature is happy with great athletic facilities and crappy educational facilities, that's what we'll get.

The library had to interrupt journal subscriptions before, when I was a student. It was certainly a major problem, one that can't be remedied if the missing journals are not ordered later. We had to ask for interlibrary loans just to get basic materials.

But I stand by my remarks. If the roof leaks, then rare Tibetan scrolls (for example) should not be allowed to remain in harm's way. IMHO. The Legislature has nothing to do with that.

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