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Almost 2,000 books lost in Cooper water damage

Madison Akers // Asst. Outlook Editor

Bookshelves were missing damaged books on the first floor of Cooper Library.

Almost 2,000 books were lost in Clemson University’s Cooper Library due to water damage from a burst pipe in December 2022, as opposed to a previous estimate of 1,200.
The larger number of lost titles, about 1,850, included many popular selections, such as those from the J. R. R Tolkien collections, the classic “Wizard of Oz” collections by Frank Baum and works by the Clemson University Press, according to a list provided by the library.
Around Christmas Eve, freezing temperatures caused a pipe on the fifth floor to freeze and burst, affecting floors below as water trickled down.
Thousands of other undamaged yet inaccessible books became available for checkout again after repairs on the damaged areas on the first and third floors were completed over spring break.
The damaged books were mainly the popular reading collection located on the fourth floor, the juvenile collection located on the third floor, the Clemson University Press situated on the second floor and the American literature collection located on the first floor, according to Ariel Turner, the associate dean of collections and discovery at Clemson University Libraries.
Particularly hard hit were fiction, poetry and criticism volumes on the first floor. These included many volumes by novelist Vladimir Nabokov and many more by poets Maxine Kumin, Lucille Clifton and Carl Sandburg.
Other books by MSNBC cable news host Rachel Maddow and famed New York Times investigative journalist and Pulitzer-Prize winner Walt Bogdanich were also lost.
The water damage also caused unaffected books to be temporarily inaccessible until March 27 due to the dangers of mold and mildew that could have been left on remaining collections.
“As much as we want to provide access to collections, we also want to make sure that we keep people’s safety first and foremost,” Turner said.
However, the library has taken steps to get books back onto shelves and into the hands of those who need them.
“They are in the process of creating a list, contacting vendors, purchasing the books and replacing them,” Mayizar Faridi, an assistant professor with the department of English who also acts as a liaison between the department and the library, said. “It’s a time-consuming process.”
Although Cooper opened access to floors and most collections following spring break, students and faculty have expressed how the damage has impacted them.
“It hasn’t been a huge problem yet, but in the back of my mind, I worry a little bit about what if they really need a book that there’s no e-book for,” Kendra Slayton, a visiting assistant professor with the department of English, said.
Slayton teaches many courses in medieval literature, including a graduate-level course about Geoffrey Chaucer and Intertextuality that requires a lot of research using secondary sources, which the library offers.
“One of my students told me that they really wanted to read some works by Ovid, a classical author,” Slayton said. “I looked for it, and it is, in fact, one of the books that seems to be inaccessible due to the flooding.”
However, this book has since become available with the help of book loaning services and staff.
“The library staff has been working tirelessly to accommodate for the resources and spaces lost by getting books from other libraries delivered through PASCAL or Interlibrary Loan, showing students and faculty online resources to use, and working to get the library back to normal ASAP,” Alexis Dale, a senior wildlife and fisheries biology major who works as a Creative Technologies Specialist at Cooper Library, said.
PASCAL and Interlibrary Loan services allow students and faculty to borrow books from other academic libraries in South Carolina and throughout the country.
“The services desk has been busier since the flood, and people need more help to get resources,” Dale added. “But we’ve been managing and have had a lot of support from the Clemson community.”
It is unclear when the library will replace all lost books or if some will be irreplaceable going forward.

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Madison Akers, Asst. Opinion Editor
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