Dr. Drew's Infrequent Blog

29 September 2006

Approaching the 2-Year Anniversary of the Flood

Hamilton Library Basement 2

This week I talked with Honolulu Advertiser reporter Loren Moreno. He's doing a story on the progress on Hamilton Library Basement. I felt a bit guilty since Dr. Knuth has been working closest with the people in Hamilton Library and University administration, but she was out of town before his deadline. I think his story (along with photos by Debra Booker) will come out this Sunday or Monday.

I suppose this second year anniversary is kind of a watermark (sorry -- bad word choice) in two respects. The good news is that in December we are graduating two of our last regular students who were in my class (the class that escaped from the window). Many of our graduating students have been presented with floaties to mark their survival and victory (from another student survivor).

I always feel very warm to see these graduates, since they had to endure a lot, including lost computers, notes, books, cars... and especially a loss of security. Most of them are now working as librarians in Hawaii, including one in Hamilton Library.

I always feel very warm to see these graduates, since they had to endure a lot, including lost computers, notes, books, cars... and especially a loss of security. Most of them are now working as librarians in Hawaii, including one in Hamilton Library.

The more frustrating issue was that administrators were saying we should be back in Hamilton in two years. Of course, it now has been two years, and the latest news is that it will take another two years. It is frustrating, but I am very optimistic. Things actually seem very promising. We have a good architect now who is actually listening to all of the parties, and we have much of our original footprint back-- thanks to Dr. Knuth and our colleagues in Hamilton Library.

There were some really tense days though. There was one (former) UHM administrator who was rumored to have a plan to use our space and the insurance funds to put in a huge computer lab instead. That was not a help at the same time we were swamped by countless forms from UHM administration, the state, and FEMA. I was pleased that this plan never happened because I seriously doubt UHM could simply build us a new space. We also had some colleagues who argued over space issues. That was tense, but in retrospect I that was like a minor family quarrel. I am so pleased that Hamilton Librarians and university officials are currently so supportive of our return.

I'm also grateful that our ICS colleagues have allowed us to double-up and share office space in POST and a classroom in Bilger. None of these are ideal solutions for them, or us but they've allowed us to resume teaching the week that campus opened.

Events like the Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina reminded me that we were very lucky. There was only one very minor injury among our LIS Program students. For a while I had nightmares about how much worse things could have been if a student had been in the restroom then. That was in another part of the building, which also had extensive damage. It would have been even harder to escape that area.

I usually try to keep my problems to myself, but when I'm honest I have to admit that some days are much harder for me to focus or be patient. I'm sure that is the case for anyone who realizes he/ she escaped a life or death situation. Many of my colleagues, who were not present at the time of the flood, also had to deal with PTSD because of their material losses. Even two years later we all are struggling everyday with having to recreate new teaching and research materials to replace treasures lost in the flood. It is the same for all of my LIS and Hamilton Library colleagues who had offices in the basement.

We had one student drop the program largely because of the flood. I saw her last about a year ago, and was pleased to see that she was doing well.

I'm not sure if we'll have an event on this year's anniversary. I think we're all busy working towards the future. Even if we don't I hope all of us will take a minute to reflect; and to count our blessings that we made it, and should be back in a new state-of-the-art facility in another two years.

The time after flood has also shown me the best in people. I remember our students volunteering to help me salvage a few things from my office. Wearing boots, gloves, and jeans, they showed me their hearts. Most of my files and thousands of books had turned into greenish slime, but we were able to rescue a few boxes worth of papers. Lynn Davis and the rest of the Hamilton Library Preservation Dept. helped to freeze these documents. A few months later, my students joined me to hang up those papers to dry on a laundry line behind Hamilton. Some of these documents are very precious to me, such as the original scrapbook compiled by a librarian in a Japanese American concentration camp. This librarian had given it to me when I interviewed her for my dissertation. This is the kind of thing that can't be replaced.

Like my LIS colleagues, I've received some very kind donations of books from generous colleagues and friends all over, such as Professors Fiona Black and Norman Horrocks at Dalhousie University, and a large collection from Professor Margaret Stieg Dalton of the University of Alabama. Many others have done so much, including students and alumni from the past 40 years.

I am smiling now when I recall a gift that one student gave me in the week after the flood. Miko, a schoolteacher, knew that we were going to start teaching right away even though we were using empty borrowed desks or working from home. She gave each professor a cheery bright blue lunchbag full of office essentials, like pens, pencils, a mini-stapler and tape. It was a very warm way of saying "Gambarimasho!" I think we've been doing just that -- doing our best together everyday one step at a time.

3 Comment(s):

  • I imagine that we might get a few more media contacts this time. Some of you might recall that I had mixed feelings about the media coverage last time. I was frankly pissed that a TV crew came to my class the first time we met after the flood. The TV reporter claimed to me that she had the teacher's permission, which was absurd since I was the professor. I asked her to come back in an hour since the class was in a private session with Dr. Knuth and 2 university counselors.

    I know that there are media deadlines, but that was the wrong time and place. I have no regrets about turning away that reporter.

    On the other hand, some reporters might want to talk with other students from that time. You are welcome to share any public comments here on this post (they might be used by reporters) or to e-mail me that you don't mind to be a media contact.

    Thanks everyone!

    By Blogger Dr. Drew, at Friday, September 29, 2006 4:51:00 PM  

  • New students who didn't experience the flood or want more info should check out the DEC 2004 and MAR 2005 issues of the ALA Student Chapter Newsletter, which can be downloaded from their archives.

    By Blogger Dr. Drew, at Friday, September 29, 2006 4:55:00 PM  

  • The article is in Monday morning's paper. I just saw it online:


    It is always interesting to see how a story evolves from the interview.

    I regret that my thanks to my colleagues in ICS and the library faculty were merged without being specific. We in LIS are very fortunate to have such warm supporters, as well as everyone on and off campus who is helping to make our return a success.

    By Blogger Dr. Drew, at Monday, October 02, 2006 2:20:00 AM  

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