News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 5, 2010

Domino effect: Tipping shelves send 25,000 books onto floor at ISU’s main library

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Except for some scratches, no one was seriously hurt Wednesday when a few rows of bookshelves came tumbling down, domino-style, on the second floor of Indiana State University’s Cunningham Memorial Library.

But the incident resulted in the closure of the library for the remainder of Wednesday and Thursday, and now 25,000 books need to be put back in order and reshelved.

About 40 student workers and ISU staff assisted with cleanup efforts Thursday, and the library will reopen today, said Alberta Comer, dean of library services.

On Wednesday afternoon, student workers were preparing to replace the base of some empty shelving.

First, a bracket that holds rows of shelves together at the top had to be undone. When workers undid a bolt, the empty shelving fell over, causing a domino effect. Three other long rows of shelving (called ranges) also fell, and those shelves contained books.

Lots of books.

Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt, although three student workers “got a few scratches,” Comer said. As a precaution, she had them checked out at a center for occupational health.

The incident occurred on the west side of the second floor.

Since it would have been impossible to close off just the second floor, the university decided to close the entire library as a safety precaution, Comer said.

Facilities staff shored up nearby rows of shelves with wood to ensure those didn’t fall over, as well as to keep the public out. Signs and yellow tape also were used.

On Thursday, about 40 student workers and ISU staff helped take the books to a lower level. “Everyone was pulling together. It’s amazing how quickly it all came together,” Comer said.

The university will inspect all other library shelving to make sure it is safe. “We’re 99 percent sure this was a fluke, but we’re certainly not going to take a chance,” Comer said.

Cleanup was the easy part. Now, the library has to go through those 25,000 books and put them back in order, Comer said.

The process of putting the books back in order by call number, taking them back upstairs and then reshelving them could take a few weeks, she said. In the meantime, if someone requests one of the books – which include history books and dictionaries – library staff will attempt to locate them in the lower level.

The library has about 2 million items, including books.

While the incident is going to create a lot of work for library staff just a few weeks away from the start of another academic year, library officials are just happy no one was hurt. “We want everybody to be safe. That’s our primary concern. Nobody was hurt and we’re thankful for that,” said Betsy Hine, associate dean of library services.



Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.