Flooded Louisville Free Public Library needs your help

Joshua sez, "Steve Lawson and the Library Society of the World are trying to raise money to help the Louisville Free Public Library, which was hit by horrible flash floods last week. Could you help us help the library out?"
So a lot of those books we sent them in the spring are now covered in water and sewage. And so are the bookmobiles. And the mechanical equipment for HVAC. And the data center. And $50,000 worth of new computers. The initial estimate is $1 million in damage, but they must just be guessing at this point.
Louisville Free Public Library needs your help (Thanks, Joshua!)


  1. Thanks for the link. If Boing Boing readers are moved to donate, but don’t want to PayPal money to some guy they never heard of before, they can donate directly to the library foundation here:

    The Library Foundation
    Attn: Flood
    301 York St.
    Louisville, KY 40203
    (502) 574-1709

    And since I wrote the paragraph you quoted, the estimate of damages has grown to $5 million.

    -Steve Lawson (bevedog)

  2. Yep, they have flood insurance, and are hoping it will pay for close to everything. I can’t speak for everyone who is donating, but even if the insurance money pays for everything, I’d be happy if my donation went to do something a little extra for the staff, or to make the library just a little nicer than it was before the flood. Even if the Library Society of the World (a semi-joke organization with no dues, officers, or official membership) succeeds in raising $5,000, that’s just a drop in the bucket. Uh, so to speak.

    -Steve Lawson (bevedog)

  3. I’m from Louisville and this was/is quite a wonderful library. We’re not talking some little dinky thing in a strip-mall, but a truly old and amazing building. It’s the main branch for the whole city and after hearing about the flooding from my parents earlier this week I was quite down. Money can’t replace all that was lost I hope that through whatever means they can get things going again.

  4. The publisher I work for gave about 1000 bucks worth of books last week. I got to update the inventory. We gave them one of everything we had in stock. Hope they like romance/erotica.

  5. Aren’t most/all PUBLIC library’s FREE?

    Plus how many things are we expected to bail out? Poor planning on their part isn’t a open wallet on mine. Plus you admit they have insurance. Geesh, would they like a back rub as well?

    This whole “good neighbor” spiel is going just a tad to far.

  6. While most “public libraries” in the United States are now free to, at minimum, their tax-or-levy-paying constituents, the answer to #5 is No, historically and globally, neither have most public libraries been free, nor have most free libraries been public. Until about 110, 120 years ago, most “public” libraries in the U.S. were based on subscription, which continues to be the case in the developing world; and even today most “free” libraries are private. So the “free + public” library is a recent enough invention that the name continues to be used with some measure of pride, especially by institutions which were among the first to combine these 2 elements, which almost everybody now takes for granted.

    (And if you want the version with the citations and the hotlinks, ask again when I’m on the desk.)

  7. Call me a terrible human, but if I am going to donate money to a public library, and I probably won’t seeing as how I already “donate” each time a get a paycheck and there are other worthy institution that have to collect my money voluntarily, I’ll probably donate it to a local one… not the one about to cash in on its flood insurance… in Louisville… wherever that is.

  8. #1: Actually paper helps trees, seeing as how pretty much all paper these days is made from trees planted *to make paper*.
    So if we stopped using paper the paper companies would stop planting trees.

  9. Aren’t most/all PUBLIC library’s FREE?

    Not entirely. The public library nearest me is more-or-less free to those living inside the city limits. Because I live outside the limits, I would have to pay $50/year to be able to use the system.

    As for the library having flood insurance…Having flood insurance doesn’t necessarily mean the insurer will actually honor it. The companies have all sorts of clauses and conditions built-in through which they can avoid payout. Only time will tell how well the library gets compensated.

  10. c’mon guys. nobody’s *making* you donate to this library. but if you want to, it would be a nice thing to do for the folks who now have a HUGE mess to clean up.

  11. Well good luck with the library, but if I were going to donate to a library it would be one in my own community.

    Kentucky isn’t exactly a third-world hell-hole: if they value the library and the services it provides, I’m sure the locals can come up with the funds to do something about it.

    Heck, they could even pass a half-percent sales tax or something as a one-time boost to get past the crisis.

    I sincerely doubt that this library provides services or benefits to anyone outside the immediate area, so why should anyone outside the immediate area do anything to save it?

  12. It’s great to see so many people in this thread interested in helping out their local library. I’m sure your libraries will welcome your support.

  13. I’m not a big fan of the LFPL.

    They tried to ram a county-wide occupational tax through to pay for improvements and expansion not too long ago instead of budgeting the funds through the county-wide Metro Government.

    Furthermore, although they offer internet services, all downloads are regulated to Windows format music and media only. They have Linux and Mac OS updates and downloads both blocked through their firewalls.

    When they can manage the Library better, then I will consider helping them out.

  14. #17: to support the cause of free access to literature for all?

    It may not benefit you but dont you think it benefits people as a whole to have access to literature?

    “Kentucky isn’t exactly a third-world hell-hole”

    It’s not rolling in wealth either.


    #19: “When they can manage the Library better, then I will consider helping them out.”

    How can they manage the library better when the library is lying in ruin?


    Never knew BB’s readership was such a bunch of library haters. Whouda known.

  15. Will send a check in snailmail; pp is a little nervous-making to me. Three cheers for real, paper books that you can borrow, return, recommend, and reread.

  16. >Poor planning on their part isn’t a open wallet on mine.

    And how *do* you plan for 14 feet of water in your building?

  17. Here’s a fact about the library flood that might interest Boing Boing follwers: The main branch of LFPL has an annual Anime Fest that was scheduled a few days after the flood. As part of the preparation for the fest the branches were required to send nearly all of their anime and manga collections to the main branch for storage–and apparently all but two of the branches did so. They were stored in the basement–which is where the flood hit. So now the entire system has lost about 90% of its manga and anime. Perhaps trivial compared to the other losses, but still…

  18. Louisville is my home town. I would like to thank BoingBoing for publicizing the Main Library’s plight. As to the person who asked why the locals didn’t do more, keep in mind that much of the city was flooded and there are a lot of homes and businesses that are still being cleaned up. Plus this is the third natural disaster to hit the city in a year. In September a freak windstorm caused by the remains of Hurricane Ike took down thousand of trees and knocked out power to most of the city. (I personally had no power for nine days.) Then in January an icestorm shut down much of the city for about a week. It’s been a rough year in the River City and people are tired. Any help, any expressions of support, I know will be greatly appreciated.

    (As for Don G’s comments about the library tax, we will have to agree to disagree. The tax was not unreasonable in my opinion–less than $100 US/year for most families and would have allowed the library to plan for the future, rather than having to fight with every other metro county department every year for a slice of the budget pie. The library is still underfunded, per capita, and I can’t imagine this year there is going to be a lot of money in the county budget for things like, say, computer upgrades. That say, the Louisville Free Public Library does a lot with what they have and they deserve more support than they get.)

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