New Zealand: Hero Lawyer Saved Contents Of Wellington Law Soc Law Library During Earthquake

How often do we get to report on a lawyer who risks life and limb for the printed word.. well done that lawyer
Radio New Zealand reports

The tale of a hero who saved countless law books has emerged seven months after the Kaik?ura earthquake.

A water pipe high up at Law Society Library behind the High Court, near Parliament in Wellington, was sheared by the force of the midnight quake, allowing water to flood down.

It poured from the third floor down to the first, and further on down into a courtroom underneath the library, causing such damage that even now only the court has reopened, with the other floors largely deserted.

Briefs and files and 200-year-old law books from Britain were thrown from shelves as some of the huge metal bookcases ripped away from welded seismic brackets.

“There was one lawyer working in here, preparing for a case on Monday morning,” said Robin Anderson, the affable manager of the 24/7 library that lawyers use to prepare for trials.

“He was rushing around trying to stop the water from damaging the books, trying to get the water turned off.”

Mr Anderson only found out about what that lawyer, John Grace of Porirua, had done many days after the November quake.

That included calling the fire brigade to get the water turned off.

“He certainly did his best to save the library.”

Now all the books are glad-wrapped in storage in Porirua, minus the 900 books ruined by water.

“They were moved out of the building, but by the time we got to them it was about five days, six days later,” said Mr Anderson.

“A 200-year-old bound in leather, that’s been left wet for a week gathers an interesting collection of different coloured moulds and slimes, and is not really easily reparable.”

All up, 21 pallets’ worth books were damaged, but none are irreplaceable.

“You sort of feel a sentimental heart-tug at going because they belonged to this library since it was founded in the 1860s, and they would’ve been printed in the 1760s, but the loss is not traumatic to the nation’s legal history. It’s just sad.”

Just 400 key reference texts remain in the library where Mr Anderson and his two or so staff once were surrounded by 90,000 books.

New carpet tiles have been put down in place of the specially-woven carpet with a blue-green pukeko design, and an electrician on a hoist has been working on getting flash new lights from Germany working.

“We’re in here, but we don’t have any books yet, we don’t have any bookshelves, we don’t have any lights and we don’t have any ceiling,” said Mr Anderson.

The electronic collection remains, and that means no court cases have been held up as far as the librarians are aware.

They’ve been in hot demand to give talks to other librarians about lessons from the quake.

One such tip is to ensure bookcases have extra good bracing, and to keep a floor plan somewhere other than inside the building so emergency workers know where to go.

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