I received information from two friends yesterday about a terrible fire in one of Russia’s university libraries.
The blaze, which started on Friday and was still not completely out on Saturday evening, ravaged 2,000 square metres (21,500 square feet) of the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences (INION) in Moscow, which was created in 1918 and holds 10 million documents with some dating back to the 16th century
It is believed that up to a million rare documents may have been destroyed and much of the damage was caused by the water in the firefighting. A major calamity, not just for Russia, but the world too. Fortunately no-one was injured.
It is a stark reminder of how vulnerable libraries are, how easy it can be for disaster to strike, and how important the printed book still is. Librarians are just custodians of collections for future generations, keeping them as safe as possible against fire, water and theft and often feel their libraries are as important as a member of the family to them. Those working in this Library must be devastated.
I remember that not so long ago there was a fire at the Foundation for Conductive Education in Cannon Hill House which started with a faulty light fitting in the Library, and the Fire Brigade was called out. Fortunately no damage was done to the stock, and only a little to the walls etc. What a lucky escape! There is much in that Library that is irreplaceable, not available elsewhere.