Hamilton Library (University of Hawaii, Manoa)

The Hamilton Library at the University of Hawaii, Manoa in Honolulu has more than 3 million volumes of books and is the leading research library serving the university and the Pacific region. On the evening of Saturday, October 30, 2004, a flash flood carrying mud and debris swept down the valley through homes, an elementary school, and university buildings and sent a seven-foot wall of water and mud through the ground floor of the library. The force of the flood knocked out walls, broke windows, moved fully loaded map cases, and toppled over library stacks—only the topmost shelves on the ground floor escaped being submerged in water.

Among the collections damaged were the aerial photography and map collections, which include 355,000 aerial photographs and rare maps such as a 400-year-old first-printing map of the Pacific Ocean. Fortunately, the library had a disaster plan that included care for its collections, which greatly aided in the quick recovery. Triage began within hours of the flood, which was critical, as damaging mold will begin to grow on paper within 48 hours.

It is estimated that almost all of the 90,000 aerial photographs—but only 30 percent of the library’s 165,000 maps—can be saved; however, without a plan the collection could have been a total loss.