A series of black and white photographs from the Dayton Metro Library’s collection, document the aftermath of the Great Dayton Flood of 1913.

Shoveling books: how the flood of 1913 plundered the Dayton library

Great flood devastated the region 105 years ago

Imagine shoveling thousands of water-logged and mud caked books out of the Dayton Library. 

>> PHOTOS: Devastating images from the 1913 flood

A series of black and white photographs from the Dayton Metro Library’s collection document the aftermath of the Great Dayton Flood of 1913 that began 105 years ago this week. 

»»RELATED: Dispatches describe ruin of the 1913 flood

Books, destroyed in 1913 flood waters, were shoveled out of the Dayton Library. DAYTON METRO LIBRARY

Flood waters filled the basement and first floor of the library, located in Cooper Park, destroying 46,000 volumes according “A Century of Service,” a history of the Dayton Library. 

»»RELATED: The Great Dayton Flood of 1913: 15 things to know about broken levees, rescue boats and lost lives

The images capture tall stacks of library materials knocked over like dominoes, books lying in puddles of water and mud-covered floors. 

The fixtures and furnishing on those two floors were lost as were the children’s and medical collections, and new books purchased for library branches. 

Two library staff members were marooned inside the building for two days according to the historical account. From a landing, they watched trays holding the records of books out in circulation swirl around the water. 

When the water receded the salvaging and cleanup began. 

Shelves of books were destroyed at the Dayton Library during the 1913 flood. DAYTON METRO LIBRARY

Sopping books were shoveled outside into piles. Long planks were set up to dry others less damaged. “Then began the long painstaking process of separating wet pages, turning them as they dried, scraping off mud, washing and drying again,” according to the library’s account. 

“Catalog cards, pried out of swollen cabinets, were dried on the flat roof the study hall and arranged in shoe boxes on the floor of the book gallery, as workers scraped mud, copied cards, and restored as best they could the record of the Library collection.” 

In the following weeks the library was cleaned, donations of money and books were collected and the library reopened to the public on June 7.

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