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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Water and books should be kept apart

My life is mostly about research these days. I have made it to a couple of malls, and at my favorite one outside Helsingborg I bought a long ash grey cardigan. But mostly I sit long hours in front of a computer, either at home, at the library or at the archive. I was at the library last Friday and that was not pleasant. The brand new sprinkler system collapsed and water poured out over the floors and book cases in the public areas of the library. Our visitors have never seen so many staff members at once. Librarians are rarely seen running in the corridors, but this was not an ordinary day. We got the situation under control in about one hour, with the help of the cleaning staff. We were lucky, only three books were damaged by the water. We don't count the two chairs, the table or the poster in the exhibit hall.

I was at the library during the weekend and I could hear the sprinkler company people work in the building. The research I did there was a success, I found a piece of information I never thought I would get. Olga wrote in her almanacs many times from about 1947 to 1978 that she had either written to or received a letter from "Gladys in America". That was it. No address, no last name, no indication to who this woman was. Very frustrating. It turns out that Olga's brother-in-law Christian had several nephews who emigrated around 1910-1914. I found all of them in New York, and one had a daughter named Gladys! I was able to follow her in the records up to 1940, after that it gets difficult, since she probably married. So far I haven't found her in any death records and she might actually still be alive. I don't need to go any further with this case, I'm just happy that I found out who "Gladys in America" was.

Monday morning I got out of bed surprisingly early to go to the Archive Center. I needed to use their databases. After lunch I went to the library and was told by my colleagues that they had had a terrible day. At eight in the morning (before the library opens), a sprinkler pipe had burst and lots of water had damaged a large part of the reference collection. I listened in amazement when they talked about the incredible job they had done. It probably sounds odd, but in order to save water-damaged books, you have to deep freeze them immediately. We have a small freezer and the Archive Center has one, mostly used to prevent vermin from surviving in old paper material. They were both filled with our reference books. This was not enough space, however, so one of the grocery stores now house boxes with our books in their freeze storage!

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