How Prague libraries weathered the storm

Library deposits after floods

It's been two years since the "500-year" flood swept through the Vltava River basin and inundated the Czech capital. Along with other cultural treasures, Prague's libraries were hard hit, says the head of the Municipal Library of Prague, Tomas Rehak. On the anniversary of the 2002 floods Pavla Horakova interviewed Mr Rehak and began by asking him about the extent of the damage, both to the archives and the library buildings themselves.

"The Municipal Library of Prague was struck in three places, first of all, at the Central Library where we had a lot of water in our basements. We were able at that time to evacuate all of the books from the basement stores, thanks to many volunteers as well as our employees. So we didn't lose a single book here in the Central Library."

"But, of course, the damage to the furniture and the building itself was quite extensive. We actually do not know exactly how much money that cost because all the repairs were paid for by the Lord of Mayor's office because the building belongs to the municipality of Prague."

"The second place where there was a lot of damage was the local library in Karlin, in Prague 8, which was one of the worst struck districts. There were more than three metres of water at street level. And of course we lost all the books there, all the furniture and everything."

"There we had a branch library, quite a tiny one, mostly meeting the local needs; I mean for elderly people and kids. So far, we haven't been able to replace this local branch library; however, on August 31 we launch a new mobile library, which is going to serve the whole area."

"And the third place we were struck was in Prague 7, Holesovice, where there was some one and a half metres of water above street level. And we had a local branch library there, but what was most horrible, we also had the Department of Rare Prints in that area. The local library and the Department of Rare Prints were heavily flooded. We lost most of the 'normal' books from the local branch library. Much more difficult was the situation with the rare prints [for which] we started evacuation work immediately."

If another flood comes to Prague are you prepared for it?

"Well, I hope not to see such a flood again in my lifetime but we are much better prepared for the next flood as of course is the whole city of Prague. The flood in 2002 changed a lot of things for many people."

"Meanwhile, we are about to launch a new workshop. I'm not about to say where it is going to be located it's still quite secret I only can say it will be quite near the Prague Castle, pretty close up to the hill. So no flood could actually reach the new workshop."

"But the Central Library is located near the Old Town Square and some 100 metres from the Vltava River banks and the building is quite deep; we have three underground basement floors. So, if the water is nine metres above normal level, the water will come here again."