RIGA - In another sign of Riga’s crumbling infrastructure, highlighting the need for better efforts to maintain city property, the floor caved in at the Latvian National Library’s (LNB) main depository on Kr.Barona Street on June 21, sending 1,200 new, in high demand foreign literature books tumbling into the basement and the water below. Many of these books are the only copy, and “it is now too late to save them,” a library spokesperson said in dismay, reports news agency LETA.
After the initial collapse, about 70,000 other books located near the 20 square meter void were also in danger.
According to the spokesman, as the floor only began to cave in slowly, one member of the library administration attempted to save whatever books he could, and as a result he himself fell into the hole and received minor injuries.
Work began that evening on transferring the books to other storage spaces. State Fire and Rescue Service Officers, as well as students of the Firefighting College, were involved in the operation, and also performed work to strengthen the damaged floor.
LNB Executive Director Dzintra Mukane called this accident a wake-up call, as the library is currently spread across seven buildings, none of which properly meet the library’s requirements. This situation has arisen as a result of the fact that for several years already, the library has operated with the belief that in the near future it will be relocated to its new home, which is still under construction on the Daugava riverbank.
Authorities blame seeping moisture for the collapse of the floor. LNB had repeatedly complained that the depository does not meet book storage standards, but no repairs have been conducted due to lack of funding, as books, apparently, have no value among many of Latvia’s leading politicians.
The arrival of President Valdis Zatlers on June 22 marked the last of the book salvage effort, thereby ending the three-day rescue operation. The day ended with the workers cheerfully singing ‘Ligo!’ songs.
A true scholar, Zatlers, when shown the premises and the damaged floor, commented that the cave-in Friday was a mishap that threatens national treasures. He also mentioned that these are not the only premises in Riga that are in critical condition. “Only when an accident occurs do we pay attention to our valuables,” the president said, adding that attention must be paid on a daily basis. He thanked the many volunteers who helped save the books.