On a recent visit to university libraries in Thailand, we experienced the aftermath of the 2011 flooding at first hand. At Kasetsart University in Bangkok we saw watermarks on the library walls up to 2 metres high. At King Monkut University of Technology in Southern Bangkok, which was designated a flood evacuation centre in October, we were told how both exams and graduations had been severely delayed because of the effects of the floods.

One of the most badly affected universities was the Rangsit campus of Thammasat University just outside Bangkok (pictured above) which was under water for over 3 weeks, causing students and staff to navigate the campus by boat. In October water poured into a gym which had previously been used to house evacuees from surrounding areas.

Across Thailand the flooding affected over 2,600 educational institutions causing over US$48 million worth of damage, according to the Education Minister. The second semester, which normally starts at the beginning of November, was rescheduled by around 20 universities to mid-November, December or even January 2012. Many have also postponed the first semester of 2012 until September as they continue to tackle the aftermath of the floodwaters.

Our local sales agents told us about the shortages of food and clean water and how it had become normal to start conversations with the phrase “how is your home?”

All this disruption has had an understandable impact on libraries as funds have been diverted into flood defences, clean-up operations and rebuilding. There have been further problems caused by insurance companies who have said they cannot pay out in future for flood damage, causing budgets to be diverted into emergency funds.

Unfortunately these may be needed sooner rather than later, as Thai scientists have predicted that there is likely to be more flooding in 2012, putting further pressure on Thai universities and causing additional problems for people who have already suffered so much.

We would like to thank all the librarians we met in Thailand for the warm welcome they gave us in difficult circumstances.

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