Meanwhile, Hopkins officials turned up the library's air conditioning to chill the books as much as possible before they went into the freezer trucks, which are kept at zero degrees.
"Time is absolutely critical," Schwartz said. "As the books get wet, they start to expand. The longer they sit, they start to look like wedges."
Yesterday morning, Schwartz's employees scoured the stacks to determine the extent of the damage with the help of a sensor that could be stuck into books to assess moisture levels. At the same time, the workers were careful to organize the books they were carrying off to make it easier to replace them in order when they return.
By late afternoon, about 3,000 books had been stacked into 300 boxes, with as any as 5,000 more volumes awaiting rescue. The trucks probably wouldn't be fully loaded until today, Schwartz said.
After being part of the independent Peabody Institute for decades, the library was transferred to the city in 1967 to be administered by the Enoch Pratt Free Library. Hopkins acquired it in 1982, but it remains open to the public.