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Wednesday April 19th – Disaster Recovery for Depositories

To provide your own take on the Disaster Recovery for Depositories session, please either comment below, or send your notes and/or multimedia to dnlcornwall@alaska.net. Please let FGI know whether we can use your name and affiliation.

The following notes were contributed by Herrick Heitman of the Washington State Library.

All interpretations of documents and comments made are those of the notetaker and do not reflect on their home institution. All mistakes are those of the notetaker and/or FGI. Please feel free to post corrections.

Moderator: Marianne Ryan—University of Maryland
Presenters: Gwen Sinclair—University of Hawai’i, Manoa
Dan Barkley—University of New Mexico
Jan Swanbeck—for University of West Florida
Janet Scheitle—Government Printing Office

(These notes reflect the lessons I took from this session. They’re not in a linear “she said…and then she said…” style.)

This was a good presentation that covered different scales of disaster: the burst pipes at the University of New Mexico damaged one building; the flash flood at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa caused damage throughout the campus and nearby neighborhood; and Hurricane Ivan struck the University of West Florida when that entire region that was dealing with the aftermath of previous hurricanes. Note also that some disasters are unexpected (burst pipes) and some are foreseeable (hurricanes). Prepare for the unexpected and take full advantage of any warning you may have.

Disaster recovery plans are much more effective if they’re in place before a disaster. It’s useful to have multiple scenarios in disaster plans. A disaster plan for a flooded floor may not be appropriate for an area-wide disaster and vice versa. Even with a plan in place you may have to improvise given the chaotic nature of disasters. Accept limits on what you can realistically plan for—the plan is there to give you guidance, not answer every question.

Have contact information for your staff and those you do business with such as vendors. Also have contact information for nearby depositories and your Regional depository. Contact GPO—Gretchen Scheitle took the suggestion that GPO have a contact number/designated staff person for dealing with disasters. (Some of the panelists had trouble knowing who to contact at GPO—a bad situation when time isn’t on your side.)
See if GPO can delay shipments for awhile or if another nearby depository can hold shipments for you. Let other depositories know what’s happening—they can be very supportive.

You may have to contract with a disaster recovery firm to help with cleanup. One panelist described these firms as ambulance chasers. They start making contact when your disaster hits the news. They will often contact higher levels of administration in your organization than the library. Be sure to specify that any disaster recovery firm working with you should have experience with library/archival materials. Hawai’i and New Mexico hired Balfor—this is not an endorsement, per se, but the firm has worked with libraries and library materials.

Both personal computers and servers may be damaged. It may be possible to recover some or all the data on them, but that’s another task that might have to be outsourced.

Be ready to triage damaged items. What are the most valuable or irreplaceable items? What are the most damaged? Are there items located in areas that are unsafe to work in? In short, know what you need to save, what you can save, and what’s safe to save. You may have limited access to refrigerated areas where you can freeze dry wet items. (For instance, the University of Hawai’i could only get 5 refrigerated containers because it was Christmas tree shipping season. If it’s an area wide disaster, you could be in competition with other libraries and archives for limited resources.)

Water can damage furnishings as well as collections. Shelving can rust. Ball bearings in map case drawers can corrode.

Red property stamp ink can bleed through paper and maps. Folders can trap water and further dampen items.

You may be able to batch some jobs. The University of New Mexico was able to shrink wrap map case drawers to simplify shipping maps off for restoration (and avoid possible damage by trying to separate soggy map sheets).

A disaster affects the staff as well as the collection. If it’s an area wide disaster, people will be more concerned about their families, friends, and homes. Even if it’s more localized, stress and exhaustion can cause workplace accidents—for this reason, people at the University of Hawai’i weren’t allowed to work past 5:30 PM. At the University of New Mexico staff had to take training in protective clothing in case of mold exposure. This is also a good time for administrative staff to get out from behind their desks and help the rest of the library staff in disaster recovery work.

Mold is persistent, mold can be dangerous. Any area that gets damp could be harboring mold. Even areas that dry out quickly can host mold. The University of New Mexico discovered this with maps that dried out by themselves in a day or two; the mold showed up a little later. Flooring, ventilation systems, drywall, and furniture may have to be thoroughly cleaned or replaced to avoid sick building syndrome.

Getting money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency can require detailed paperwork.

(Links to pictures and articles about the flash flood damage and recovery at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa can be found at: http://www.hawaii.edu/ala/flood.php.)

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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