Friday, January 17, 2014

DISASTER PLANNING FOR LIBRARY AND INFORMATION CENTRES P- 12. Management of Libraries and Information Centres & Knowledge Centres * By :PK gupta

इस ब्लॉग्स को सृजन करने में आप सभी से सादर सुझाव आमंत्रित हैं , कृपया अपने सुझाव और प्रविष्टियाँ प्रेषित करे , इसका संपूर्ण कार्य क्षेत्र विश्व ज्ञान समुदाय हैं , जो सभी प्रतियोगियों के कॅरिअर निर्माण महत्त्वपूर्ण योगदान देगा ,आप अपने सुझाव इस मेल पत्ते पर भेज सकते हैं -


P- 12. Management of Libraries and Information Centres & Knowledge Centres *

By :PK gupta


By simply watching the evening news or reading a newspaper, we quickly find that disasters of various types happen to individuals, companies, and countries on virtually a daily basis throughout the world (Schneid and Collins, 2000). And the libraries are no exception. A disaster is an unplanned interruption of normal business processes. It is a temporary state resulting in a short-term change in the environment with damaging consequences.
The word disaster connotes chance or risk, and risk is the probability of harmful consequences, or expected losses resulting from interactions between natural or man-made hazards and vulnerable condition. In the library environment, it is any incidence which threatens human safety and/or injuries, or threatens to damage a library’s buildings, collections (or items(s) therein), equipment and systems. It is derived from the Latin word for ‘evil star’, a metaphor for a comet, once thought to be a harbinger of some impending doom. While the word embodies a fatalistic view of the unavoidable or inexplicable nature of disaster, it also communicates a positive corollary: forewarned is forearmed (Toigo, 2003).  
“Disaster as any occurrence that causes damage, destruction, ecological disruption, loss of human life, human suffering, deterioration of health and health services on a scale sufficient to warrant an extraordinary response from outside the affected community or area”  (World Health Organization, 1998)Disasters are relative and contextual.
The damage caused by disasters is immeasurable and varies with the geographical location, climate and the type of the earth surface/degree of vulnerability. This influences the mental, socio-economic, political and cultural state of the affected area. A disaster may have the main features, such as unpredictability, unfamiliarity, speed, urgency, uncertainty, threat, etc.


Generally, disasters are of two types – Natural and Manmade. A natural disaster is a consequence when a natural calamity affects humans and/or the built environment. Human Disasters or Manmade disasters are those, which are caused due to human, intervene. Some of the disasters are listed below:
Natural disasters:  
  • Earthquakes
  • Fire
  • Flooding
  • Hurricanes & typhoons
  • Snow storms & avalanches
  • Tidal waves
  • Tornadoes & wind storms
  • Volcanic eruptions
Manmade disasters:
  • Accidental sprinkler activation
  • Biological contamination
  • Chemical spill
  • Civil disturbance & terrorism
  • Communication failure
  • Construction failure
  • Cooling/heating/ventilation system failure, etc
  • Electrical power failure
  • Electronic computer failure
  • Epidemics & plagues (a flu pandemic?)
  • Explosions
  • Fire
  • Gas leak
  • Hacking
  • Human error & carelessness
  • Nuclear disasters
  • Robbery
  • Sewage overflow
  • Strikes
  • Toxic fumes
  • Vandalism
  • War
  • Water overflows 
The scope of a disaster may be:
  • One room
  • One floor
  • One building
  • One organization
  • One community
  • One region
  • One nation
Knowing in advance that a disaster might happen provides one with the ability to prepare and mitigate its consequences (Muir and Shenton, 2002). Companies and institutions that plan for the possibility of a disaster – that implement preventive measures to avoid disaster and formulate strategies for recovering critical business in the wake of events that can be prevented – generally do survive disasters. 
It is important to note at this point that the world is changing at a very fast rate. Technology is changing and risks are involving and evolving. Because of these changes, the information professional/librarian are facing the task of adapting to these changes in order to prevent potential disasters from occurring where possible, and appropriately react to keep damages to a minimum. The importance of planning before a disaster is very necessary to minimize risks resulting from damages.


Disaster management is the combination of two major undertakings by an organization, the development of a disaster recovery plan and the implementation of those plans should the need arise.  Disaster management also includes broader management issues such as finance, risk assessment and training and should be considered a key area of library management.
Disaster Management Act 2005 define disaster management as a continuous and integrated process of planning, organizing, coordinating and implementing measures which are necessary or expedient for (1) prevention of danger or threat of any disaster (2) mitigation or reduction of risk of any disaster or its severity or consequences (3) capacity building (4) preparedness to deal with any disaster (5) prompt response to any threatening disaster situation or disaster (6) assessing severity or magnitude of effects of any disaster (7) evacuation rescue and relief and (8) rehabilitation and reconstruction.
Disaster management has moved to the forefront of library and archive concerns, due in part to the considerable increase of natural disasters in the past decade, but also because of the vast and varying collections of information in both physical and digital manifestations, that are the most valuable assets that many of these organizations possess. The planning and implementation of a disaster recovery plan must be understood by the entire organization that it is not a quick fix, it is not possible to extinguish the fires or contain the floods and quickly return to normal operations.  In the event of a disaster, there is a “ripple effect” that may require extraordinary efforts, resulting in suspended period before the status quo can be returned. 
A disaster management plan or disaster recovery plan is designed to prevent catastrophic damage from happening and ease the process of recovering from any damage that is incurred, enabling people to overcome the confusion and turmoil created by a disaster and providing pre-planned and rehearsed courses of action.


Disaster plans are systematic procedures that clearly detail what needs to be done, how, when, and by whom before and after the time an anticipated disastrous event occurs. Whatever one chooses to call it: Disaster planning or Disaster Management - the goals are ultimately the same:  to get an organization back up and running in the event of an interruption. The goal is to have some contingency plans in the event of a problem.  A disaster plan exists to preserve the organization so that it can continue to offer its services.  
A Disaster Plan is a clear concise document which outlines preventive and preparatory measures intended to reduce potential risks, and which provides details of reaction and recovery procedures to be undertaken in the event of a disaster to minimize its effect (Matthew, 2006). The development of a disaster planning is positive evidence of a duty of care for objects, collections and staff; it shows disaster control planning forms part of the risk management and overall operation of the entity' (Mansell, 2003). Therefore, it must not be just words on paper - it should be a framework on which good disaster management is practiced.
No matter how many guidelines are consulted or precautions are taken; the incidence of disasters in libraries can never be totally removed.' (Matthews and Eden, 1996). 'Any disaster, even a minor one, will cost time and money and cause other work to be delayed and possibly inconvenience users.
Good disaster management, whilst it can never totally prevent disasters occurring, will reduce their likelihood and enable the library to deal more efficiently and effectively with them' (Matthews and Eden, 1996). 
Disaster planning and policy making is a senior management responsibility. However staff can have input, by informing their supervisors of relevant information, by participating in preventive and preparedness activities, and by being disaster aware and on the lookout.


Library and information centres are the repositories for the records of a culture's existence. These records reflect the scholarly and creative efforts of a civilization as well as its social and historical interaction. They are a gift from the past to the future, collected in the hope that what we have thought, created, and discovered will be a source of pleasure and assistance for generations to come. The preservation of these fragile and sometimes tenuous links is the responsibility of those to whom their care has been given.
Importance of Libraries
  • Enabling forces for learning
  • Libraries Provide an Environment in which creativity is fostered
  • Center for Creation and Recreation of Academic Activities
  • Promotes Dissemination of Research
  • Enables Networking Between Researchers
  • Heart of an Academic Institution
  • Repository of Culture and Society
One of the greatest tragedies, which can befall a library and information centre is disaster. When the librarian accepts holdings into his repository, it implies taking the responsibility for their custody. All this may be jeopardized, if the library is damaged or lost because of a disaster. Viewed from the point of view of the library, a disaster can be anything or event, which directly or indirectly affects the normal administration of the library i. e. the disruption of, services to readers on either a short time or a long-time basis.
Natural events like earthquakes, flood, and volcanic eruption are termed disaster because of the effects they have on human beings as well as their normal way of occurrence. In addition, man-made events like fire, acts of war and terrorism, structural (building) deficiencies and chemical spills are termed disaster; because of their effects on materials and properties of the library. However, criminal acts, like book theft and mutilation are also termed as physical disasters.
History of Disasters in Libraries
It is very important to provide an historical perspective on disasters. Among one of the earliest noted incidents Xiang Yu, rebelling against Emperor Qin Er Shi, led his troops into Xianyang in 206 BC. He ordered the destruction of the Epang Palace (or Xianyang Palace) by fire. (Qin Shi Huang had ordered the burning of books and burying of scholars earlier.) The great library at Alexandra established in the third century BC, was destroyed by fire first in 47 BC, during the time of Julius Caesar and then finally in 373 AD.
The Library of Antioch library was burnt by Emperor Jovian in AD 364. It had been heavily stocked by the aid of his non-Christian predecessor, Emperor Julian. In AD 651 Books of Library of Ctesiphon were thrown into the Euphrates on the order of Caliph Umar. In 976 AD Library of al-Hakam II, all books consisting of "ancient science" were destroyed in a surge of ultra-orthodoxy. In 1029 Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni burned the Library of Rayy and all books deemed as heretical. Nalanda University complex (the most renowned repository of Buddhist knowledge in the world at the time) was sacked by Turkic Muslim invaders under Bakhtiyar Khilji in AD 1193; this event is seen as a milestone in the decline of Buddhism in India.
The Library of Congress was destroyed during the War of 1812 when British forces set fire to the US Capitol during the Burning of Washington. The 1966 Florence flood destroyed 2 million volumes of cultural objects in the Bibliotheca Nazionale Centrale. The fire at the library of the Nigeria Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Jos in 1988 arson by students destroyed books in the Nigeria Forestry Research Institute Library. Fire severally damaged the Cabildo in New Orleans in 1988; the Loma Prieta earthquake damaged several San-Francisco's area museums and libraries in 1989.
The Public Records Office of Ireland was burnt down during the 1992 civil war leading to the loss of Irish Cultural Heritage from the Middle Age to 1790. The devastating fire at Norwich City Library in 1994, showed how vulnerable collections are the great loss that can result. In November 1998, a tornado swept through Colombia destroying some records of the University of Missouri. In 1999, the invading force of Slobodan Milosevic systematically destroyed records pertaining to land, financial, citizenship and genealogical entitlements of the Albanian community in Kosovo.
On September 11, 2001, terrorists bombed the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon libraries in the United States of America, destroying records, books and other documentary materials. The National Library and Archives, a priceless treasure of Ottoman historical document including the Royal Archives of Iraq, were turned to ashes in 3,000 degrees of heat on 14th April, 2003 during the United State's invasion of Iraq. Several libraries of Iraq were looted, set on fire, damaged, and destroyed in various degrees during the 2003 Iraq War.
Several libraries, archives, and museums of India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Thailand, Sri Lanka were destroyed because of The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. Library of Egyptian Scientific Institute, Cairo was destroyed in December 2011 and only 30,000 volumes have been saved of 200,000. Many libraries were destroyed due to Hurricane Sandy in New York in November 2012 particularly in New York City, its suburbs, and Long Island. 
It can be said that large or small, natural or man-made disaster or emergencies put an institution's staff and collections in danger.
Possible Threats to Library and its Resources
The greatest threats to the collections are considered to be from fire and water. Physical damage is considered less likely. However, a worst-case scenario could involve all three hazards occurring simultaneously. The staff should be mindful of any signs of problems arising in these areas.
Fire: Books burn slowly. Paper chars and crumbles when handled. Smoke and soot discolour books not otherwise affected. Microforms and audio-visual materials can be completely destroyed or damaged beyond repair. Fire could originate from either external or internal sources. External sources include the risk of bush fire and lightning strikes. Internal risks of fire are ever-present with our widespread reliance on the use of electrical appliances, such as desk lamps, heaters, computers, power boards and other equipment within the collection buildings. Other possible sources of fire could include chemical spills.
Water: Paper absorbs water at different rates depending on the age, condition and composition of the material. Generally speaking books and manuscripts dated earlier than 1840 absorb water to an average of 80% of their original weight. Modern books, other than those made of the most brittle paper, absorb to an average of 60% of their original weight. Leather and parchment warp, wrinkle or shrink. The damage done to book covers may be irreparable. Water can cause gelatinization on parchment. After floods, mould rapidly begins to form in damp conditions. Audio-visual materials, photographs, microforms, magnetic media and other disks, are also vulnerable to water, and the damage depends on the type of the material, the length of exposure to water, its temperature, etc.
Physical Damage: Physical damage to the collection could arise from damage to the building (e.g. structural failure or storm damage) resulting in damage to the collection, or from unauthorized entry leading to theft or vandalism of Collection materials. Maintenance arrangements for all large trees in proximity to the buildings minimize the chance of damage to the building from a tree falling on it during a storm. Security arrangements at both sites minimize the risk of the unauthorized access. However, it should be noted that security arrangements are not fail-safe. Systems failure is always a possibility and people should be cautious of unauthorized people there also is the potential for the security system to fail if it is impaired in some way associated with the disaster.
Biological Agents: Materials may be eaten, soiled, stained and shredded.
E-disasters: E-disasters like virus in personal computers, server failure, network failure and website hacking are the modern disasters which hamper the normal functioning of the libraries. A disaster plan should include a detail information about the Systems Inventory (Hardware, Software) and list of cloud services library is using to store/create data.
Risk Assessment of Libraries
Major risks to the building and the collections of the libraries are:
External risks
  • Consider the library location, identify the potential industrial or natural hazards.
  • How close is the building to a chemical plant, or natural waterways, or bushland?
  • How safe is the building from natural disaster such as fire, flood, cyclone, and earthquake?
Internal risks
  • Are collections housed away from plumbing, mechanical and electric plants?
  • Are storage areas safe from leaks and flooding?
  • Are collections stored underground?
  • Are flammable materials such as solvents and paints appropriately stored away from collections?
  • Is there the backup of system/network settings ready to port to a new server in case of server/hardware failure?
  • Is there a battery backup for all the hardware of the library?
Is anti-virus protection is there in server, PC and laptops?


Disaster preparedness and security are vital to the preservation and protection of records and library. Disaster planning facilitates efficient and quick response to an emergency and security protects items against theft or deliberate or unintentionally damage and destruction.
For example, in case of fire disaster, there should be an abundance of fire extinguishers at appropriate places in the library and staff should be trained on how to handle them in putting out the fire. There is no doubt that disaster planning is complex and that the written plan is the result of a wide range of preliminary activities. However, the entire process is most efficient if it is formally assigned to one person, who acts as the disaster planner for the institution and is perhaps assisted by a planning team/committee.
The planner should establish a timetable for the project and define the scope and goals of the plan, which will depend largely on the risks faced by the Institution. When a member of the main library staff encounters an emergency, the first response should always be to contact the library's security office. When an emergency occurs, the staff will either contact public safety directly or the library's security office, depending on the nature of the emergency. When the libraries are closed, disaster will be detected from the outside; in which case, public safety will notify appropriate library staff, since it maintains a list of emergency contact personnel from the libraries.
A decision to undertake disaster planning is one of the most important a librarian can make to protect collections. Disasters occur much too frequently in libraries and archives resulting in extensive and costly damage which often could have been prevented or reduced. The instances of damage to collections, buildings, and equipment over the past twenty-five years are serious enough to convince even the most sceptical to initiate disaster planning as a top priority for sensible collection management. If it cannot be avoided, then the impact must be reduced by preparedness and informed recovery so that as much as possible is salvaged and restored.
The objective of disaster planning for libraries is:
  • To protect libraries materials to avoid a disaster by being pro-active to reduce possibility of a disaster & to reduce effects if a disaster happens
  • To expedite response and recovery efforts in an organized and systematic manner
Benefits of having a plan:
  • Fast response, avoid escalation
  • Prompt, SOP for pressurised situation
  • Resilience for absence of key personnel
  • Sound basis for decision-making
  • Avoids dithering / knee-jerking
  • Potential hurdles circumvented in advance
  • to maintain the institution’s ability to continue functioning during & after a major emergency
  • to reduce damage to collections
  • to decrease the amount of time it takes to implement disaster recovery procedures
Basic Elements of Preparing a Plan
Since a disaster plan must apply to the building and all its contents, including people, collections, records and equipment, it is highly desirable that the plan be prepared by a team rather than an individual. There are five main steps in preparing a disaster plan:
•    conducting a risk analysis
•    identification of existing preventive and preparedness procedures
•    making recommendations to implement additional preventive and preparedness procedures
•    allocating responsibilities
•    devising procedures to respond to and recover from disasters.

Every disaster has three phases: before, during and after. In the 'before phase', which corresponds to everyday routine operations, two types of plans should be in operation: preventive and preparedness. Preventive plans recommend actions that will prevent most disasters. They include recommendations such as the repair of leaking roofs, the improvement of maintenance and the upgrading of security. Preparedness plans are designed to ensure that identified disasters can be managed. They recommend actions such as the identification of important items in the collection, the purchase of plastic sheeting, the provision of freezing facilities and the training of staff to enable them to respond to a variety of disasters.

In the 'during phase' a response to the disaster must be made. The effectiveness of the response is governed by the thoroughness of the preparedness plan.

In the 'after phase' recovery plans are implemented. Due to the unique nature of every disaster, recovery plans can never be formulated in detail.
Elements in disaster plan
  • RISK ASSESSMENT – Identifying the dangers to the building and the collections
  • PREVENTION – Implementing measures to remove or reduce danger
  • PREPAREDNESS – Being ready by having identified resources, materials, services and procedures in place to deal with problems when they occur
  • RESPONSE – Knowing how to respond to minimise damage quickly and efficiently
RECOVERY –Knowing what to do to recover damaged material


Formulating a written plan is the most important step to take in preparing for disasters. The disaster plan should include, but not necessarily be limited to, the following steps.
1. Assign responsibility. While one staff member may have the main responsibility for organizing and updating the plan, a disaster team must be formed. Ideally, it should be composed of participants from a range of library backgrounds, including special collections and collection development. Other personnel in the organization—such as building maintenance staff, engineers, and security experts—should also be members of the team.
2. Do preliminary research. The disaster team can review articles about disaster planning and recovery, examine disaster plans from similar types of institutions, and attend pertinent workshops.
3. Set up liaisons with local emergency agencies. The team should contact community personnel such as local fire marshals. These people can then tour the library and see its layout and collections firsthand. In addition, state, county, and municipal emergency service agencies can help a library get a better idea of the area’s potential hazards, such as floods or earthquakes.
4. Establish goals and tasks for team members. Team members should be cross-trained to do other tasks in addition to their primary responsibilities. One person may be designated as the main contact on the team, and a chain of command determined. A comprehensive phone list is essential, including the home phone numbers of staff as well as contact information for local vendors of supplies and equipment, and service providers such as outside conservators and drying facilities.
5. Conduct a collection survey and determine salvage priorities. Once a determination is made of the contents of the collection, treatment priorities must be established based on factors such as the intrinsic and monetary value of the items, their importance to scholars and researchers, and any legal obligations of the institution.
6. Locate and assess potential hazards. A vulnerability assessment survey is essential to identify the types of emergencies that may occur, determine the probability of their occurrence, and judge how much of a danger each would pose to the continued operation of the institution.
7. Consider financial implications. The team should have an idea of how much money would be available in case of a disaster, and how and by whom it could be accessed. The institution’s insurance policy should be examined to determine whether the existing levels of coverage are adequate and to ascertain what procedures the insurer expects the institution to undertake following a disaster
8. Implement the plan. It is of utmost importance that the written disaster plan be easy to implement during a crisis. Instructions must be concise, clear, and comprehensive. Because no plan, no matter how well written, can anticipate every detail of every possible emergency, it should be flexible enough to allow for adjustments and improvisation. Staff must receive adequate training (and cross training) and should participate in frequent drills to ensure that skills are kept up-to-date.
9. Test, revise, and maintain the plan. It is imperative that the plan be updated regularly, whether or not a disaster has occurred. Names and contact information for pertinent staff, vendors, and suppliers may change frequently; new collections are acquired; buildings are modified; and new equipment may be installed. Even the most well written plan, if it is not up-to-date, will not be effective when a disaster hits


Where should disaster preparedness activities start? A successful disaster plan and staff training program not only teaches people what to do, but also how to remain calm. When people understand their roles and responsibility during an emergency, things fall into place much faster. Emergency preparedness is not simply having a disaster plan or manual, but rather it is a combination of written documents, training, raising awareness, conducting drills, rewriting or clarifying based on those drills, and ongoing training. This preparation process is conducted within the library, the larger institution, and within the community or region.
All preventive activities should be incorporated into the day to day operations of the institution. Once the disaster plan has been formulated it is important to decide how much time can be devoted to preparedness. A balance must be struck: disaster planning may prevent other essential operations, such as cataloguing, filing and user services, from being carried out. Too much time ought not to be spent on disaster planning activities: only enough for the institution to be adequately prepared.
A disaster plan is comprised of an introduction and statement of purpose, a statement outlining the scope of the plan, specific statements on the personnel with authority in regards to producing, implementing and activating the plan as well as coordinating with external entities, documentation of the distribution, review and updating of the plan.  It should also include sections devoted to actions taken during a disaster, emergency instructions, a contact list, preparations for disaster, instructions to be used if there is forewarning of disaster and outlines of disaster response, recovery and rehabilitation actions.


Disaster prevention is the first phase in disaster planning (prevention is better than cure) and the most important requirement in any planning exercise designed to counter the disaster threat. It involves identifying and minimizing risks posed by the building, its equipment and fittings, and the natural hazards of the area. Although risk can never be completely removed, many disasters that happen can be avoided. The term disaster prevention refers both to measures to prevent an event happening and to protective measures to prevent or limit exposure of the collection, buildings and equipment to the effects of an event should it occur. Staff needs to be aware of the risks and always be on the alert for evidence of water, high humidity, damp musty smells, mould, fire hazards, and any evidence of insect pests and rodents in collection areas. A regular building and equipment maintenance program is critical for disaster prevention. In disaster prevention, the following activities are important:
  1. Survey preservation needs
  2. Identifying emergency funds and insurance coverage
  3. Train staff in proper handling, repair and binding techniques
  4. Improve environmental conditions
  5. Protect computers and data through provision of uninterrupted power supply.Back up and store all data files off-site. 
  6. Preparing a first response action list
  7. Compiling up-to-date telephone list of staff and volunteers
  8. Purchasing and distributing in-house supplies
  9. Identifying sources of supplies, services and experts
     10.  Have comprehensive insurance for the library or archives, its contents, the cost of salvage operations, and potential replacement, re-binding and restoration of damaged materials.
     11.Writing an adequately specific Disaster Plan


Preparedness to any situation is essential in ensuring that one is able to respond adequately to it.  The purpose of being prepared is to enable an effective response when a disaster occurs, and this is typically achieved through a combination of documented plans, emergency supplies and staff training, supported by internal and external contact arrangements. Information and planning are the key to preparedness.
Preparedness involves:
  • Establishing the value of the collections, and infrastructure of the library for insurance purposes, and identify the most important material in priority order for salvage.
  • Ensuring that resources to deal with minor disasters are readily at hand. This need not be expensive, disaster cabinets or wheelie bins stocked with essential response materials should be centrally located and readily accessible. Disaster cabinets or bins should contain practical things that are needed to respond effectively such as; plastic sheeting, tape, scissors, mops, buckets, sponges, paper towels, torches and batteries.
  • An emergency cabinet is very useful in case of disaster and it should be kept fully stocked. Emergency cabinet contents are also desirable, so it should be kept the cabinets locked with a break glass tube lock for access in an emergency.
  • Additional resources locally and regionally should be identified. Resources include expert advice and help, access to equipment and freezer services, transport and workspace facilities, and additional recovery materials.
  • A disaster response structure with identified key personnel and responsibilities should be developed. Contact numbers should be update regularly; all key management staff should have a copy of this information.
  • Ensuring that key staff, know how to shut off services; electricity, gas, water                                     alarms and air conditioning systems. A copy of building and disaster plans and a set of master keys off site should be kept which should be readily accessible in an emergency.
  • Training of staff in appropriate response procedures should be done regularly, at least once a year. This should include use of the disaster cabinets and wheelie bins.  A one-page hand out for all staff on what to do when you discover a threat to collection material is very useful. This can be kept in a prominent place in the work area.
All of this information constitutes a disaster plan, and can be tailored to meet individual needs. Disaster planning must be reviewed and updated annually to remain relevant and workable.


The preparation process includes the actions taken for when or just in case disaster strikes. It provides the framework for response. Response is the implementation of the parts of the plan that are needed to meet the institution’s needs in the event of a disaster.
Common response to disaster is shock, confusion, and helplessness; however it doesn’t have to be like that. If staff is prepared, have taken appropriate preventive action, and have trained staff and resources library will be able to manage the situation. Disasters can be major or minor and this needs to be defined in the disaster plan, so that appropriate response action is taken. When appropriate, libraries security staff should take steps to limit potential damage while waiting for emergency personnel (public safety or physical plant) to arrive. Such steps include making sure that patron and staff are not in danger.
Safety of human beings comes before protection of library materials. Libraries' security staff themselves should not take unwarranted risks to save library materials. Eliminating the source of the problem is also an important step to take in an emergency.
The general steps for response include:
  • Follow established emergency procedures such as the one page handout described above. For a major disaster, senior management will activate the disaster response structure.
  • When the site is safe and permission is given to re-enter, the extent of damage needs to be assessed and an appropriate course of action determined. This will be done by collection managers in collaboration with members of the disaster response team.
  • Protect material from further damage using plastic sheeting, contain and mop up water and divert water to drains or other escape routes, eg down the stair well.
  • If necessary correct environmental conditions to prevent mould growth using fans and dehumidifiers.
  • Make a written and photographic record of events; this will be required for insurance purposes.
  • Seek expert advice on the recovery process for affected materials and prioritise materials for salvage with regard to the importance, extent of damage and nature of the materials.
  • List the resources needed including; manpower, recovery materials, expertise, facilities, transport arrangements and a work area and equipment.
It is better to be prepared in readiness for disasters that could occur in the library. Perhaps, the greatest threats to library collections are considered to be from fire and water, as physical damages such as earthquake, hurricane and tornado are not as common. However, a worst-case scenario could involve all three hazards occurring simultaneously. It is therefore important that library staff should be vigilant and mindful of any signs of problems arising in these areas.


The recovery process will depend on the size and nature of the disaster, the degree of damage and the priority and nature of affected materials. Maintaining services is also a consideration and recovery is not complete until things are back to normal. The disaster response team and collection managers are responsible for planning recovery procedures. For most materials this will include all aspects of drying, cleaning, sorting, discarding, rebinding, repairing, relabelling and replacing. During the recovery process, after the occurrence of a disaster, the salvaging of damaged items and property as well as the speedy re-establishment of services are the most important elements of disaster plan implementation.  Additionally, at this time a review of the disaster plan is recommended. 
Recovery is what is done to get back to delivering materials and services. Follow-through includes distribution of the plan and those parts of the process that are ongoing to assure that disaster preparedness remains a priority for the library. These include staff training activities and establishing collaborative relationships between the institution/city/county and emergency managers and first responders (e.g., fire, police).
Each disaster is different and something new can be learned each time. It is always worthwhile having a debriefing meeting with all those involved to discuss what worked well and what needs to be improved. It is also important that identified improvements be quickly incorporated in disaster planning.


From the foregoing, it is clear that no library can free itself from disaster of whatever forms whether natural or man-made. The saying that ‘misfortunes come on wings and depart on foot’ is very valid here. Disaster planning is becoming an essential component of the overall management plan for a library or archive. The importance of an effective disaster plan is regularly demonstrated in institutions which are strongly committed to their plans.
There is ample evidence to indicate that to be effective, a plan must be incorporated into the day-to-day management of an institution. A well thought out and presented plan is useless if it exists solely as a document on a shelf. It is, of course, humanly impossible to be fully prepared at all times for any danger that could conceivably strike our institutions. Nevertheless, we cannot abdicate our responsibilities as the guardians of our collections. We must realistically assess our vulnerabilities and familiarize ourselves with all the necessary steps to take in response to any emergency scenario we may be called upon to face.
There is no substitute for good advance preparation when it comes to disaster response. Time invested now in establishing an appropriate and effective plan will pay big dividends in ensuring the well-being of the collections entrusted to our care. It is important for all information professionals to put in place preventive measures. These measures should be well documented and communicated to all staff members. This will enable staff to take care of the building and its holdings, or if disaster strikes, the effects will be minimal. Disasters will then be a thing of the past. Preventive measures specific to computers should also be put in place. Indeed prevention is better than cure and, information professional who fails to plan, plans to fail.

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