Driving Lesson for Library Disaster Planning: Slow and Steady Gets You There!

Beth McGowan, PhD, MLIS, Northern Illinois University

Over the course of the summer, there have been several 500-year floods in Louisiana, record fires in California, and extreme heat all over the East Coast that led to power outages in New York City. Hurricane season is here as well as the standard Midwestern woes of spring tornados. The number and kinds of disaster that can hit any institution are legion. So, libraries all need to be ready to care for their collections in the event of a disaster.

The CARLI Preservation Committee’s latest motto is ″Slow and steady wins the Preservation Race″! This is the second year of applying this method/motto. Last year the Committee took on Audiovisual Preservation. This year, the Committee’s focus will be on Disaster Planning. This topic was decided upon in response to the five major needs revealed by the CARLI membership in the 2015 CARLI Preservation Survey:   

  • Disaster Planning
  • Preservation Planning and Assessments 
  • Digital Preservation
  • Preservation of Audio-Visual materials
  • Staff training

The Committee realized that it could not adequately address each of these topics over the course of a single year. So, over the course of last year the Committee chose one -- Audiovisual Preservation – and explored a variety of subtopics, followed two institutions’ attempts to work through an Audiovisual Preservation plan, and wrote blogs that culminated in a final website.

This year, the Preservation Committee will use this same format (minus case studies) to address another need revealed by that same 2015 CARLI Preservation Survey. This is a list of topics about Disaster Planning you can look forward to in the months to come:

While the CARLI Preservation Committee has frequently sponsored one day workshops on recovering from a fire disaster, that type of disaster is a less likely form of disaster than many others, so the committee will examine disasters more common to the Midwest.

  • Explore the multiple elements of a disaster plan and resources    
  • Outline of the actual nuts and bolts of a plan  
  • Discuss what elements of a disaster response should be managed in-house   
  • Present tools an in-house response will require
  • Address techniques of rescue for a variety of materials
  • List the kinds of vendors your library should be in contact.
  • Summarize what was learned over the year

Finally, the Committee will convert all individual articles into a webpage for a single place of reference for a variety of issues on Disaster Planning.

Please follow the process of the Preservation Committee as it works through what is necessary to successfully combat a library disaster on the front lines by planning ahead.

Continue to the next article: Watch Out for Midwest Disasters 

Return to Disaster Planning