(Research Collections, Libraries, Archives Conservation Task Force)

(Co-sponsored with NEDCC)

D. van der Reyden, CAL, 4/26/93

Thirty-two participants attended the session, which consisted of three lectures, as follows:

Lecture 1) morning lecture by Office of Risk Management Disaster Preparedness Co-ordination Pat Terry on the "SI Master Disaster Plan" (following a viewing of the Disaster Response Truck)

Lecture 2) noon lecture by SIL Head Book Conservator Janice Stagnitto on the "Library Emergency Action Plan (LEAP)" SIL is developing

Lecture 3) afternoon lecture by the North East Document Conservation Center (NEDCC)'s Karen Motylewski, Director of Field Service, on "General Aspects of Disaster Preparedness Planning for Museums."

Lecture 1)
The first lecture served as an overview of various aspects of disaster management under the broad umbrella of the SI Master Disaster Plan. It started with a viewing of SI's newly outfitted Disaster Response Truck, with commentary by Pat Terry on supplies (blotters, bubble wrap, conservation kits, etc.). In the lecture following the viewing Pat clarified several points, including the fact that there is no funding to replenish the supplies once they are utilized for an emergency. Among other things, she noted that her program for disaster training will start with training in the use of the truck for small groups of individuals representing key teams in various facilities; that NASM has developed a model plan which could be customized for the other museums; and that it is important that prioritization of collections be undertaken within each museum in order to determine what should be targeted first in an emergency.

Lecture 2)
The second lecture focused on one aspect of disaster management for one type of collection (e.g. the salvage of library materials), detailing the development of a plan, by one facility (SIL), which could serve as a model for others. Janice Stagnitto outlined some of the principles behind the LEAP program, such as the need to organize teams in such a way that each member has only one simple function to carry out, so simple as to preclude the need for extensive prior training. Decision making could be done by persons with substantial training and action by persons with less training. For instance, one person could remove artifacts from shelves, a second could decide which were stable and should be temporarily stored elsewhere, which would need interventive attention eventually, and which would need attention immediately. "Runners" could carry the artifacts to sites where one of these three things were being done. Location of priority collections could be signified by numbers or colors placed on shelves. Training may begin with 10 key staff members. A poster directing what to do if staff or others stumbled upon an emergency situation might also be designed.

Lecture 3)
Karen Motylewski noted that a pan-institutional disaster plan should determine the types of disasters to which an institution is most vulnerable (e.g. which "loud" disasters such as tornado, earthquake, fire, hurricane, or flood, or which "quiet" disasters such as loss of entire collections from of on-going, if unchecked, deterioration from poor storage and handling). Such a plan should also categorize the scope or scale of disaster it is addressing (e.g. a few wet books vs rooms of deteriorating material); and should emphasize "loss control" (e.g. what collections can the institution afford to lose if resources can save only part of the collections; how best to maximize benefits with minimum resources). She recommended that an advisory committee be formed to consider the implications of a plan comprised of the following parts or phases:

1) prevention/protection (proper environmental and housing materials and techniques for storage and display)

2) response (redundancy, individualized)

3) salvage (remove collections from dangerous environments)

4) restoration (determining triage based on informational or artifactual value of collections)

5) recovery (interventive treatment of vulnerable collections, e.g. coated book stock, photographs)

Karen focused on parts 1 and 2 for this lecture. To initiate a prevention/protection program, she recommend essentially a phased approach. First, an assessment survey should be undertaken to identify hazards caused by internal problems, environmental problems, security problems, etc. Second, the risk of hazards should be controlled or reduced by the installation of protection devices. During a response action, care should be taken to insure that personnel gets periodic breaks to relieve stress. To insure adequate supplies, general supplies such as protective enclosures, buckets, sponges, drop cloths, etc. should be secured against pilfering by wrapping packages so that seals will be broken if the packages are opened, and by doing a periodic inventory (locking can cause problems with access when the supplies are actually needed). The importance of staff awareness, monitoring, and redundancy were emphasized. Salvage operations could be consistent with those outlined by SIL's LEAP program, discussed previously by Janice Stagnitto. Restoration and recovery might best be organized by an institution's collections specialists and conservators.

Karen suggested that the planning process be set in motion by identifying and assigning responsibility to someone to prepare a draft; educating the advisory committee; defining the scope of the project and establishing goals and timetables; and developing a reporting schedule. This is followed by action to assess the character and needs of the collection and to prioritize it on the basis of value, use and risk; to identify problems and hazards; and to develop resource estimates for personnel, supplies, time and cost budgets. This is followed by intervention to reduce risks.

The draft plan is then distributed for review and revision; a telephone tree is developed; anticipated resources must be confirmed; salvage guidelines are assembled; staff is trained; the plan is reviewed and updated annually.