Disaster Response and Planning for Libraries

By Forrest, Dan | Library Resources & Technical Services, October 2005 | Go to article overview

Disaster Response and Planning for Libraries


Forrest, Dan, Library Resources & Technical Services


Disaster Response and Planning for Libraries. By Miriam B. Kahn. Chicago: ALA, 2003. 152p. $40 softbound, ALA members $36 (ISBN 0-8389-0837-3).

Disaster Management for Libraries and Archives. Ed. Graham Matthews and John Feather. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2003. 236p. $79.95 hardbound (ISBN 0-7546-0917-0).

Disasters are by their nature unpredictable. This makes the content of these two works even more important for librarians today in a time of extremes (of weather and manmade problems) and tight budgets. A disaster plan is, as the cliche states, like a parachute. We hope never to have to use one, but it is better to have one and not need it than to need one and not have it. This pair of books offers many valuable insights into the disaster planning and recovery processes.

Both of these works emphasize the importance of having a disaster plan in place. During a crisis is no time to be making decisions that could affect one's institution for years to come. It is much easier to establish recovery criteria for collections and to delegate responsibilities before anything happens that would require their use. A well-trained and informed staff is able to react more quickly and efficiently to any situation as it arises. An effective disaster plan will also facilitate dealing with vendors, insurers, and helpful colleagues at other institutions.

Disaster Response and Planning for Libraries provides clear instructions for creating a disaster plan for an institution and responding to a disaster after it occurs. Many forms and checklists are included in the book for quick reference. The author breaks the process down into four steps: response, recovery, prevention, and planning. Response covers the period immediately after the disaster. This section contains much detailed information on the cleaning and repair of books and other library materials damaged by water, fire, or other factors. Recovery concerns the long-term return of the library to its former level of service: replacement of lost or damaged materials, renovation and reconstruction of facilities, and so on. Included in an appendix is a thorough list of businesses and organizations that can be of help in a crisis. Prevention deals with the issue--all too easy for busy library managers to forget--of maintaining a safe and healthful workplace. Some of the suggestions included are obvious (like potential fire hazards), others less so (like damage incurred during a renovation project). If your library does not have a disaster plan, or if you would like to be sure it is as thorough as it ought to be, Disaster Response and Planning for Libraries is the book for you.

Disaster Management for Libraries and Archives is an effective complement to the previous work. International in scope, it contains chapters dealing with the physical and emotional effects of disasters as well as case studies written by veterans of these events. These sections provide some of the most compelling portions of the book.

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