Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Disaster Planning and a Guide to Recovery Resources

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Disaster Planning and a Guide to Recovery Resources

Article excerpt

Early attention to disaster planning is vitally important. But because of the amount of information that has to be gathered and organized; the requirement for staff training that the planning will reveal; the need for upgrading the physical plant that may be required; and the amount of money that it all will cost, the adage "haste makes waste" is particularly applicable. That, however, does not mean procrastination is admissible.

High Level Support

Disaster prevention and recovery plans should be approved and promulgated by a person at the highest level of authority in the library. When approving a disaster recovery plan that person should include the following in writing: "When it is necessary to implement this disaster recovery plan (or any part of it) all decisions made and directives issued by the head of a disaster recovery team will be understood to be direct orders from (the person approving the plan)."

Planning Teams

Some libraries have a single plan for disaster prevention and recovery. Larger establishments may have two (one for disaster prevention and the second for recovery) with separate teams for each responsibility. Regardless of how it is done, teamwork is essential in every aspect of disaster planning because no single individual could possibly be sufficiently well informed in all of the technical, curatorial, and administrative matters that must be considered in the planning process. A person with considerable seniority and management experience should be designated "Disaster Control Coordinator." That person should also be responsible for organizing and coordinating the planning team(s); keeping the team(s), top level management, and all members of the staff (professional or otherwise) informed on the latest developments in disaster control; cooperating with the local police and fire departments and other outside agencies in regard to security and fire safety; and cooperation with other records keeping establishments in regard to mutual support.

The other members of the planning team(s) should be identified by job description rather than by name primarily because in most establishments job descriptions usually remain fixed, whereas the identity of the people filling those jobs will often change.


The objectives of disaster planning are to (1) try to anticipate library misfortunes and the probable effect on collections and buildings in which the collections are housed, and (2) devise means to prevent or minimize the damage. Another purpose is to obtain a reasonably accurate idea of the manpower and service assistance from outside that salvage operations will require. That will make it possible for the planning team to make advance arrangements with vendors of services whose skills and expertise might be required.


It should be assumed in planning for disaster prevention and disaster recovery that it can and probably will happen to you. And it must be understood that every library or other records holding establishment is unique and requires its own disaster plans based on:

1. the external threats by natural causes in its own

geographical area

2. the vulnerability of the institution's building because

of its age and type of construction

3. the nature and size of the collections

4. the number and experience of the staff.

Basic Guidance

Adopting a disaster plan that was prepared for another establishment by typing a new title page and making some minor changes in the text would be foolhardy. However, that does not preclude an in-depth study of the published literature on the subject in order to benefit from the experience of others who have been through the ordeal.

The literature on the causes of disasters; the effect of those calamities on libraries, archives, and records centers; disaster prevention and disaster recovery planning; and salvage guidance is well covered in Toby Murray's copious and frequently updated disaster bibliography. …

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