- Disaster Planning: A How-To-Do It Manual for Librarians, with Planning Templates on CD-ROM
Thinking about the unthinkable is difficult. No responsible librarian wants to envision the collections in his or her charge growing fuzzy with mold or lying sodden, charred, or crushed on the floor. Given twenty-first century vulnerabilities to both natural and man-made disasters, however, responsible librarians cannot avoid the imperative to brace themselves and their libraries against possible catastrophes. Disaster Planning enables librarians not only to think about the unthinkable but also to prepare for it.
Authors Deborah D. Halsted, Richard P. Jasper, and Felicia M. Little recommend an 11-step planning process which includes assembling a response team, assessing risk, establishing disaster communications, taking financial precautions, securing the building, stocking disaster supplies, developing an evacuation plan, and understanding [End Page 124] both the familiar threats of nature such as floods and fires as well as the unknown menaces of terrorism and attacks on computer networks, and formulating and maintaining a plan for coping with them. In the second of four chapters, which comprises approximately 40 percent of the book, they describe various types of disasters and the problems that can accompany each of them. Concerning each catastrophe, the authors suggest precautions to take before, during, and after the event, concluding with a section on "putting it all together," which reinforces key points. No library is vulnerable to all potential disasters, but every library is at risk for some of them. Although they recognize that "many disasters lead to other disasters" (p. 44), the authors leave it to librarians to prepare themselves for the string of catastrophes that might occur sequentially.
Much of the advice is familiar, but here it is presented clearly and readably. A particularly strong section is the one pertaining to mold abatement, which provides step-by-step instructions. One minor concern is the often-repeated suggestion that moldy books might be stored in the commercial freezer of a grocery store or university food service. Librarians who have attempted to find freezer accommodations for wet or moldy books have reported that most food-service providers will not even consider the possibility. Overall, however, the advice is practical and feasible.
Taken together, these two chapters constitute the "how-to" of disaster preparedness. Among their most valuable features are the frequent sidebars that present excerpts from various libraries' disaster response plans and the first-hand experiences of librarians who have had to respond. At California State University, Northridge, for example, an earthquake occurred in the early morning on a university holiday during intersession. Associate Dean Susan E. Parker points out that, although most disaster plans assume that library personnel are at hand, they may not be. All eventualities must be considered.
The remainder of the book is an annotated directory of reference sources. Chapter 3 lists Web sites of agencies, businesses, and organizations that can assist with recovery. Having a list conveniently at hand can be very useful, especially in an emergency when the power is off for days and the computer will not work (telephone numbers are included, in case the phones continue to operate). In the final chapter additional resources such as a disaster plan template and a prevention checklist are provided. Finally, an easy-to-use CD provides templates for drafting a disaster plan and creating a Web site that contains the information needed in a recovery effort.
Tropical storm Allison inundated Houston with 14 inches of rain during four days in June 2001, demonstrating some of the risks that can accompany a natural disaster. The authors, who are employed at the Houston Academy of Medicine–Texas Medical Center Library and participated in recovery efforts, observed the inadequacy of the library's preparations to deal with the ensuing flood that brought more than three feet of water. Three months later, the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC, included libraries...