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Team Profile: Library Collections Emergency Team

Team profiles spotlight groups across Harvard Library. In this Q&A, we spoke with Lauren Telepak and Priscilla Anderson, co-chairs of the Library Collections Emergency Team.

The Library Collections Emergency Team

Who they are:  Library Collections Emergency Team

  • Priscilla Anderson, co-chair, senior preservation librarian
  • Lauren Telepak, co-chair, collections conservator
  • Catherine Badot-Costello, book conservator for special collections
  • Katherine Beaty, book conservator for special collections
  • Brenda Bernier, James Needham Chief Conservator and Head of Weissman Preservation Center and Collections Care
  • Elena Bulat, photograph conservator for special collections
  • Liz Coffey, film conservator
  • Debra Cuoco, paper conservator for special collections
  • Nora Dempsey, associate collections conservator
  • Laurel Gildersleeve, associate film conservator
  • Irina Gorstein, conservator for special collections
  • Amanda Hegarty, conservator for special collections
  • Laura Larkin, Lake Conservator for special collections
  • Debora Mayer, Helen H. Glaser Conservator
  • Carie McGinnis, preservation librarian
  • Erin Murphy, senior photograph conservator
  • Alan Puglia, senior rare book conservator
  • Theresa Smith, paper conservator for special collections
  • Christopher Sokolowski, paper conservator for special collections
  • Elizabeth Walters, preservation librarian for audiovisual materials

Who’s on your team and what do they do?

Lauren Telepak: Our team is composed of 20 conservators and preservation librarians who provide 24/7 advice during a collections emergency (617-240-2500) along with on-site support. We have responded to many types of emergencies including plumbing malfunctions, roof leaks, vandalism, fire suppression, and floods.

Priscilla Anderson: During these events we coordinate and communicate with facilities, finance, administration and collections managers. When not in emergency mode, we offer salvage and response training to library staff. We set up a mock disaster outside of Lamont Library for staff to practice safety assessments, communicating with facilities managers, preventing further damage, and how to move collections out of harm’s way. 

What’s one project you’re working on right now?

Priscilla Anderson: Right now we are supporting libraries in benchmarking their preparedness efforts and improving their collections emergency plans.

What is an accomplishment that the team is most proud of?

Lauren Telepak: Over the past 17 years the team has responded to 117 collections emergencies, preventing potentially catastrophic damage to almost 200,000 collections items. Recently, we spent 48 hours supporting the salvage of a large special collection of unique photographic materials damaged by a burst water main. We carefully boxed fragile items and used the frigid outdoor temperature to flash freeze the boxes in the snow. The “all hands on deck” effort confirmed the value of having a large and well-trained response team.   

What is one big challenge your group is facing?

Priscilla Anderson: One challenge is making sure all library staff know to call our 24/7 emergency line (617-240-2500) as soon as they know collections are threatened by an emergency situation. 

 How do you feel your team impacts the Harvard Library community?

Lauren Telepak: We enable library staff to feel that they are supported and we help them prevent significant damage to collections. 

Article published on April 20, 2016.