Recovering Personal Collections

Checklist for first response to an emergency affecting materials not owned by the Harvard Libraries

It is important to respond quickly when books, papers, photographs, films, and audiovisual media are damaged. Immediate action taken during the first 24 hours makes it more likely that damaged items can be salvaged. In the event of an emergency that threatens materials typical of those found in libraries, take the following steps:

Step 1 – Make everyone safe.

Take appropriate measures to protect the lives and health of everyone involved. For information about safety during emergencies, see the American Red Cross web page Recovering After a Disaster.

Step 2 – Notify appropriate emergency response personnel.

Depending upon the type of emergency, call the designated emergency response agencies for assistance, e.g., fire department, police department, EMTs.

Step 3 – Make a rapid assessment of the emergency situation.

If possible and safe to do so, assess the source of the danger to "library materials" and the extent of the damage.

Step 4 – Protect the "library materials" from further damage.

If possible and safe to do so, take appropriate steps to protect the "library materials," e.g., cover them with plastic sheeting or move them to a safe location. Remove the threat, e.g., repair the plumbing leak.

Step 5 – Stabilize the environment.

If possible:

  •     Lower temperature below 65 degrees F
  •     Lower relative humidity below 35%
  •     Move air gently through affected areas to forestall a mold outbreak
  •     If mold is present, seek professional help for abatement

Step 6 – Seek professional advice about salvaging the items involved.

Northeast United States



     Contact: Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC)

     100 Brickstone Square

     Andover, MA 01810-1494

     (978) 470-1010





Mid-Atlantic United States





    Contact: The Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA)

    264 South 23rd Street

    Philadelphia, PA 19103

    (215) 545-0613





Southeast United States





    Contact: LYRASIS

    1438 West Peachtree Street, NW

    Suite 200

    Atlanta, GA 30309-2955

    Toll Free: (800) 999-8558





Midwestern United States





    Contact: The Midwest Art Conservation Center (MACC)

    at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

    2400 3rd Avenue South

    Minneapolis, MN 55404

    (612) 870-3120





Southwestern United States





    Contact: Amigos Library Services, Inc.

    14400 Midway Road, Suite 200

    Dallas, Texas 75244-3509

    Toll Free: (800) 843-8482





Western United States





    Contact: Balboa Art Conservation Center (BACC)

    P.O. Box 3755

    San Diego, CA 92163-1755

    (619) 236-9702