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Preservation Services
Recovery of Harvard Library Collections

Checklist for first response to an emergency


In the event of an emergency that threatens library collections, take the following steps:Step 1 – Make sure staff members are safe.Take appropriate measures to protect the lives and health of all staff members, including your own.Step 2 – Make a rapid assessment of the emergency situation.If possible and safe to do so, quickly assess the source of the danger to the collections and the extent of the damage.Step 3 – Notify, or verify notification of, people and programs that are designated to respond in an emergency.

  • Facilities
    • If you do not receive a response from Facilities, call the University Operations Center (617) 495-5560.
  • Library Administration
  • Library’s local Emergency Response Team

Step 4 – Protect the collections from further damage.If possible and safe to do so, take appropriate steps to protect the collections, e.g., cover them with plastic sheeting.Step 5 – Notify LCET (Harvard Library-wide Library Collections Emergency Team).

  • LCET Cell Phone (617) 240-2500.
  • Alternatively, during business hours, call the Weissman Preservation Center: (617) 495-8596 or Collections Care: (617) 496-2403.

Step 6 – Work with Facilities staff members to stabilize the environment.

  • Lower temperature below 65 degrees F
  • Lower relative humidity below 35%
  • Move air gently through affected areas

Step 7 – Do a comprehensive assessment of damage to the collection(s).Identify the types of materials damaged, and estimate quantities:

  • Bound volumes
  • Unbound paper
  • Microforms
  • Photographic prints and negatives
  • Videotape, audio tape
  • Motion picture film
  • Other

Identify the nature of the damage, e.g., materials might be:

  • Damp
  • Wet
  • Smoke damaged
  • Fire damaged
  • Dirty
  • Contaminated by bacteria or other dangerous substances

Photograph affected areas.Step 8 – Determine if an outside commercial response service is required.Library’s administration, in consultation with LCET (HL-wide Library Collections Emergency Team), determines if the type or amount of collection damage exceeds the Library’s capability to respond.Step 9 – If an outside service is required, arrange for purchase of services.Library’s administration contacts the appropriate offices:

  • Financial services
  • Insurance office

Step 10 – If an outside service is not required, implement salvage activities.Library’s local Emergency Response Team should, in consultation with LCET (HL-wide Library Collections Emergency Team):

  • Gather supplies
  • Remove damaged collections to a safe location
  • Salvage damaged items

Step 11 – Keep detailed records.Record:

  • Areas/ranges affected
  • Items affected
  • Locations of items being salvaged
  • Salvage methods