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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 – 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 4 – Notify, or verify notification of, people and programs that are designated to respond in an emergency.

  •     Library Administration
  •     Facilities
  •     Library’s local Emergency Response Team

Step 5 – Notify LCET (Harvard Library-wide Library Collections Emergency Team).

  • LCET Cell Phone (617) 240-2500.
  • If you do not receive a response from LCET within 10 minutes, call the University Operations Center (617) 495-5560.
  • 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.

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