Category Archives: Disaster planning

Never, Ever Tempt Fate

Remember a couple weeks ago when I mused that we might stack two folding tables on top of each other to dry twice the amount of books in the same footprint? I can report that it works really well.

Photo Aug 16, 3 48 10 PMWe found some additional damp books  from the disaster we had a couple weeks ago. Since the tables were still set up I decided to test my hypothesis. It worked really well. As you can see below I made sure there were plenty of fans to circulate the air around the top layer. The books are drying nicely and we can still move around this small space with relative ease.

Photo Aug 16, 3 47 41 PMThat said, I’m going to keep quiet the next time I mutter, “I wonder if this would work in the next disaster?”

Quick Pic: Double Decker Drying

File under, “Why didn’t I think of that before?”

Photo Aug 05, 9 15 56 AM
Pro-tip: Use folding tables stacked two-high for drying wet books with a more compact footprint.

This morning I stacked two of our folding tables on top of each other to allow the tops to dry before putting them away. It occurred to me we could have created this two-tiered drying table to dry the wet books we got this week. We could dry the same number of books using half the floor space. Alternatively, we can dry twice as many books on the same footprint if we had four tables, in two stacks of two. I need to remember this for next time. I think it would work as long as you were sure there was enough air flow around all the tables. Am I the last person to come up with this?

A Conservator’s Nightmare

I grew up in Dayton, Ohio. You don’t grow up in that city without knowing two things: the Wright Brothers invented the airplane there and thus Dayton was “first in flight”  (sorry North Carolina); and the city suffered a devastating flood in March of 1913. The Great Miami River flooded downtown Dayton killing almost 400 people and displacing tens of thousands. You can still see remnants of the high water mark if you look closely at the historic buildings that survived.

1913 Flood Damage at the Library

Damage to the main library in Dayton during the 1913 flood.
Image from Dayton Metro Library Local History Flickr page.

Floods and disasters are never far from a collection conservator’s mind. Just a couple weeks ago the entire American Institute for Conservation’s annual conference was on the topic of disasters. Even our own lab has been flooded during the Rubenstein Library renovation. All this is to say stuff happens, and we always seem to think about it.

Which brings me to my very true story. The other night I had a nightmare that seemed to combine just about every worst-case-scenario event that could happen to a conservator. The scene: the conservation lab. I am in my office and I hear a loud noise above my head. All of a sudden out of the ceiling comes a huge circular saw and it is cutting through my office walls sort of like how Bugs Bunny cut Florida off from the United States.

“No one told me we were under construction,” I said to myself.  At the same time, there is water coming from everywhere as if a live water pipe had been cut. It’s coming up fast and we are scrambling to get things out of the way. While all of this is happening, I am trying to conduct a tour through the lab. I said under my breath, “This is about three times the number of people Development told me would be here,” but I carried on because that is what we do, right?  I was trying to ignore what was happening around me and get the thirty or so people on the tour to focus on the amazing projects that my conservators were working on. Needless to say, it didn’t go very well. The last thing I remember is thinking, “How will I represent this on our statistics.” Then I woke up.

What does it all mean? Have you had conservation nightmares?

It’s Hurricane Preparedness Week!

Hurricane Floyd hits the East coast in 1999. Courtesy Earth Observatory website. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/FloydIntro/

This week is Hurricane Preparedness Week. Don’t be fooled, just because your institution is inland doesn’t mean you can’t be affected by hurricanes. The remnants of large storms can move inland for hundreds or thousands of miles causing flooding and spawning tornadoes. Hurricane Fran hit landfall at Bald Head Island on September 5, 1996. It’s 115 mph winds carried inland and dumped 8.8 inches of rain in Durham, the highest recorded rainfall at the time. You can still see the remnants of the damage of Fran in some areas of Durham.

The 2016 hurricane prediction forecast is for a very active year. If you didn’t review and update your disaster plan on May Day or during Preservation Week, now is the time. At the very least, update your institutional phone tree and make sure your vendor contacts are updated.

If you have more time to devote to preparedness, check out NEDCC’s D-Plan, a free disaster planning site that allows you to customize your plan to your institution. NEDCC also has a good handbook for developing a  community based disaster response called Coordinated Statewide Emergency Preparedness (CoStEP).

We have written before about useful apps for disaster situations. Downloading these now could help you during an emergency situation. There is also a lot of disaster preparedness and recovery information online. Be a good consumer and start with trusted sources such as the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC), the North Carolina Preservation Consortium (NCPC), or the American Institute for Conservation (AIC).

 

 

 

 

There’s An App For That

I am always on the hunt for useful tools. The other day I had a large number of books and I needed to record the bar codes and transfer them into an excel file. I don’t have a laptop at work, but I do have an iPad. I searched the app store and found “Bar-Code.” It looked like it would do what I needed so I downloaded it. Within a couple of minutes my project was underway.

First, I scanned each bar code with the iPad camera:

photo 1

Each bar code is scanned as an image and is transcribed on the right-hand column.

photo 2

When you are done, you have the choice of what to do with the data. I chose to email the list to myself so I could put it easily into an Excel file.

photo 3

Using this app beat writing down all the bar code numbers and retyping them into a spreadsheet when I got back to my office. It saved a lot of time. The free version, which I used, does not save the data once you email it. I believe the paid version of this particular app will allow you to save your data.

I think this app, or a similar one, could be very useful during a disaster situation when you needed to track items going offsite for freezing. You could scan each item going into a crate, then send each crate’s inventory to yourself as an email. I think I would make each crate a separate email in case the network or app crashed unexpectedly. I would hate to record hundreds of bar codes then have the network crash or an email not go through for some reason.

What apps have you found useful in your preservation or conservation duties and how have you used them? Please share ideas in the comments section.

Water, Water Everywhere

Construction crew helps remove supplies.
Construction crew helps remove supplies.

Our Facebook and Twitter followers will know that we had a construction-related water leak in the lab last week that effectively closed our services except for responding to emergencies or rush requests. We were extremely lucky that no one got hurt and no collections got damaged thanks to the quick action of the lab staff.

The leak occurred in our photo documentation and supply rooms. The construction crew had to cut out the baseboards to get air into the walls. They also pulled up the cork floor in the two rooms to facilitate drying. We have had several industrial dehumidifiers and blowers going since last Wednesday but the cork floor is still wet in places. Hopefully it will be dry enough by next week to get the repairs underway.

Besides the noise, the worst part has been the fact that all of our photo equipment and supplies had to be evacuated to the main lab. It’s a bit maze-like trying to get around the room, and finding supplies is a hunt-and-peck endeavor. Conservation work continues but it has slowed down considerably and will remain so until our space is back to normal. We ask for everyone’s patience while we work through the recovery.

supplies in lab 3
Panorama shot of supplies in main lab (click to enlarge).

The big lesson I learned is that it takes a village to respond and recover from even a small disaster. The construction company has been extremely helpful in coordinating the dry-out. Our colleagues in the Digital Production Center helped with the initial response. Staff from Shipping & Receiving were on hand to help vacuum water. Housekeeping has helped move trash. There are many more to thank for coming to our aid. We were lucky, it could have been much worse. And I now have clean, dry socks in my disaster kit.

 

Hello Andrea! aka Welcome Hurricane Season

radarHurricane season officially started June 1st and runs through November 30th. Today the first named storm, Andrea, hit the North Carolina coast as a tropical storm and its rain stretched into Durham. We are supposed to get over four inches of rain, and yet we are still in a moderate drought. Go figure.

With all this rain it’s a good time to talk about disaster preparedness. There are many free apps for Android, iPhone and Blackberry devices that would be useful in a disaster.

The Red Cross has several mobile apps, including ones that will track weather warnings including hurricanes, flood advisories and tornado warnings. They also have apps for earthquakes, first aid, wildfires, and a shelter tracker. All useful information when you need it.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has developed a mobile app with maps, recovery and safety tips, and information on building a disaster kit. It also has interactive lists for storing your emergency contact list and meet-up locations.

ems
Disaster Wheel in app form.

Heritage Preservation has created a mobile app based on its popular Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel. It outlines the steps to take in a disaster from “safety first” to “documentation,” and includes recovery information based on the type of materials effected. While the actual wheel seems more useful, this first version is pretty good and would be helpful if your paper copy floated away.

Of course all of these work best if you have power for your phone. You might consider putting a hand-cranked emergency radio/cell phone charger. I’m putting two of these on my Amazon wish list, one for my disaster kit at work, one for home use.

Oh, and do you have a clean change of clothes and dry socks in your disaster kit?

Happy Monday (or, How Your Day Can Change With One Email)

I had big plans to get a lot done today, then I read my email. Overnight we had a leak on the fourth floor. Luckily (?!) a student was sitting right there when it happened, so the overnight staff was alerted quickly and sprang into action.

Photo 4
Water is diverted into trash cans, the shelving is draped and we have a fan going to help move the air and dry things out.

Shortly after arriving on scene, our head of Shipping & Receiving told me he discovered the problem: a roof hatch was accidentally left open and the pooled water leaked from the mechanical room on the fifth floor to the fourth level where it founds its way out into the stacks.

Photo 2
At least it was a gentle spring rain and not a torrential summer downpour!

Nothing was damaged, which is kind of amazing considering the ceiling tile fell down and there is about three inches of water in that large trash can. Our thanks goes out to:

  • The anonymous student who happened to be studying in that very spot and who alerted staff to the problem (I wish I knew who you were!).
  • Library staff, Annette, Stephanie and Stephen for their quick response.
  • Charles and Pat from Shipping who helped identify the problem.
  • Lester from Facilities who came this morning to fix the problem.
  • Donny from Housekeeping who helped clean up the water.
  • Jennifer from Conservation for help with draping more plastic this morning, and for re-ordering supplies for the disaster closet.

Hopefully I’m not forgetting anyone, if I am, thank you! Disaster response is truly a team effort and it is so heartening to see our team work together.

Photo 7
The reflection of the open hatch in a puddle of water. It’s kind of beautiful, no?

1091 Project: Training, Not Just For Athletes

Welcome to the 1091 Project, a collaborative blogging endeavor between the conservation labs at Duke University Libraries and Iowa State Libraries. Today we are highlighting the kinds of training we do that supports the long-term preservation of our materials.

Care and Handling Training

Conservation Services provides training in both informal and formal ways. We are often contacted by Technical Services for advice on proper handling or housing procedures for fragile materials. Sometimes we get a call from the reading room requesting our help to show a patron how to turn fragile pages or unfold brittle documents.

Care and Handling Training (2009)

Conservation offers annual Care and Handling sessions for staff and student assistants. We usually offer multiple sessions in multiple locations to catch as many people as possible. For those unable to attend we put PDF’s of the handouts and Power Point slides on our intranet site (Duke NetID required).

In these sessions participants learn how to identify damaged materials and what the process is to send them to Conservation. We also demonstrate proper handling techniques such as shelving spine down, how to safely remove books from the shelf, and packing book trucks and mail bins for transport. Because of the current renovation projects we may not be able to offer on-site training this year. To that end, I’ve updated our handouts and Power Point presentations and will make sure student supervisors know where to find them.

New Directions

We are investigating the use of short videos as a fresh and fast way to get information to our patrons, staff and students. This is our first video in the series. What do you think? What sorts of videos would you want to see or show to your patrons?

Other Training
We do a lot of other training, too:

  • We participate in the disaster preparedness and recovery training sessions offered by the Preservation Department.
  • We work with the staff in the Digital Production Center and the Internet Archives to make sure they are comfortable handling fragile materials during digitization. Sometimes we will actually help during imaging for particularly fragile or delicate items.
  • We train our Conservation student assistants and volunteers on how to repair materials and make enclosures.We couldn’t be successful without them!
  • We train ourselves, too. Each month before our staff meeting we hold a Tips Session. If we discover a neat tool, or come up with a creative solution to a problem, we demonstrate it to the entire lab staff. These session are fun, fast and foster a lot of conversation and brain storming.

Let’s go see what training Parks Library Preservation does. Please share your training regimen or ideas for videos in the comments.