We are slowly getting back to a “new normal” for the lab. Lab staff have returned on a two-day-on/three-day-off weekly schedule to allow for social distancing. We have new lab cleaning protocols in place for shared equipment, we are wearing masks, and we are figuring out how to navigate the building to avoid people as much as possible. We have also brought back the work we took to the secure stacks while we were away.
Our current priority is to do repairs to support the Library’s “digital first” initiative. This means we are prioritizing repairs for digital imaging requests from faculty and patrons for the fall semester. We are also working on some exhibit prep and general collections repair. It feels really good to be back in the office and at the bench, even if it is for a shortened week.
Preservation Week and May Day both happen this week. It is a good time to update your disaster plan or do one other thing to better prepare your organization for disasters. This year disaster recovery includes trying to figure out disaster response when campus is largely vacant, and how you can maintain physical distancing if you need to respond to a collections emergency.
Last week a hot water pipe burst on the third floor of the History Department’s building sending water down to the first floor. Two faculty members reported having wet library books. We sent them information on caring for their personal collections, then went to campus to retrieve a handful of books from the building. We also met one faculty who drove his library books over to the library.
Our Response to a Small Collections Disaster
There are several apps that are useful in these situations. I used one to scan and send a list of barcodes to Circulation for the books that needed to be checked back in.
I then set up the damp books in the fume hood to dry.
I prepared two wet books for freezing by wrapping them with butcher paper, sandwiching them between buffered corrugated boards, and securing them with cotton tying tape. Writing the barcode and date on the package will help us easily identify them in the freezer.
A Silver Lining
A silver lining in all of this is we discovered that our freezer is acting up again. Readers might recall that we had a problem with the drain in this freezer almost a year ago. We are waiting for the parts to come in so a repair technician can be scheduled.
After the Initial Response
The books in the fume hood dried within a couple days. I went back to campus and put them into presses to flatten. We will evaluate these for repair or replacement once we are back on campus.
This disaster was very small but it did raise questions about large numbers of library books housed in faculty offices, and what that means in terms of recovery efforts.
Every year we celebrate Equipment Day, the day the Schimanek board shear and book presses landed on our loading dock from Germany on April 9, 2003. Although the conservation unit was formed almost a year prior in July 2002, it’s April 9th that we celebrate becoming “a lab.” So depending on how you count, we are either 17 or 18 years old this year.
April 9th was a bit of a blur this year because we are all working from home. We were going to have a celebration that included a reception and an open house for the lab. Since we can’t do that together, we thought we would post our presentation here. The biggest piece of news this year is that we have surpassed the quarter-million mark for items coming through the lab since 2002.
And if you haven’t seen the lab, we have a video tour online.
Happy birthday to us. Stay safe. Be kind. Wash your hands.
Due to Covid-19, Duke University Libraries decided to close on March 20, 2020. We are working from home until further notice.
Before we left the lab, we made sure our collections disaster plan was up to date. We have several versions of this plan.
A traditional long-form plan that many of you have. If you don’t have one, here’s some help in writing one.
A one-page “get started” plan with critical phone numbers and first-steps to take during an emergency. We keep several copies of this in our disaster closet for grab-and-go.
A Pocket Plan with a complete phone tree on one side, and first-steps on the other. This is handy for when the power goes out, and when you just need to find a phone number fast.
We coordinated with Rubenstein Library to take the materials we were working on back to the secure stacks. This posed an excellent use of several sheets of delaminating corrugated board that we have squirreled away in our supply closet.
Before leaving we called the head of procurement for Duke Medical Center to ask if we could donate our PPE including N95 masks and nitrile gloves. They came over in about ten minutes to pick these up. I wish we had more to give.
As the Covid-19 virus spreads, we have started planning for work that Conservation staff can do at home should we be told to stay off campus. As of this publication we have not been asked to stay home but preservation professionals prepare for the worst and hope for the best. This has been a thought provoking exercise and everyone has contributed to our brainstorming.
We wanted to share what we have drafted to date in case any other labs are in a similar situation. These discussions are also happening on the AIC Community discussion boards and on social media. If you have other ideas, please share in the comments. A big thank you to Kristen St.John at Stanford for the original idea and letting us run with it.
We the people,
In order to form a more perfect union,
Establish justice, insure domestic tranquility,
Provide for the common defense,
Promote the general welfare and
Secure the blessings of liberty
To ourselves and our posterity
Do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.