Harvard College Library

Collections Salvage Session Trains Staff to Respond to Wet Book Emergency

November 5, 2003 -- A timely response to water emergencies is key to preservation of library collections. To prepare Harvard librarians to respond effectively in the event of disaster, the Library Collections Emergency Team (LCET) recently held a collections salvage training session at the New England Deposit Library (NEDL).

A water emergency was replicated in the NEDL parking lot, where shelves of deaccessioned, donated books had been soaked with water for over 10 hours. When the 30 participants arrived, they experienced first hand the extensive damage that can be caused by water and the shock that can be evoked by a water disaster. Sessions followed in which the proper salvage techniques for books, flat paper, film and photographs, and electronic media were demonstrated. In the afternoon the group practiced the salvage techniques on the waterlogged books.

"The purpose of the event is to train library personnel to respond to water emergencies as efficiently as possible -- to know when they can handle something, when they need to call in a professional disaster recovery team, and how to describe the problem if they need to contact the pros. Working with staff from across the university builds a network of responders who may be called on for advice and assistance," said Ethel Hellman, Collections Conservator for Widener Library and co-chair of LCET.

LCET is a group of conservators and preservation librarians in the Weissman Preservation Center, HCL Preservation and Imaging Services, and other Harvard libraries. The group, co-chaired by Hellman and Jane Hedberg, Preservation Program Officer in Weissman, meet monthly to discuss strategies and initiatives. One initiative launched two years ago is the wet book emergency hotline; LCET members share responsibility for carrying a cell phone 24-hours a day that librarians can call in a wet book emergency.

Collections Salvage Workshop in Photos:

When the participants arrived, they experienced first hand the extensive damage that can be caused by water and the shock that can be evoked by a water disaster.

Because of the rain, books (and participants) were thoroughly soaked. Some books had fallen off of the shelves and were soaking in puddles -- a challenged to salvage.

Tim Gray, Manager of Security Services for HCL Operations, helps pack books into crates so they can be relocated and repaired.

Nick Wharton, Associate Head of Access Services in Widener, looks over the damaged, waterlogged books.

 



This story appears courtesy of the Harvard College Library Communications Office
http://hcl.harvard.edu/news/
Copyright © 2004 President and Fellows of Harvard College