Section 3: Response

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UNDERSTANDING THE NATURE OF THE EMERGENCY

Fires, earthquakes, bomb blasts and other disasters are certainly extremely destructive. But after the initial damage is over, there is usually no further immediate danger to the collection (except in cases where materials are left exposed to the elements or vulnerable to theft). Salvage can proceed at a reasonable pace, as circumstances permit. When water is involved, however, the situation is completely different. Unfortunately, the most common emergency in research collections is flooding; of some sort: streams overflow, water mains break, heating or water supply pipes in the building break, roofs and windows leak, etc. And there is almost always water damage after a fire. Books and other materials can suffer damage from being submerged for long periods; paper-based, photographic and other materials that are wet but not submerged will begin to .i.mold; within a short time. Generally, mold develops sooner during warm weather, but other factors, such as a history of prior mold infestation, also determine how long it takes for mold to start.

Although not usually as dramatic as a flood, HVAC, failure of; failure of the air conditioning system during a humid stretch of weather is also quite serious. Mold can develop surprisingly quickly, particularly in buildings where the HVAC malfunctions more or less regularly. Sometimes it will affect a large portion of the library; other times it will occur in pockets. It is very important that all staff members know what mold looks like and that they be alert to its development. It is much easier to head off a little mold outbreak than to have to treat all the materials and shelving in a library. Since failure of the HVAC system is also a situation that calls for a quick response, we are treating it as a disaster. See Section 1, p. 13, for mold-preventing strategies and Section 4, p. 59,for clean-up instructions.

 

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LOWER HUDSON CONFERENCE