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veritasHarvard University Library Notes, For Harvard Library Staff, Number 1334 November 2006

Harvard University Library Notes / November 2006 / No. 1334

Collections-Salvage Session Trains Staff to Respond to Wet-Book Emergencies

Wet books require timely attention, and knowing how to deal with water emergencies can be key to the 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 in HCL's Lamont Library Forum Room.

A water emergency was replicated just outside Lamont by soaking shelves of de-accessioned, donated books with water for over 10 hours. Upon arrival, more than 30 participants experienced firsthand the extensive damage that water can cause and the emotional shock of dealing with a wet-book emergency. They then spent the rest of the morning attending training sessions that focused on the proper salvage techniques for various formats: books, flat paper, film and photographs, and electronic media. In the afternoon, they moved onto the hands-on component of the day, as they retrieved waterlogged books from the shelves outside Lamont and practiced their newly learned salvage techniques.

"Almost every library collection emergency involves water, and, if the response is prompt and appropriate, library materials can be saved," said Ethel Hellman, collections conservator for Widener Library and co-chair of LCET. "This is the third event we've done, and I think it has made a tremendous impact on the ability of the libraries to respond to water emergencies. The opportunity for conservators, preservation professionals, and library staff to work together is another benefit of the day. A level of comfort and trust is developed on all sides, which is essential in creating an effective web of responders across the entire university library system."

LCET is a group of conservators and preservation librarians in the University Library's 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 the Weissman Center, meets monthly to discuss strategies and initiatives. LCET also runs the wet-book emergency hotline, and its members share responsibility for carrying a cell phone 24 hours a day. To reach the LCET hotline in a wet-books emergency, call 617-240-2500.


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