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Preservation Interest Group

Guide to provide a forum to learn and share ideas about the various aspects of preservation.

Meeting Notes

13 people representing 11 institutions attended this virtual program.

The program began with participants describing their problems and questions related to water emergencies. These included:

  • What is the current guidance on sprinkler systems in museums and archives?  - It has changed over the years. We now know a lot more about recovering water damaged items, and you cannot salvage items that have burned, so sprinkler systems are preferred. Sprinkler systems may have water always in the pipes or not. Karen Kiorpes usually recommends the systems with water in the pipes. There is an element on the pipe, and once it melts, the water is released. The dry pipe systems provide a slower response and are harder to maintain, but they do give you a few minutes to respond if the system malfunctions.
  • How to prepare for a large scale event like Hurricane Sandy? - Preparations and disaster planning should focus on continuity of operations after the event, especially what you will do if you are unable to get into the building.
  • How to deal with an ongoing problem, like a persistent leak, while trying to make long term changes?
    • Create immediate, first response procedures on what do do when a leak is discovered.
    • Train ALL people in the facility (e.g. cleaners, students, maintenance) in what do do if they discover a leak.
    • Identify people to call if leak is discovered when library is closed and make sure all staff knows this.
    • Have kits with basic supplies like plastic sheeting and bulldog clips readily available. Clip plastic sheeting directly to shelving for shelves that are not yet affected but in danger of getting wet.
    • Remove material from harm's way, then worry about recovery.
    • Identify a pack out area - where you will initially move material and where you can spread it out to dry.
    • Keep wet, damp and dry stuff in separate groups, rather than taking off shelves in order since the material will all be treated differently.
    • Keep a log of all leaks and water events, even minor ones, to show management and facilities the extent of a problem.
    • Use water bugs and let staff know where and what they are so they will know what to do if a water bug alarm goes off. Keep them in obscure locations to prevent patrons from taking them.
  • What should we put in water disaster kits?
    • Heavy duty extension cords for fans.
    • Heavy plastic bags.
    • Tarps
    • Bulldog clips
    • Emergency wheel
    • More detailed information in Resources for Unintended Water Damage to Collections in the Resources section below.
  • Environmental monitoring and mold
    • Monitors, such as the Geist Watchdog, keep a record of what is happening in facilities 24/7. This is useful to show administrators since issues may not show up in periodic checks of environment.
    • Image Permanence Institute sells a device specifically for cultural institutions. You can also purchase annual subscriptions to their monitoring software that will analyze the data collected.
    • New York State Conservation/Preservation Discretionary Grants can be used for facilities assessment. This can be especially useful if you don't know where the mold is coming from. The grant application is extensive, so it is recommended that institutions plan ahead if they want to apply.
    • Fans to move air around can be a short term solution.
    • Dehumidifiers can play an important role, but they also heat up the space, which can encourage more mold growth.
    • If you have high humidity in compact shelving, open them a little between rows so air will flow. This can also help identify water issues quicker if water is accumulating between rows.
    • One participant noted that the air pressure in a storage room in their institution was causing mold issues, but was difficult to identify. The HVAC system kept getting triggered to bring more air in.
    • If you get dataloggers, work with facilities to determine where to set them up. This will help administration to take your data more seriously.
    • If you identify highly problematic spaces, push for an alternate space to put collections until the problem is fixed.
    • Water alarms can help identify problem spots if you have roofs that randomly leak during storms. There are wireless and wired water alarms.
  • Troubleshooting
    • During COVID, there are many fewer people in our buildings, so are in danger of long term damage. Ask if you can get people who may be in the building more often, such as cleaners or maintenance, to check for issues.
    • Construction can cause big problems - e.g. HVAC is compromised, flammable equipment being used, doors propped open - so inspect spaces more closely and more often during construction and renovation.
    • Keep in annual contact with your Fire Department and when making any major changes to your building. One town discovered that their Fire Department got new engines that couldn't fit in the library's driveway, so the library will have to alter the driveway.
    • Book drops should be freestanding, not go directly into a building. People have put things like hoses and incendiary devices in book drops. If you don't have a choice, you can keep the book drop open only during specific time.
  • Disasters and Planning for Disaster
    • Most institutions do not have disaster plans. It can be overwhelming to start, but better to have something, even if incomplete, than nothing.
    • Your larger organization may have a plan. Karen has found that often libraries aren't aware of existing plans of parent organizations that they can tag the library onto.
    • Training sessions for staff re disaster plans are important. Gives staff confidence to respond.
    • May need to pay hourly workers and/or gather volunteers if there is a disaster, so make sure that is part of plan.
    • If a big water event, can freeze items to stabilize them until you have time to deal with them. You may need to use a vendor to freeze things. Freeze-DRYING is very expensive, so identify those items that need this due to importance and/or rarity.
    • Public libraries will usually discard wet books because cheaper to replace than salvage.
    • Academic libraries can work with subject specialists and faculty to figure out which damaged items you don't need to retain in print.
    • Think about where you can do packing and sorting of material after water event. Can take a lot of room.
    • Need to note in catalog where things are if you are  moving them for any period of time during salvage.
    • Have disaster plan on wiki or other web location accessible by staff so can access it even when not in building.
    • Have paper copies of plan on and off site in case of regional power outages so you can start work even before allowed on site.
    • Northeast Document Conservation Center has free 24/7 disaster hotline that should be in every disaster plan. 1-855-245-8303. State Library may also be able to provide assistance and connect your institutions with FEMA and county responders.
    • Can also contact Ann and Karen, group facilitators, for advice. University at Albany also has a stash of boxes they can provide in the event of a collections emergency.




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