Disaster Response Practice

Friday, May 27, 2011

The best way to be prepared is to practice. As school children we have practice drills on how to respond to a fire alarm. Constant practice turns into a habit. We all know how to respond to a fire alarm without even thinking.

Today we had a disaster response practice drill. Each team had to assess the situation, plan for the response, and then rescue and pack the items. The practice was the aftermath of a “tornado” that left books, CDs, and photographs in mud along with snakes and fish.

We practiced safety, organized supplies, determined what materials should not be saved, rinsed and packed the books for freezing, and rinsed CDs and photographs and set out for air drying.

Your Aunt’s Dinner Party

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What would you do if your aunt called you two days before her dinner party and informed you that due to a fire in her kitchen she wanted you to host her party at your house? OceanTeacher Academy students used this scenario to practice their disaster planning skills. We all have had to deal with “disasters” in our life and as a result have developed skills that can be helpful when dealing with a disaster to our library or museum collection. Questions the students had to resolve were: what was the goal in resolving the dinner disaster, how was the dinner going to be handled, what steps would be involved in holding the dinner, how would they get the food and other resources needed, and who was going to pay for the dinner?

Of the four groups, no two had the same solution. Each approach to responding to the disaster was different but creative and resulted in a successful dinner party.

Flattening A Book

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Salvaging damaged books can be very time consuming, especially if they don’t dry flat. Today Caitlin Moore demonstrated how to flatten a book. First you lightly mist a page, using a mister that sprays a very fine mist, interleave with a blank piece of paper every few pages, put a board over the book, and put a weight on the board. One must make sure that the board is slightly larger than the book.

Preparing for Disasters

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An important part of preparing for disasters is to practice and experiment before a disaster. An excellent drill is to get books wet in clean tap water and then air dry them. Get a broad range of books wet and see what happens as they dry. A couple of the books that we worked on at OceanTeacher Academy got so wet and heavy that the text block started to tear away from the cover. When that happens, it’s best to separate the text from the cover and dry separately.

Another book had pages that started to stick together. Using a simple beveled kitchen tool with rounded corners was used to separate the pages. The tool was gently inserted between the pages and then gently wiggled to separate the pages.

Sometimes a word was lost when a tiny piece of the page stuck to the other page. With just a word lost here and there, it was still easy to read the text. However, an important consideration is to think about how long one should spend on a book. Is the book worth spending 2-3 hours, separating each page? Or can it easily be replaced?

Since we are simulating a disaster, we are using tools easily at hand and not tools from a conservation lab

OceanTeacher Academy Disaster Response Session 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011

I am, once again, teaching a Disaster Planning and Recovery course at the OceanTeacher Academy in Ostend, Belgium. Today we learned about air drying books which can be very tedious and time consuming. Each book needs to have plain paper inserted between the covers and every few pages to wick up the water. Once the paper is wet, the paper needs to be changed for dry paper to continue to wick up the water to hasten the drying of the pages in the books.

We also learned that we needed to look at our building inside and out to see if there is anything that could become a disaster. Librarian Jan Haspeslagh gave us a tour of his library and pointed out things that are problems for his library. In particular, this library has drain spouts that are disconnected.

Disaster Response Drill

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Today we put into practice everything that we had learned over the five days. When students came to class they learned that there had been a “disaster.” They had to work in teams to recover the water and mud covered CDs, photographs, and books. They even had to deal with the paparazzi who asked them about the disaster and how much it would cost to recover. They knew that they should just tell the reporter that they didn’t know the extent of the damage and were working to stabilize the situation.

They learned that snakes and bugs could be a problem and that they needed to take appropriate precautions. They rinsed the books and packed them for freeze drying and set the CDs and photographs aside for air drying.

They learned that working in a team is a good thing. No one can handle a disaster onhis/her own. Students were encouraged practice the drills with colleagues once back home.

Outing to a Conservation Lab and Archives

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

This afternoon we went to Bruges to visit the conservation school which is a part of SYNTRA West. The students and teacher provided many demonstrations. We learned that wet paper needs a support when handling the paper or it will tear. We also saw several different ways of making boxes and were given a pattern that we could use.

After our visit we went to the National Archives building to observe the graduation ceremonies for the first class of conservation students. The course is two years long and costs about 3,000 euros.

We concluded our evening with a lecture by the Archivist. He showed us many different documents and explained about the archives program.

My Aunt’s Dinner

Monday, July 5, 2010

We checked our books after 5 days of air drying to see if they were dry. None were completely dry. Although several looked dry, when we touched the pages with the palms of our hands, the pages felt cool which meant they were still damp. A few books were ready to press. The rest we set out to air dry. We’ve learned that air drying takes a lot of patience.

We continue to learn about being prepared for a disaster.Today we did an exercise called ” My Aunt’s Dinner,” an exercise learned from the Campbell Center in Illinois. We divided into teams and discussed how we could host a dinner for 40 relatives after our Aunt had a fire in her kitchen and asked the team to host the dinner. The team had two days to host the dinner.

Some teams decided to call the relatives and delay the dinner. Other teams held the dinner on the regularly scheduled day and asked the relatives to bring chairs, dishes and a prepared dish. This exercise put the team through the disaster planning steps and had a group work together to deal with a disaster.

Book Drying Continues

Friday, July 2, 2010

After close to two days of air drying many, but not all, books were ready to press. We used a make shift press of books and bricks. Fans were set up to create good air circulation to continue the drying process over the weekend.

We began discussions on disaster planning and started to develop a plan for the individual libraries using DPlan Lite.

OceanTeacher Academy Course on Disaster Planning and Preparedness

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Today was our first session on disaster planning and preparedness at the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Office for the International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange in Ostend, Belgium. This is a five day course. One of our activities was to dry a wet book.

Each student pulled a book out of a tub of water. Although all books had been sitting in the tub for the same amount of time, some books were only wet around the edges and others were very, very wet. The books were interleaved with plain paper to wick the water out of the pages. For the glossy print books, a paper was inserted between each page; nonglossy paper books were interleafed every 10-20 pages. The papers in the books were changed 3 times during the day. By the end of the day, several books were dry enough to stand up and fan out to enhance the drying process.

More information about IOC/IODE can be found at