Disaster Response: A Selected Annotated Bibliography

ALA Library Fact Sheet 10

Disasters strike every area of the country, and disasters do not spare libraries. Usually there is little or no warning, and the best defense is a plan for effective response.

This fact sheet is a selective resource for libraries of all sizes and types. It contains information on organizations that can provide disaster assistance; disaster recovery resources available online; and a bibliography of print resources (some with accompanying audiovisual CD-ROM or DVD).

More focused information is available on single-subject pages, including Preservation, Disaster Preparedness, Disaster Response, and Pandemic Preparedness.

An extensive online resource is CoOL, Conservation OnLine: Resources for Conservation Professionals, which is operated by the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation and is a full text library of conservation information, covering a wide spectrum of topics of interest to those involved with the conservation of library, archives and museum materials. It is a growing online resource for conservators, collection care specialists, and other conservation professionals.


Emergency Response/Disaster Assistance

AIC-CERT (American Institute for Conservation—Collections Emergency Response Team) Rapid Response Team for Cultural Institutions (PDF). AIC-CERT responds to the needs of cultural institutions during emergencies and disasters through coordinated efforts with first responders, state agencies, vendors and the public. For 24-hour assistance, call (202) 661-8068. AIC, whose full name is American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, received funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services in 2007 to support an advanced training program for conservators and other museum professionals that resulted in a force of 60 "rapid responders" trained to assess damage and initiate salvage of cultural collections after a disaster has occurred.


Amigos Library Services Imaging & Preservation Service (IPS) - Disaster Planning and Recovery. For immediate guidance in the event of an emergency, call the Amigos Imaging & Preservation Service for information, referrals to local resources, and on-site assistance. Amigos offers assistance before, during, and after an emergency. IPS staff members are available to assist your institution with planning activities and recovery from damage caused by various emergency situations, including natural disasters. Contact the Amigos Support Desk between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Central Time (CT), 1-800-843-8482 (972-851-8000 in the Dallas area), ext. 2863 or amigos@amigos.org. After business hours, call 469-223-4900. The Amigos IPS is a not-for-profit, grant-funded service that provides preservation information, support, and training to librarians and archivists in the southwestern United States, primarily the states of Arizona, Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.


LYRASIS Preservation Services. If your library or institution has suffered damage and would like to request assistance, contact LYRASIS Preservation Services at (800) 999-8558. After hours, you will be directed to an answering service; tell the operator you have a collections emergency and need to speak with someone from Preservation Services. If you are located inside the continental United States and you would like on-site assistance, we may be able to match you up with volunteers willing to help assist you in the response and recovery process.


Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) Disaster Assistance. As part of its Preservation Services program, NEDCC offers a 24/7 emergency assistance program for institutions and individuals with damaged paper-based collections. If you have a collections-threatening emergency, call (978) 470-1010, day or night, seven days a week. After Center hours, you will be referred to a second telephone number to reach a staff member. Please do NOT request disaster assistance via email, since it is not monitored 24 hours a day. NEDCC staff members are available 24 hours a day to provide telephone advice when a disaster occurs. This service is provided at no charge thanks to a grant to NEDCC from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). This service does not normally include on-site assistance. Information provided includes advice on drying wet collections and dealing with damage from fire, pests, or mold. Referrals to commercial disaster recovery service providers experienced with library and archives collections can also be provided.


Selected Disaster Response and Recovery Resources

Heritage Emergency National Task Force. Coping with Water Damage (10-min. online video).

LYRASIS. Disaster Resources and Invasion of the Giant Mold Spore (2003).

Minnesota Historical Society. Salvage Procedures for Wet Items.

National Archives and Records Administration Preservation Programs. General Information on Drying the Environment and Wet Materials (PDF). 2009.

Walsh, Betty. Salvage Of Water-Damaged Collections: Salvage At A Glance (PDF) National Park Service Conserve O Gram January 2002 (Number 21/3).

Waters, Peter. Procedures for Salvage of Water-Damaged Materials. 1993.


Selected Bibliography

A list of books on disaster planning that may be more readily available from your local public and/or community college library than your local bookstore appears at the free, searchable online database of library catalogs from across the country, OCLC's WorldCat.org, at:
Disaster Planning for Libraries - Library Safety and Security at WorldCat.org


Balloffet, Nelly and Jenny Hille. Preservation and Conservation for Libraries and Archives. Chicago: American Library Association, 2004.

An overview for library administrators and decision makers of optimal collection preservation techniques, what it takes to set up a conservation work area, and safe ways to mount a small exhibit, this guide also includes illustrated, step-by-step instructions to repair and conserve books and documents, tips on proper environmental and housekeeping controls, and appendices on the care of photographs as well as lists of suppliers, and additional resources. The chapter disaster reponse provides a foundation for understanding priorities for recovery after disasters, including fire, flood, mold and more.


Breighner, Mary and William Payton; Jeanne M. Drews, ed. The Risk and Insurance Management Manual for Libraries. Chicago: Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA, a division of ALA), 2005.

A guide to understanding of the importance of risk management in preventing loss due from actions ranging from natural disasters to vandalism and terrorism, along with sample policies and checklists that can be use to craft the best protection for all types of libraries.


Calvi, Elise, Yvonne Carignan, Liz Dube, and Whitney Pape. Preservation Manager's Guide to Cost Analysis. Chicago: Preservation and Reformatting Section, Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS, a division of ALA), 2006.

An understanding of cost analysis methods, coupled with a clear understanding of the activity under study, will position the preservation manager to conduct cost analyses in support of a range of management objectives, including developing work plans, production schedules, and budgets for new programs or projects (including those for external funding proposals); comparing different methods of accomplishing work (such as in-house vs. outsourced); improving productivity; reducing costs; and identifying the cost impact of improving quality.


Halsted, Deborah D, Richard P. Jasper, and Felicia M. Little. Disaster Planning: A How-to-Do-It Manual for Librarians with Planning Templates on CD-ROM. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2005.

Written by experienced librarians who know because they’ve recovered from disasters, this important how-to helps librarians prepare for hurricanes, computer hackers, earthquakes, explosions, fires, floods, terrorist attacks, and other events. Disaster Planning shows you how to create a working disaster team, establish a communications strategy, develop response plans, and identify the proper relief/recovery agencies for your library. The companion CD-ROM is full of tools you can use, including: sample disaster plans, a downloadable and customizable template for creating your own disaster plan, links to disaster planning Web sites, a comprehensive directory of electronic resources and planning aids, and a disaster planning database with links to national agencies.


Heritage Preservation. Field Guide to Emergency Response: A Vital Tool for Cultural Institutions - Instructional DVD Included. Washington, DC: Heritage Preservation, 2006.

Step-by-step instructions tailored to the scope of your emergency: what to do first, whom to call, how to prevent further damage. Form a response team to deal with multiple tasks: working with emergency responders, assessing and documenting damage, ensuring health and safety of staff, and setting up a salvage operation. Covers handling of the most common types of damage from water, mold, corrosion, pests, and other threats. Includes customizable checklists and a companion DVD.


Kahn, Miriam. Disaster Response and Planning for Libraries, Third Edition. Chicago: ALA, 2012.

Fire, water, mold, construction problems, power-outages—mishaps like these can not only bring library services to a grinding halt, but can also destroy collections and even endanger employees. Preparing for the unexpected is the foundation of a library's best response. Expert Kahn comes to the rescue with this timely update of the best step-by-step, how-to guide for preparing and responding to all types of library disasters. This completely revised third edition offers: quick and efficient guidance for creating protocols and response plans tailored to your own institution; pointers for handling all kinds of library materials when damaged; the last information on preparing for technology recovery; up-to-date information on prevention equipment and materials; and dozens of reproducible checklists and forms, and a comprehensive list of resources. Kahn's guide gives libraries the tools they need to face any emergency, no matter the size or scope. Table of contents, introduction, and the index available as Adobe Reader PDF file.


---. The Library Security and Safety Guide to Prevention, Planning, and Response. Chicago: ALA, 2007.

Libraries need to be open and inviting, yet safe for patrons, staff, and collections. How can you ensure your library is both accessible and secure? Security planning, part of disaster response and continuous operations planning, is the key to proactively addressing potential safety issues. This resource outlines hands-on plans to identify potential security problems; put prevention strategies in place; create guidelines for libraries and staff in case something does happen; and minimize risk, whether to building, collections, patrons, staff, or computers. Case studies, along with 20 checklists and 10 sample policies and forms. Check out the companion Library Security eCourse. This title is also available for purchase as an e-book or as a print/e-book bundle.


---. Protecting Your Library's Digital Sources: The Essential Guide to Planning and Preservation. Chicago: ALA, 2004.

Digital resources are subject to damage from a variety of sources--from floods and fires to hackers and computer crashes--and so are perhaps even more susceptible to problems than print. Storage issues and long-term accessibility for digital materials requiring dated or obsolete hardware often can be overlooked. This book has critical pre-emptive advice to help you protect and preserve the right information: 29 checklists and forms that address the issues; case studies; and a comprehensive bibliography.


Thomas, Marcia L., and Anke Voss, compilers; Marcia L. Thomas, editor, for ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries). Emergency Response Planning in College Libraries. Chicago: College Library Information Packet (CLIP) Committee, College Libraries Section, Association of College and Research Libraries, 2009.

Provides information on disaster and emergency response planning and management to assist librarians in the creation and updates of emergency response plans. Selected documents contain procedures for coping with a wide range of potential emergencies, from power failures to armed intruders, and a bibliography points not only to articles and books but also professionally developed web sites containing extensive documentation on current best practices.


Wellheiser, Johanna G., and Jude Scott. An Ounce of Prevention: Integrated Disaster Planning for Archives, Libraries, and Record Centres, 2nd ed. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2002.

Fire, flood, earthquake, vandalism, a terrorist attack—the issues of safety measures, emergency response, and disaster recovery have now become an important part of the planning strategies for most organizations. For the information organization, such as a library, archives, or record center, this responsibility has taken on new dimensions with the proliferation of various forms of electronic media. The authors take the approach that disaster recovery planning must touch every department of an organization and that emergency response must be a carefully mapped strategy. This is a broad-based approach to "integrated disaster planning" covering each phase of disaster planning, with chapters covering prevention planning, protection planning, preparedness planning, response planning, and recovery planning. The authors consider collections, records, facilities, and systems and include a chapter on post-disaster planning as well. The authors also cover federal and local assistance programs and list other sources for financial assistance. Although the main thrust of the book is the protection of documents, human safety in case of disaster is stressed explicitly and implicitly throughout. Indispensible for every information organization.


Wilkinson, Frances C., and Linda K. Lewis and Nancy K. Dennis. Comprehensive Guide to Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Recovery. Chicago: ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of ALA), 2009.

Written primarily for academic libraries, this guide addresses disaster planning, response and recovery. Chapters cover writing the disaster plan and training for response; responding to the emergency; and recovering. There are also case studies, a glossary, a bibliography, and directory of resources for services and supplies.


Please send comments or suggestions for other resources to include to library@ala.org.

NOTE: Previous versions of this fact sheet can be accessed via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine using the original URL: http://www.ala.org/library/fact10.html


Last updated: August 2013


For more information on this or other fact sheets, contact the ALA Library Reference Desk by telephone: 800-545-2433, extension 2153; fax: 312-280-3255; e-mail: library@ala.org; or regular mail: ALA Library, American Library Association, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611-2795.