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Library Salvage Priorities

Major Emergencies




Last updated March 2004.

Cornell University Library



This Disaster Response Plan represents an important component of the Cornell University Library's continuing effort to protect its collections. It is a joint effort of the Conservation Department and the Working Group on Security and Library Safety, both of which have been active in shaping the Library's response to emergencies.

In 1989/1990, the Conservation Department administered a New York State Coordinated Preservation Grant to develop a Regional Emergency Mutual Response Team for the central region of the state. The Team consists of representatives from SUNY-Binghamton, Cornell University, University of Rochester, and Syracuse University. Under this grant, Cornell University Library purchased and installed a freezer at the Library Annex for the storage of water-damaged materials. Major disaster supplies were purchased for each of the participating institutions as well, and in April 1990 Cornell hosted a two-day disaster simulation which was attended by two representatives from each participating university. Within the CUL community itself, the Conservation Department has initiated several important disaster-related activities in addition to preparing the Disaster Response Plan. Disaster liaisons have been identified for each library. They will be trained to serve as the units' emergency coordinators in the event of a real disaster. They will also maintain emergency unit supply boxes that the Conservation Department distributed to each library in the past month. And finally, the Department will provide periodic training sessions, the first of which is a day-long workshop scheduled for September 1990.

The Working Group on Security and Library Safety published an updated edition of the CUL Emergency Manual last year. While the Manual provides some basic information on responding to disasters, its purpose is broader in scope and intent. Believing that it is always better to prevent a disaster than to recover from one, the Manual contains a "Safety and Security Audit" which is designed to help units avoid situations that could lead to disasters. Once every unit has completed the "Security Audit," the Working Group will analyze the results and prepare a report and recommendations for the library administration. However, even with the best of precautions, disasters do occur, and the intent of this Disaster Recovery Plan is to aid libraries in responding quickly and effectively to minimize the damage and speed recovery. A great deal more harm can come from improper handling of damaged materials than from the actual disaster itself.

A word or two on the structure of this Plan. It is organized logically, to move one from first response (see Phone Tree, page 2) through the steps involved in recovering from a minor disaster, usually involving fewer than 500 volumes. The "pink pages" represent steps to be taken in the event of a major disaster. The last section of the manual contains appendixes which explicate the text and include a list of additional supplies and services available locally and regionally. The basic Plan is generic. It is designed to accommodate the individual unit's conditions and needs. But it becomes a Disaster Response Plan only if it is completed and updated periodically. This task falls to the disaster liaison in each unit. Once completed, copies of the Plan should be kept in the homes and offices of each member of the unit's disaster response team (see page 2). One copy should be placed in the emergency unit supply box, and another filed with the Conservation Department.

The Disaster Plan Committee was the best kind of committee: a hard working one. Each member took responsibility for different sections of the plan and completed their assignments on time. The Committee members were:

Susan Currie, Access Services Librarian, Olin
John Dean, Conservation Librarian
Jeffrey Diver, Senior Night Supervisor, Mann
Anne Kenney, Assistant Conservation Librarian
Richard Strassberg, Director, Labor-Management Documentation Center
Dorothy Wright, Coordinator of Preservation, Mann
Shannon Zachary, Book Conservator.

We would especially like to thank George Meeker, Director of Risk Management and Insurance, for serving as an ad hoc member of the Committee and for providing us with valuable information, not only on insurance-related matters, but on the draft plan itself. A final word of thanks goes to Dorothy Halgas for patiently imposing order on the completed manuscript.

Anne R. Kenney
Chair, Disaster Plan Committee
July 1990


The January 1996 Revision of the Plan is essentially the same as that produced by the Disaster Plan Committee and the revision of August 1993. The most significant changes are in the make-up of the Central Disaster Team and updates to names and addresses of University Offices and vendors.


The Plan has gone through several revisions since its first appearance in 1990, but most of the changes have not been substantial, being limited to updates in personnel. There will be some changes in the general organization of the Plan for the web-based version.

The full Disaster Response Plan in PDF format can be found here.

The full Disaster Response Plan in Word format can be found here.



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Department of Preservation and Collection Maintenance