What would you do if when you came to work you found out that some sort of emergency had occurred at the library and damaged materials were strewn about the floor in dirty water? This is what faced fifteen MPL employees and two librarians from SPPL who attended a Wet Materials Recovery Workshop led by Bob Herskovitz, MHS Outreach Conservator, at the Central Minneapolis Library. This was just a scenario but it tested us on whether we knew what to do. Most of us didn’t. We rushed to try to save the books, many not knowing exactly how to do even that. We later learned that this step was only to be taken only after several assessments for safety and peoples’ and the collections’ needs had been completed. It showed the need to have thought out emergency preparedness ahead of time by creating documents like a Disaster Management Plan. This plan should include internal and external contact information, plans for teams and the recovery directory to handle the emergency and different areas of the collection if needed, questions to answer for a disaster initial situation report, checklists for assessing people’s and the building’s safety and needs, as well as checklists for equipment and supplies, disaster re-entry, collection assessment, and recovery efforts.
We then discussed how to assess damage to collections in the wake of a disaster, how to determine collection salvage techniques, which salvage techniques should be used on each type of material, and appropriate safety garb when salvaging. We then reconvened in the loading dock where we had first encountered the damaged materials. Discarded books, cds, dvds, photos, newspaper clippings, and other items had been soaking in water and dirt for days. Working in teams of two, we were assigned the task of identifying the items, determining the best treatment, and then documenting what we had done. We also learned and practiced how to wrap monographs in freezer paper and pack them to be sent to a commercial freezing facility. This workshop helped us learn what to do and not to do in a library disaster, made us familiar with recovery methods and techniques, and taught us to work smarter and safer in an emergency.