ASSOCIATES (2007, March, v. 13, no. 3) -

Tinker Massey
Serials Librarian
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Daytona Beach, FL

Have you ever experienced a time in your life when everything just seemed to stand still? Like a moment frozen forever in your thoughts? Life ceased for me in one moment when I came driving up Clyde Morris Blvd from a trip on the day after Christmas 2006. As I rounded the bend from the International Speedway, I saw what appeared to be debris, papers, etc. strewn all over the sides of the road. I looked left and saw the destruction at the ICI building (the gym) and then looked right to finally understand that there had been a tornado which literally tore roofs and trees and a million other things into shreds of previous existence. I slowed to an imperceptible speed and saw others around me doing the same thing. My heart sank very low and I quickly looked beyond the Wright Brothers bronze work to our number 4 building, the Library. It was too far away for me to see clearly and the overall destruction was too overwhelming for me to focus on one building. I thought of my responsibilities : the journals and newspapers, the binding I left boxed for shipment on the previous Thursday, the Special Collections materials which I had been handling the week before with white gloves, to protect their fragility, and I was devastated.

Three and four foot square holes were blasted through our rear walls and books were tossed from shelves, soaked in fuel contaminated water/gravel/glass shard mixtures. Professional clean-up teams were brought in a few days later and they cleaned and dried the materials. When we were finally allowed into the building more than a week later, we were looking at a partially reclaimed bunch of books and CDís. Study carrels were full of questionable items. Teams were formed to feel and visually inspect each piece for damage. CDís were put aside for separate inspection because they were all in locked cases. Books were inspected first. We ran our hands over every inch of the bindings, looked at and felt the insides, checked the spines and gutters, then sorted the books into those that could return to the shelves, those that were beyond help and those we might be able to save via rebinding, xeroxing (if copyright eligible), or digitizing (if copyright eligible). This last salvageable group was small, about two dozen in total. Almost seventy-five percent could actually return to the shelves. We all breathed a sigh of relief, as this was a pertinent part of our statistical/business aviation section (HE-HZ). Many of the books would have been very hard to replace, while others would have been out of print. A Circulation Team reshelved books as we made them ready, truck after truck. Twenty four percent of the damaged books could not be returned to the collection, so teams worked to identify the items, make a list for the insurance company (with dollar values/replacement costs), and withdraw them from the online catalog. Once this was done, we could de-process them and physically remove them from the building. The insurance list was presented to the university and once approved, we were able to have the Collection Development Team choose replacements and order them from the best sources. Sometimes, it is better to order more recent editions when the older ones have been damaged, so that we not only replaced the information lost, but we did so with more enhanced materials. In some cases, we replaced out of print material with other appropriate and similar information. We had to amend several recent studies of our business materials for degree upgrades by stating that the lost materials would be appropriately replaced by newer materials and that the collectionís content would not be diminished by the replacements, but rather enhanced. Some of the few CDís lost were those that matched up to the books that were withdrawn. They were not damaged themselves, but were useless once the books were withdrawn. Teams viewed the discs to make sure they were only supplementary to the texts and not the complete texts, before we discarded them. It was interesting to note that although very dirty, the CDís survived where the books didnít. I was very impressed that we only lost 2 jewel cases from breakage and only one locked case showed signs of stress fractures.

It appears that if damaged materials are treated quickly, most can be saved. Circulation will watch for further developments as these materials are checked in and out of their desk. We want to make sure that there is no other chemical or biological degradation of the material. As for now, what looked like a huge loss turned out to be very minor compared to the buildingís damage and the rest of the campusís anguish. We were very appreciative of the Universityís quick recognition of the problems, their keen awareness of the necessities of priorities, the crisis teamís treatment of the materials and our own teamsí actions to save as many materials as we could.

Do you have appropriate plans for action in physical crises? We only had hurricane plans in place, but recent attention to getting rid of mold in the collection alerted us to the procedures we needed to have in place and companies we needed to call for help. I believe that sped up our response time and turned a disaster into moderate losses to our collection. There can always be an unplanned crisis ahead, but advanced preparation and knowledge can reduce the impact to your collections. We are currently revising our emergency response manual to cover a number of different situations. Do you have that preparation and knowledge?

We were proud of our spirit and our drive to make things right for our patrons. Then we helped others through the emotional acceptance of renewed life. Many departments are displaced from their original locations, but we have all offered new residences in our repaired structures and we all live together well. I believe we have come to know each other better and are more able to work together for great results. We have identified peopleís strengths and weaknesses and are better for it. These things make one aware of the fragility of this world and sometimes our inability to fix things, but it gives us a new perception of ways to compromise and make life better. We are thankful.

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