Researchers at NC State University are predicting an above average hurricane season, so our thoughts as librarians should be turning to our disaster plans. NC hospital librarians began this process through an award from the NN/LM Southeastern/Atlantic (SE/A) Region, which funded an emergency preparedness program entitled, “It’s the Big One, Elizabeth!” Helping NC Hospitals Plan for Information Access Following a Disaster. For the libraries that are NC AHEC Digital Library members, many of the disaster plans seemed to rely (or fall back upon) the ADL, so we (meaning ADL staff) are working on our disaster plan. Here are some interesting issues or questions that are arising as we work our way through our plan.
So our initial thought was of course, well we’ll just work from home. We’re virtual after all and can pretty much always work at home anyway. Here’s the problem with that theory – after most Hurricane’s especially inland one of our biggest challenges is power (as in electricity). We then thought well we’ll need to have an email list to send emails with pertinent information. Here’s my problem with that, no electricity, no cable, no internet access at home. Obvious solution, its time to get a smart phone. It was amazing, however, how much of our initial thinking about disaster planning sort of had an underlying assumption about electricity.
This revelation led to a whole host of complicated questions about back-up servers, off site locations, fail over software, and many other technical issues that were ever so slightly above my head.
As our disaster planning thinking is crystallizing we are focusing our planning around 2 main areas. As a sort of hub for member libraries throughout the state we need a plan for how to support our member libraries if they are hit by some disaster, but we are still up & running. Then the other big area is if we are hit by a disaster (and then there are many gradients of scenario 2).
At this point the most important issue that is arising is the need for a good communications plan. Key contacts, contact mechnanisms both phone & electronic, and a message to communicate. We also need to develop mechanisms to hook our member libraries up to electronic resources if our proxy/authentication portal is down due to whatever reason. This is but a snapshot of the types of communication needs/issues that are arising as disaster planning begins.
When I first heard about library disaster planning, I thought it wouldn’t really impact me because I work in an entirely virtual/digital library. How naive was that!!
Here’s a vaguely related non-sequitor…. the first NC Disaster planning workshop was the day after a series of tornadoes hit NC. Never have I heard the word irony misused so often. fyi it is not ironic to have a disaster planning workshop the day after some disasters… it is merely an unfortunate coincidence ….