Connecticut State Library with state seal

Preservation Office

Preservation Advice for Libraries, Historical Societies and Home Collections:
Disaster Planning & Recovery


There is a lot of information available for librarians, records managers, curators and the general public on preparing for and recovering from a disaster.

The Federal Library and Information Center Committee (FLICC) Preservation & Bindery Working Group has issued a draft of a sample Disaster Recovery Contract to be used by libraries and institutions in case a disaster occurs. It is intended to help them negotiate and specify what service a vendor does to help in recovery from a major disaster.

More information:

Before the storm: the countdown from LYRASIS outlines the steps for the beginning of the hurricane season, when a hurricane watch is announced and so forth.

Disaster planning, a free template for writing disaster plans NEDCC and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners have created dPlan: the online disaster planning tool to help small institutions gather the information needed to prevent or mitigate a disaster, prepare for the most likely disasters, respond quickly and recover effectively from a disaster.

Disaster plans from Conservation OnLine (CoOL), has links to about one dozen model plans.

Disaster preparedness and response from Conservation OnLine

Disaster Recovery Plan for Connecticut State Agencies, Towns and Municipalities, from the Office of the Public Records Administrator, Connecticut State Library, 1999.

Disaster Resources from LYRASIS

Emergency Resource Guide from Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA)

Preservation Leaflets, Section 3. Emergency Management includes such things as “An introduction to fire protection”, “Protection from loss,” and “Introdutction to fire detection, alarms and automatic fire sprinklers” from NEDCC.

Resources [for Disaster] Response and Recovery from Heritage Preservation


Protecting your institution from wild fires from SOLINET

Save family treasures from soot from the Heritage Emergency National Task Force

Soot, Char damage and Odors on Books & Paper from the California Preservation Clearinghouse

First aid for fire damaged audio visual material includes links to handling fire affected video tapes, photographic and audio materials. From the Australian National Film and Sound Archive.


Disaster Recovery: Salvaging Photograph Collections from CCAHA

Emergency Salvage Of Wet Photographs from NEDCC


Disaster Recovery: Salvaging Books from CCAHA

Drying wet books and records from LYRASIS

Emergency Salvage Of Wet Books And Records from NEDCC


The best defense is to prevent an outbreak. Do this by controlling the environment where your materials are stored. For books, the recommendation is to keep the relative humidity below 50% and the temperature below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Read more about Temperature and Humidity, and Housekeeping and Cleaning Collections.

If mold occurs determine the cause and take steps to eliminate it. Stop any leaks. Lower the relative humidity. If it will be difficult to keep the relative humidity down, evaluate the collection materials that are stored in that space. Perhaps the most valuable items and items you expect to keep forever should be moved to a space with a better environment.

Clean shelves, walls, etc. with 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water or other mold-killing solutions. Dry them immediately with a towel and circulate the air to ensure they are completely dry. Don't treat collection materials with bleach, especially if they have long term value. The bleach could make colors fade and could weaken the cloth or paper. In addition the wet solution will only add to the humid conditions that encouraged the mold in the first place.

Isolate the moldy materials. Expose them to the sun (unless they are extremely light sensitive) on a day with low humidity. While outdoors, brush off visible mold with a clean paint brush or with a HEPA vacuum with variable suction. Clean the brushes daily or when dirty. This will not remove any stains and there is little else that can be done. Stain removal from books and documents needs training and should probably be attempted only by a conservator. If the books and documents are smelly, air them out. This may take a long time. Read about the Musty Smell in Books. Do not return the materials to the same environmental conditions that permitted mold growth in the first place. Materials that have suffered from mold are more susceptible to another outbreak.

CAUTION. CAUTION. CAUTHION. Use extreme caution when handling moldy materials. An ordinary hardware store dust mask won’t be adequate protection against toxic mold. It’s hard to know when the mold is toxic and requires a high level of caution, or when a low-level remediation effort will be adequate. A person with asthma or allergies should not be working with moldy materials and persons who don’t suffer from these conditions can develop sensitivity if exposed. Conservation professionals wear respirators with HEPA filters. Read the articles by the experts before you decide if you can handle a mold outbreak yourself or if you need professional assistance.

More information:

Emergency salvage of moldy books and paper” by Beth Lindblom Patkus, from NEDCC

Low-cost/no-cost improvements in climate control” from NEDCC

“Mold” by CoOL

“Mold prevention strategies and possible health effects in the aftermath of hurricanes and major floods” by Mary Brandt, et al. in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease control v.55:no.rr-8 2006:June 9. pdf version or html version. Includes advice on how to limit exposure, prevent mold-related health effects and clean a building and its contents.

Mold remediation in schools and commercial buildings” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


A variety of insects will find your collections attractive. A treasured shawl can be in danger from moths, books and manuscripts stored in the basement can be in danger from silverfish or cockroaches. But, even if you see one or two insects, do not use pesticides indiscriminately.

Preservation specialists recommend avoiding the use of chemicals except in extreme cases. This is to avoid danger to the staff and public from the chemicals and lingering harm to the collections. "Integrated Pest Management" is the term used to indicate a variety of mostly non-chemical responses to insects in a library. These efforts include use of good housekeeping practices, such as never leaving food trash in the building overnight, and good building maintenance practices, such as stopping up the holes where pests might enter the building, and stopping leaking faucets, so there is no water supply for the pests. If you suspect an infestation, use sticky traps to assess the extent of the problem.

Plants in the house or library can encourage insects. Take care of your plants and get rid of plants you can't take care of. Remove dying leaves and take plant waste and dead cut flowers outside immediately. Remember to be careful about over watering or letting water stand in the dish. Plants might also harbor mold.

Eating and drinking around your collections should be forbidden in a library, archives, museum or town clerk’s office. Even at home, do not eat or drink while handling your collections. Greasy fingerprints and drips can permanently mar a valuable item. Crumbs and spills can attract insects.

Freezing kills many insects without damaging paper. But freezing can damage other materials. Read the section on freezing in the NEDCC leaflet on “Integrated Pest Management” before deciding it is safe for your materials.

More information:

’Bugs’ are eating my treasures from the Bishop Museum in Honolulu describes how to know if you have a problems with insects, prevention methods and response.

Integrated Pest Management from NEDCC makes the following point: “Although some insects may not be a direct threat to collections, their presence may attract insects that do pose a threat. Some insects feed on the bodies of other insects. Most pests (insect and otherwise) are attracted by debris from human or other animal activities."


For information see:

ACRL Guidelines for the Security of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Other Special Collections” by American Library Association, Association of College and Research Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscripts Section. Or, go to ACRL/RBMS Standards And Guidelines, then click on the document.

ACRL Guidelines Regarding Thefts in Libraries” by American Library Association, Association of College and Research Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscripts Section. Or, go to ACRL/RBMS Standards And Guidelines, then click on the document.

Prepared by Connecticut State Library Preservation Office staff; last updated Nov. 2011.