Secure critical documents and collections

Although some disasters will require immediate evacuation of library facilities, staff members will often have time to gather key materials.

Staff and volunteers pack up books at the Burney branch of the Shasta Public Libraries.

If feasible, secure emergency contacts, vital records and log-in information for the library’s online accounts before evacuating.


Traditionally, copies of these documents have been stored alongside the library’s disaster response plan in a binder or file cabinet. Based on recent disaster experiences in the NorthNet region, libraries are increasingly re-evaluating where to store copies of these critical documents.

“I keep a copy of all the staff phone numbers at home,” said Elizabeth Kelley, interim director of the Shasta Public Libraries. When the library was closed due to a snowstorm, having a separate copy of contact information proved essential.


“We couldn’t get into the building,” said Kelley. “But we still had to contact people. It made us really think about what records we are keeping off site.”


Libraries are also considering storing these documents online on a secured portion of the library’s website or through services such as Dropbox or Google Drive. To make sure these materials are available during a disaster, consider sharing access with the emergency coordinator, members of the disaster response team and library administrators.


In addition to securing critical documents, libraries should also determine whether it is appropriate to move technology, special collections or other library materials to a safer location. If time is limited, staff and volunteers should consider taking pictures of library materials, said Michael Perry, Siskiyou County Librarian.


“As things change, you will forget what left the building,” said Perry. “The easiest way to take an inventory is through pictures.”


Library staff should not move or attempt to clean materials that have been damaged. Damage from smoke, ash or water should be addressed by a qualified salvage expert.

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This project was supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian.

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