The Disaster Response Plan at the Texas Tech University Library


This article describes the Emergency Preparedness Plan that the Texas Tech University Library developed in the 1990s to deal with emergencies such as water leaks, fire, etc.  

The Texas Tech University Library (TTUL) is one of two Regional Depositories in Texas — the other being the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. As is the case with many Regionals, the depository collection of over a million items is a mixture of print, microfilm, microfiche, DVDs, maps, and more. The collection is currently housed in the Library Basement, and both the print and microform collections are housed on electronic compact shelving. The maps collection is housed in map cases, and the atlases are on both wooden and metal shelving.

Fortunately, TTUL is next door to the Southwest Collection/Special Collections (SWC), which houses both the archives and the rare books collections. Because of the specialized nature of its collection, the SWC handles the majority of conservation and preservation activities for TTUL, the SWC, and the Architecture Library.

Developing the Plan

In the late 1990s, Scott Devine, the Southwest Collection’s former Conservator, coordinated the development of a Disaster Response Plan (Plan), including training for staff. The primary aim of this Plan was to deal with water-damage. In the years since the Plan was developed, there have been about three major incidents involving either broken pipes or ground water leakage through the walls at the TTU.

The location of one of these incidents was the 5th Stack Level. This involved an overhead pipe breaking and drenching several ranges of books (TX-Z). Because of quick work by the staff on a late Friday afternoon, fewer than ten books were not salvageable. For days after, numerous books were set out to dry on tables/chairs throughout the 5th Stack level, and a smaller number were sent off-site for freeze drying.

The other incidents involved the print Government Documents collections in the Library Basement. The first incident was a several-month-long problem with leakage from groundwater caused by renovation work to the front of the Library. Although no documents were damaged, the incident caused the continued use of plastic sheeting to protect the electronic compact shelving. The other incident this year turned out to be preventive only. In the Library Basement, a new Crossroads Recording Studio was installed in the old Documents processing room, and a water leak developed. Because the pipes ran also into the Documents Vault next door, where more fragile documents were kept, plastic sheeting was put up. Luckily, the water damage was minimal to the Studio and did not occur in the Documents Vault.

Organization of The Disaster Response Plan

The Disaster Response Plan is divided into 10 sections, which cover the following:

The Introduction section “serves as a guide for the salvage, recovery, and mitigation of damage to collections.” It states that it will be reviewed annually and all staff should be familiar with the Plan.  

The Emergency Telephone Numbers section includes numbers for relevant on-campus contacts such as fire/police and contact numbers for all departments in both TTUL and the SWC.

The Salvage and Recovery Procedures section first lists salvage priorities for staff to use in evaluating each damaged item, e.g.

  • Does this item have artifactual value?
  • Can the item be replaced?

The next section goes into detail in how to deal with books, coated paper, framed or matted paper, leather and rawhide, magnetic media/reel to reel tapes, microfiche, microfilm/motion picture film, paintings, photographs/transparencies, record albums, scrapbooks, textiles and clothing, uncoated paper, vellum/parchment, and wooden objects. Each sub-section contains detailed information on priority (immediate handling procedures), preparation for drying, and drying procedures information.

The Disaster Response Kits section notes the location and contents of all kits throughout the two buildings. The contents include trash bags, freezer bags, rubber/latex gloves, electrical tape, nylon/cotton twine, flashlight, buckets, aprons, etc.

The Water Shut-off Valves section describes in detail the location for these vales in the two buildings, the process for turning them off, and who to notify afterwards.

The two Building Plans sections have detailed plans of all floors of the two buildings.

The Insurance section discusses procedures for documenting any insurance claims.

The Purchasing Authority section lists those at the Library with authority to purchase emergency supplies.

The Off-Site Emergency Equipment and Supplies section provides a detailed alphabetical list of specific items that might be needed long with both on-campus and off-campus contact information, including pager/cell numbers, if appropriate.

The Disaster Response Plan program is currently being reviewed and updated.


Special thanks to Bill Mcdonald, Unit Coordinator Facility Operations & Property Management and University Library Building Emergency Manager for the history of this Plan; Amy Kim, Unit Coordinator (Media) Library Communications & Marketing for the photographs; Heather Jackson, Conservator SWC, Nicci Hester, Reference SWC and Connie Aguilar, Reception SWC for showing the Disaster Response kit in the SWC.