The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 11, Number 4
Jun 1987


John Morris. The Library Disaster Preparedness Handbook. Chicago and London: American Library Association, 1986. 130 pp. $20.

Reviewed by Sally Buchanan

A prior review of this book by Toby Murray nay be seen in Conservation Administration News, April 1987. She touches upon several key issues which need not be repeated here. Instead I will comment upon some other important questions which arise after reading this publication.

First, John Morris was a surprising choice to author the book. Although he has written an extremely helpful and informative book on library fire risk and fire suppression equipment, Managing the Library Fire Risk, he is not a librarian, nor has he had direct experience with library disaster preparedness and recovery. This is evident in the unexpected omissions of material which one would expect to find in a handbook published by ALA about disaster preparedness. For instance, little consideration has been given to the process of developing a disaster plan. Mr. Morris does include a list of points to be considered, but no evaluation or discussion is provided. Only token mention is made of the importance of the many measures that can be taken to prevent disasters, except for fire prevention, and to a lesser degree, prevention of water damage. Little thought is given to the importance of setting collection priorities for disaster planning and recovery and how this might be accomplished. Very little is said about specific fiscal resources and costs, although there is a general chapter on risk management and insurance. For sound collection management, these important issues deserve attention in any treatment of disaster preparedness.

Second, any handbook on disaster preparedness should contain information on proven handling and recovery techniques for a variety of library materials. The lack of such information abandons the reader and leaves the most important questions unanswered. How does one recover from a disaster? What are appropriate patterns of response? How does one assess damage and make the best choices for recovery? In the chapter entitled "Water Damage: Protection and Recovery" case histories are given, and readers are referred to two manuals of recovery, but advice is not given.

Finally, it is disappointing that the first 28 pages have little or nothing to do with disaster preparedness. And 38 of the book's 100 text pages are devoted to library security problems including people, buildings, and mutilation of collections, subjects covered in a 1984 AlA publication. An additional ten pages cover general preservation topics other than disaster preparedness. In light of the fact that the text lacks discussion of a number of issues directly related to its topic, it is unfortunate that Mr. Morris was asked to write upon these subjects, which are only peripheral.

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