The Official Publication of SWALL:
The Southwestern Association of Law Libraries
A Chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries
TABLE OF CONTENTS
FROM THE BENCH
SWALL AT AALL
of SWALL Business Meeting: Minnesota
AALL Experience: 2001
Legislative History in Texas
Legislative History Research Guide
From the CoALL Annual Holiday Party
WILLS AND ESTATES:
RICE UNIVERSITY'S SEMINAR ON COLLECTION PRESERVATION IN LIGHT OF HURRICANE ALLISON
On Wednesday afternoon, September 19th, the Fondren Library of Rice University hosted a seminar on local libraries deeply impacted by recent Tropical Storm Allison. Allison had rolled through the Houston area the week of June 3rd, causing the most damage the weekend of June 9th.
University of Houston O’Quinn Law Library
Jon Schultz, Director of UH’s O’Quinn Law Library, showed home videos of his first trek into their library building after Allison struck hard on the UH campus the weekend of June 9th. Jon's video highlighted the widespread flooding damage to the library’s lower floor. The water had apparently gained access to the library through the utility tunnel system of UH. Damaged materials included the John R. Brown Foreign. International and Admiralty Collections, the John R. Brown Archives, the Mexican Law Collection, all state materials except Texas, the Government Documents collection, and an excellent collection of original Texas Supreme Court Records & Briefs. Jon also showed video updates from later during the summer, showing different stages of the library’s recovery process. Different phases of the library’s recovery included: the pumping of water over eight feet deep from the library’s lower level; the temporary restoration of power and air conditioning by a local disaster recovery company run by UH alum Don Hartzell; sealing off of the stairwell and air vents to the lower level to prevent mold from reaching the upper (main) floor of the library; and removal of damaged items from the library’s lower level by crane, using large wheelbarrow-style trash receptacles, which were emptied into a front loader backhoe and then placed in on-site dumpsters.
Jon reported that the entire book collection from the lower level was lost, some 200,000 volumes, since the books sat in the water for so long, and because the water contained oil and other substances. However, the John R. Brown Manuscript Collection was salvaged, and sent out for freeze-drying, and recently came back usable but stained. The library is considering digitizing the collection to minimize the problems of providing access to this collection. Jon also related that the library’s entire microform collection would be saved. The microform collection is currently being cleaned by a vendor and will then be returned.
During Questions and Answers, Jon said that the lower level of the library will no longer be used by the library, and will be converted to another use, and that the microform collection will at least temporarily be housed in a nearby building formerly used by Kinko’s, since the weight of the collection cannot be supported on the library’s main floor.
Jon concluded by emphasizing speed during any disaster response, and he distributed a handout entitled “One-Hour Emergency Planning,” which contains actions he recommends need to be done the first hour after a flood disaster has occurred.
Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library
Beth White, head of the Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library McGovern Historical Collections and Archives Research Center, related her experiences in dealing with her flooded archives, which is located on the bottom floor of her library in the middle of the Texas Medical Center. Unfortunately the library sits in a depression in the Medical Center complex, and gravity forced water under and through the doors into the archives. Beth gave recommendations for anyone dealing with a similar disaster in the future, which she called, “What they didn’t teach me in library science school.” Beth highlighted a number of points, including: how important it is to weed out the whiners in your staff when looking for post-disaster assistance, since it is dirty, hard work; the importance of triage for your collections, or knowing what is most important to deal with first; locating additional workers if needed by use of a temporary agency or volunteers, and having Spanish speakers available if needed to communicate with these workers; and having plans for supplying your workers with food, water and restroom facilities when all power and water in your area are shut down.
Beth also highlighted the fact that not all workers need to be able to heave and tote damaged items to contribute, since persons were needed to identify damaged and destroyed items for inventories and insurance lists, and to make lists of items hauled out by disaster services companies for reprocessing. Beth also commented on the need for skilled trades people like carpenters, electricians, etc. to be available to restore your facility to working order as soon as possible after a disaster.
Beth also commented on the critical transportation needs for getting workers during a flood; the additional security required if the building’s door pass card electronic system fails due to an electrical outage; and the challenges of maneuvering semi-tractor trailer rigs around your building when the disaster recovery folks arrive with portable generators, a/c units, dumpsters and refrigerators to store your materials on the way to recovery services. Beth stated that she eventually sent out 25 pallets worth of materials to be freeze-dried by Munters Moisture Control Services.
Beth concluded by reminding attendees of the need for quick access to the institution’s financial resources during a disaster, like having departmental credit cards available, or having the faith of the employees that they will be quickly reimbursed if the need should arise for them to purchase needed disaster response supplies out of their own money on a moment’s notice, or outside normal working hours or on weekends.
Tom Takaro, librarian for the Houston Symphony, discussed the damage Allison did to his collection when the downtown tunnel system flooded his space on the lower level of Jones Hall in the Arts District of downtown. To highlight the loss, he brought along a PowerPoint audio-visual presentation, which included music by the Houston Symphony. The worst damage was to the Symphony's historical collection of musical scores, which spanned 80 years and contained hand annotations by the conductors and musicians. The scores were recovered and freeze-dried by BMS-CAT, and will photocopied onto new paper to eliminate the oil and other stains on the pages. The pencil annotations to the scores remarkably survived the dunking and recovery process.
Tom’s audio-visuals included images of the damage to two of the Symphony’s musical instruments, which are usually all stored on the same floor as the library, but due to the summer months most were stored elsewhere. Tom mentioned that his house is presently the temporary site for the symphony's library, since the Symphony’s insurance company will not continue to insure the library should it be returned to the lower level of Jones Hall. That lower level now sits empty, as the symphony considers other locations for the library, while some corporations downtown have offered their space.
Federal Emergency Management Agency
The last speaker was James Zemlicka, an architect specializing in mitigation procedures after disasters for FEMA. James had previously been an architect in private practice, and was recognized by FEMA as designing buildings capable of withstanding strong natural forces. FEMA thus asked James to go to work for them, and he accepted. James noted that he worked out of the New York office, and had friends dealing with the World Trade Center disaster at this time. In fact, James had been in a training session in a New York building when the disaster happened, and he was partially involved in planning the FEMA response. He explained that FEMA is also the lead federal agency in dealing with terrorism in the United States.
James urged each attendee that the best way to survive a disaster was to have a good plan in place before the disaster strikes. James then described how a Governor must first ask for federal assistance before FEMA could assist, and then explained that through the Federal Stafford Act that federal money then was granted to the state, which acted as the sub-grantor to all needy parties. He also said that all disaster money is given out in a 75% federal/25% state split.
James related that in Houston planning for flooding was especially important, since it has had 26 floods since 1961. He also told how money for mitigation purposes could be spent long after the disaster in order to prevent future disasters, and that this money represented a figure 15% above and beyond the dollar amount that was spent to actually recover from the disaster itself. He mentioned that in Houston the Governor has decided that the mitigation money available from Tropical Storm Allison will be spent for a home buyout plan to remove houses frequently flooded in the Houston area.
The Seminar ended with snacks and drinks for the attendees and speakers, and was well worth the admission price (free!).