On Wednesday, August 18th, the Disaster Committee attended a webinar hosted by the ALCTS group as one of their series on disaster preparedness. Steve Kelley, Ellen Daugman, Scott Adair, Anna Dulin and Craig Fansler attended the webinar which was presented by Nancy Kraft from the University of Iowa Libraries. Ms. Kraft has been tried by fire (or water in this case). During 2008, the University of Iowa, which occupies both banks of the Iowa River was severely flooded. Kraft’s presentation was based on the evacuation, recovery and maintenance of library services developed during this flooding.
The abbreviation COOP stands for Continuity of Operations Plan. According to Nancy Kraft, a COOP Plan is a set of “guidelines that ensure an institution can carry on all essential functions in case of a natural or man-made disaster.” You’ll be happy to know that ZSR is one of the few libraries nationally which has such a plan, developed by each of our teams last year. The idea of such a COOP Plan is to be able to offer essential library services during a disruption. The ZSR COOP Plan establishes ways that we think library services can be continued during an emergency. In the case of the University of Iowa, the university had the COOP Plan in place.
Nancy Kraft stated that you need a COOP Plan to ensure you can carry on essential functions following a disaster. The goal is to reduce the adverse effects of a disruption and recover and restore critical functions. The plan should include essential functions, personnel and resources needed to continue operations. Kraft recommends focusing on the big questions first: mission essential functions, records management, and risk reduction. The COOP Plan should be part of the Disaster Plan and posted online. Libraries need a list of prioritized functions that must be continued under any and all circumstances. Kraft also recommended having redundancy by backing everything up off site, and having an off site location for continuing operations.
This off-site alternative site should have:
-computers, software and other communications equipment
-sufficient space so you are capable of performing essential functions
-be able to operate for 30 days
Kraft also added these suggestions:
-decide what records are essential and duplicate off site
-determine the responsibilities of all staff
-decide the delegation of authority ahead of time
-have a PR person
-think outside the box
-communicate regularly with staff and the public
I should add at this point that the ZSR COOP Plan does cover most of these suggestions.
Kraft described the conditions and circumstances of the 2008 flood in Iowa. There were three libraries located on either side of the Iowa River. Both were evacuated and flooded. Much of the collections were relocated to higher ground in the buildings or moved to remote storage. It has taken until this year for them to restore everything to pre-flood conditions. The University of Iowa Libraries divided their response into four categories for response priority:
1. Critical for the university
2. Critical for the libraries
Several other institutions in the area received damage including the African-American Museum of Iowa, the Cedar Rapids Public Library and the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library.
As we’ve learned at ZSR, each disaster has it’s own problems and complexities. These unique events have caused our staff to scratch their heads and then come up with unique solutions. In Iowa, these flooded institutions also innovated to help continue their essential operations: book brigades transported 50,000 volumes to upper levels of the University of Iowa Library; after the library closed, staff retrieved and re-shelved books twice daily for patrons; the African American Museum of Iowa garnered alternative space with the Masons gratis; and the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library moved their collections several times and even set up shop in the mall with the public library.
This was a useful workshop because it helped the Disaster committee see how a COOP Plan might be implemented in a disaster.