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The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 13, March 30, 2008, Article 16

PROTECTING LIBRARIES FROM FIRE AND WATER DAMAGE

Responding to Acting American Numismatic Association Executive
Director Ken Hallenbeck's recent query about protecting the ANA's
rare book room from fire, Anne Bentley of the Massachusetts
Historical Society writes: "I admit, as a former paper conservator,
I still have nightmares about disaster recovery case studies
presented at professional meetings, where we were shown slides
of un-sprinklered libraries in complete disarray after the fire:
wooden furnishings and art splintered beyond recognition from
the force of the water hitting them and piles of waterlogged
books hurled from shelves, boards and papers ripped out, again
from the force of the water stream directed at the fire.

"We have a gas fire suppression system in our building, but
probably the water-based systems are the less expensive route
for smaller organizations.  I sound like an ad for fire
sprinkler systems but as a conservator, I could always deal
with wet items -- there's not a thing to be done with ashes
or objects that have been pulverized by fire hoses."

"I understand the anxiety about water near rare collections...
but even if the odds are greater that a sprinkler system would
accidentally discharge before they'd ever have a fire in their
library, I'd personally still prefer to have a sprinkler system
--especially given the relatively inexpensive water incursion
alarms and super-efficient micro-mist sprinkler heads now
available.

"I'd also like to point out that, as far as water damage to
libraries is concerned and ignoring floods, you don't necessarily
need a sprinkler system to have a water incident in your building.
Water pipes running through walls and ceilings could leak at any
time. We had a weekend steam leak back in the late '70s that
resulted in drenched archives, which we dried out and reboxed
without adverse effects.

"From the Northeast Document Conservation Center, here is
Nick Artim's  Introduction to Fire Detection Systems  --
very useful to understand how the systems are designed to
work together
Full Story

"I'd recommend any librarian to lookup this National Park
Service site National Park Service
where they can download the following program:

Culture Shock: Fire Protection for Historic and Cultural
Property. Boston University, Preservation Studies Program,
1995. VHS video.

"A 23-minute color video that provides a persuasive argument
for the importance of fire detection and suppression systems
for cultural collections. Diagrams illustrating dry, wet pipe,
gaseous and water mist systems aid in understanding technical
and operational differences. The last few minutes focuses on
fire protection needs for historic structures and strategies
for concealing sprinkler heads to maintain the aesthetics of
a historic building

"For overall disaster planning, they might find the following
helpful:

Brooks, Constance. Disaster Preparedness. Washington, DC:
Association for Research Libraries, 1993.    A Preservation
Planning Program resource guide that is a useful compilation
of hard-to-obtain resources to use as a starting point when
beginning the disaster planning process.
Full Story

"In addition, a simple internet search under such terms as
'disaster planning,'  'Library conservation,' and using the
Conservators On Line (CoOL) website at
Conservators On Line (CoOL)  will open an
endless array of material available online.  That should be
plenty to chew on for starters!"

 QUERY: PROTECTING THE ANA RARE BOOK ROOM FROM FIRE
 esylum_v11n10a05.html

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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