"If your house was on fire and you could save only three things, what would they be?" How would you answer this question? What if it was not your house, but your office or library? What is your role in an office or library emergency?
Before the pandemic, I knew exactly three things about my organization's emergency plans: how and where to exit the building in case of an emergency, where to meet my colleagues after an evacuation (in the parking lot across the street from my office), and that I should have an emergency preparedness kit stocked with meds, snacks, and other supplies in my desk. On March 15, 2020, I received a text message and an email telling me to not go into the office due to the COVID pandemic. From that point forward, I simply waited for instructions from my organization's management, from the Centers for Disease Control, and from my state and local governments. I felt lost and disoriented - not from all the instructions, but because I did not know what role I am supposed to play.
This is my story, but it is a common experience. In my informal conversations with information professionals in various roles and organizations, I have learned that disaster and business continuity planning are generally left to IT staff (remote logins, data storage, etc.), office managers (CPR training, first aid kits, and so on), and/or building management (fire drills, alarm and elevator testing, etc.).
Disaster planning, emergency preparedness, and business continuity are not simply topics for annual meetings. Does your staff know what materials to save and how to prioritize safety? Is your staff aware of, and trained to respond to, the most common emergencies in your area?
Librarians and their organizations are as varied as the many different disasters and emergency situations that could occur at any given moment. Librarians must be prepared to respond and should discuss disaster and business continuity planning annually, if not more frequently. This will empower library staff to act while ensuring their safety.
Science Collections Coordinator and Environmental Sciences Librarian
Michigan State University Librariestans@msu.edu