Business Continuity for Corporate Libraries (Archived Report)

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Business Continuity
for Corporate Libraries

by Jerri
L. Ledford

Docid: 00018994

Publication Date: 1602

Report Type: TUTORIAL


Although it seems that we live in an age
where digital information rules, the truth is that books and paper
documents are still pervasive. Some organizations rely heavily on
printed materials to conduct and manage
their daily workflow. Regardless of whether documents and information
are paper
or digital, however, their value is undisputed. Unfortunately, paper
assets are
often completely overlooked when creating continuity plans. When
documents and
information in all formats are not included in continuity planning,
organizations may find that the results are less
effective than expected. This report outlines the risk to information in corporate
and recommends strategies for not only protecting but also recovering
documents and information in the event that a disaster should occur.

Report Contents:


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Lately, it seems that most businesses focus their business
continuity plans around digital data, but many
of those same organizations are still married to their paper
information. And
what about those hardcopies you keep in the filing cabinet behind
your desk?
What’s in there and what would it cost you to lose that information?
too, the volume of paper mail that crosses your desk in a day’s
time. How
bad would your business flow be hurt if you “lost” all of those
pieces of paper at one time?

The digital age has matured
quickly, causing many organizations to concentrate disaster
mitigation efforts
on electronic documents and information. In the push to protect
digital assets,
their paper-based counterparts that we depend on are often forgotten
or ignored.
It’s estimated that four out of five plans that fail to include
mitigation provisions for paper-based materials would surely get a
grade if put to the true test – a real disaster. The same number of
– four out of five – that don’t have a hardcopy contingency plan,
fail within
five years of the business being struck by a disaster that wipes out

While large corporations
invest hundreds of thousands – even millions – of dollars to
safeguard their
electronic information infrastructures (their data centers), they
relatively little to ensure the survival of their paper or hardcopy
(their libraries).

Depending on the industry,
corporate libraries and archives can contain valuable, often
assets, including:

  • Scientific and engineering reference volumes
  • Trade journals
  • Physical specimens and exhibits
  • Engineering schematics
  • Client contact and information files
  • Contracts, agreements, and other legal instruments
  • General research data

Owing to their ongoing
research programs, for example, the various laboratories and
libraries of the
American Museum of Natural History in New York house in excess of 30
scientific specimens and countless experimental records. That
thousands of paper documents for which there are no
duplicates. If
something were to happen to those documents, the data would simply
cease to

As with their data centers,
corporations have an obligation to protect their libraries and
centers, and, in particular, their vital paper or hardcopy
assets. In some
cases, this means amending the corporation’s business continuity
plan to
encompass the corporate libraries. In other cases, it means
fashioning a
separate business continuity plan. In either case, the
corporation would
be negligent for not securing these vital assets.


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There are several major
risks facing corporate libraries, including the existence of
paper-only assets
and the lack of a restoration protocol. As libraries continue to
move into the
digital age however, they need to be aware of the risks inherent in
resources and prepare to stave them off.

Paper-Only Assets

Even today, there are some
information assets that exist only in paper or hardcopy form. If
these assets
are destroyed (through fire, for example), it may be difficult – if
impossible – to recover them.

No Restoration Protocol

Even in cases where
restoration (or partial restoration) is possible, there is often no
protocol. Consider, for example, a corporate law library that may
hundreds or even thousands of client files. Most of the
contained in such files – exclusive of handwritten attorney notes –
may be recoverable,
sourced from the clients themselves, the courts, other law firms,
and other
libraries. Unfortunately, there is often no protocol for conducting
recoveries, rendering the process both protracted and expensive.
there often are no exact records of every document contained in such
a library,
so reconstruction and restoration must depend on the ability of
human memory.

Digital Assets

Even in digital-only
settings, computers still generate those paper-based documents that
corporations and their customers and clients cling to and some even
embrace. As
many organizations push to digitize more and more data, however,
computers and
other technology also need to be protected in the wake of a
disaster. A
computer or network disaster typically involves loss of or damage to
data, the
inability of programs to function, or the loss of communication. In
addition to
digital archives the following items need to be assessed for risk
and included
in any disaster or business continuity planning:

  • Security in or access to the server room and an appropriate
    built-in fire suppression system.
  • Water damage is the second-ranking cause of server downtime and
    damage. Servers and associated peripheral equipment should be
    rack-mounted so that up to six inches of standing water will not
    affect the equipment.
  • The existence of a current backup which is sent to an off-site
    storage facility to protect against the loss of the on-site
    backup tape.
  • The security of the database server, not normally considered a
    ‘holding’ but central to library holding access.


In a disaster, lack of
access to the network, whether it is local or off-site, is to be
expected. If
critical library functions, including backups, are performed over
the network,
a provision for protecting or accessing holdings and other digital
needs to be in place should the network fail.


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The future for corporate
library business continuity begins with the past. Assessing lessons
learned by
other organizations that have faced losses may be the best way to
disaster in the future. Organizations should implement stringent
Learned protocols and develop training plans and schedules to ensure
involved parties are aware of the procedures to be followed in the
case of an
emergency. Additionally, they should seek out materials from others
who have
weathered the worst and who have documented how and why their
disaster plan
either worked effectively or failed miserably.

In October 2004, a flash
flood rushed through the first floor of the University of Hawaii at
Hamilton Library. The University did a good job of minimizing the
extent of the
damage and made use of invaluable information from a host of both
critical and
sympathetic sources. It is a start at what could be a meticulous
Learned program which could save other institutions not only money
but time,
resources, and assets.

Other natural disasters,
like Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 or Superstorm Sandy in October
illustrate the ongoing need for better business continuity planning.
Documentation after Hurricane Katrina showed piles of paper
documents littering
the coastline – much of it documents that belonged to businesses
such as banks
and law firms that were located just blocks from the Gulf.

Those hard copy records
were completely lost and many of the businesses that were affected
recovered. Those that did recover were largely multi-location
However, even those organizations found themselves relying on
employee memory
to rebuild much of the hardcopy documentation that was lost. Again,
a Lessons
Learned program could help other organizations incorporate the most
methods of protection and recovery of documents in the case of a

Countless major disasters
have taken place in the years since these incidents, but the damage
remains the same. Paper and hard copy data are lost, much of which
can never be
recovered. Making strides toward technology can help, particularly
for those
corporate libraries that continue to hold large paper-based archives.
those paper documents offers one way to ensure there is a backup in
the event
that hard copies are lost. Workflow and document management systems
can play a
key role when creating documents. Scanners and other imaging devices
with search and archiving software, when implemented in-house with
backups in an off-site location, can help to stave off certain
disasters, as


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As the chief guardian of
corporate assets, the chief security officer (CSO) should petition –
if necessary – for the development of a Corporate Library Business
Plan. To be most effective, the plan should be integrated with the
corporation’s other business continuity plans:

  • First, to achieve plan consistency.
  • Second, to increase the likelihood that the library plan will be
    updated and tested on a regular basis, functions that rely on
    annual funding.

The Corporate Library
Business Continuity Plan should also examine the likelihood of the
disasters that could happen (fire, water, wind, explosion, etc.) and
contingencies for each. Beyond the overall imperative of
creating a
Corporate Library Business Continuity Plan, the CSO should encourage
following continuity initiatives.

1. Implement a
Document Imaging Program

Recognizing the perishable
nature of paper or hardcopy documents, implement a document imaging
converting the most valuable information into electronic form. Once
a document
has been digitized, backup copies should be stored in a secure,
location to ensure the safety (and availability) of the backup
should a
disaster occur.

Table 1 depicts the
benefits of document imaging.

Table 1. Benefits of Document Imaging



Faster Retrieval

Imaging permits rapid
retrieval of documents, improving library utility.

Full-text Search Capability

Imaging enables document
searching based on keywords or phrases.

No Lost Files

Imaging prevents document
disappearance through loss or theft. 

Greater Space Availability

Imaging allows libraries to
recover valuable file space.

Business Continuity

Imaging provides rapid
recovery of documents in the event of a disaster.

Plans should also be put into place to ensure
that digitized documents are examined
and updated regularly to prevent the loss of data due to
formats. Technology advances relentlessly, which means that
document formats are constantly changing. It
takes only a few years for a document format to become unreadable.
Part of the
maintenance of a corporate library continuity plan should be to
ensure that
documents are updated as needed to remain accessible.

2. Deploy Fire
Protection Systems

Mitigate the primary cause
of document damage – fire. Deploy fire detection and
suppression equipment
– preferably water sprinklers – in areas containing key documents.
One of the
traditional arguments against installing sprinklers is water
damage. In
fact, sprinklers actually lower the risk of water damage. The
reasons include:  

  • In buildings without sprinklers, the amount of water deposited
    by fire department hoses is tens to hundreds of times more than
    the amount that sprinklers would discharge.
  • By virtue of their immediate response, sprinklers fight
    early-stage fires, which require less water.
  • Finally, only those sprinklers closest to the fire activate,
    which further reduces any sprinkler-induced water damage.

3. Create an Asset

Create a map pinpointing
the position of valuable collections. In the event of a
slowly developing emergency,
the map can be employed by library workers to locate and remove
vital records.
Also, during recovery operations, the map can be used by salvage
workers to
retrieve the remnants of vital records. Time is critical in
damaged documents.

4. Set Priorities for

It is essential to
determine in advance and set priorities for salvage, particularly
paper-based holdings. Pre-planning what holding have the highest
priority for
recovery forces a risk assessment to be performed and requires
developing a
risk/loss analysis. Because mold and mildew growth, for example,
may begin
within 48 hours of materials getting wet, libraries must know in
advance which
materials will be salvaged and which will not. The larger the
scale of the
disaster, the more important the priorities become. In
establishing priorities,
think of the library as a whole, not just in terms of each unit or
The following issues should be considered when setting priorities:

  • Critical nature of the material for the ongoing operation of
    the library
  • Whether the material is available in another format or another
    nearby collection
  • Replacement cost vs. the cost of restoration
  • Rarity of the item or article
  • The immediate attention an item may require because of
    construction, i.e. clay-coated paper, vellum, or water-soluble

When establishing
priorities for salvage, consider the categories of material at

First Priority. These are the materials judged
essential to the library operation. Examples may include:

  • Unique office files including personnel files, financial
    records, legal contracts, and insurance policies. Before
    establishing this material as a first priority, determine if
    some or all of the material is duplicated in a central file for
    the city, county, organization or enterprise campus and, as
    such, could be easily reconstructed. If so, that portion of
    material would be a lower priority.
  • Irreplaceable items such as unique books and manuscripts.
  • Record copy of executive and key personnel presentations,
    employee theses, and funded dissertations. For decades, many
    corporate and academic libraries have microfilmed materials.
    Most are now digitizing them. Whether film or digital, it is a
    good idea to store a copy outside the library building in a
    vault or other safe location.

Second Priority.

  • Rare books – microform master copies
  • Rare art
  • Digital archives

Additional priorities can
and should be established at as many levels of priority as are
judged necessary
to restore continuity of library operation.

5. Engage a Document
Restoration Firm

Place a document
restoration firm on standby. According to document
professionals at Document SOS, “Salvage experts traditionally
[come] from
an industrial cleaning or fire brigade background and [have] no
knowledge of paper; its structure, composition, and subsequent
reaction to fire
and water.” Expert document restoration can be highly effective:

  • 85 to 90 percent of fire damaged paper is restorable
  • Up to 100 percent of water damaged paper can be restored

6. Establish High Security

One method of protecting
valuable documents is to isolate those collections within high
security areas –
reinforced rooms that are fire- and blast-resistant and can be
sealed off in
the event of an emergency. Librarians should also consider the
deployment of
fireproof safes for after-hours storage of the most sensitive – or
irreplaceable – documents.

Fireproof safes are
generally the least expensive of all safes since they are rarely
designed to
protect against burglary or surreptitious entry. The inside
of the safe is
normally insulated with gypsum plaster that expands when exposed
to high
temperatures, sealing the doors shut. Protection is usually
good for one
or two hours and such safes can withstand temperatures of 125
degrees Celsius
(257 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher.

7. Create Multiple
Mini Libraries

A second method of
protecting valuable documents is to create multiple mini
libraries. Instead of one large central facility, establish
smaller facilities. This approach has the virtue of limiting
damage in the
event of a disaster affecting part of the library
complex. Additionally,
it allows for creating partnerships in the event that a loss does
occur with
one of the smaller libraries. Working together, libraries that
remain intact
can help to recover and rebuild the documentation that is lost.
it also complicates library administration and security, and adds
to the cost
of library maintenance.

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the Author

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Jerri L. Ledford, a frequent contributor to Faulkner
Information Services, is an independent consultant. Ms.
Ledford has covered the
high tech industry for the past eight years, writing for
such publications, Network World, Outsourcing Journal,
and Technology

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