Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Since Sept. 11, we have all had to revise our definition of disaster. When law librarians and other workplace managers plan for potential disasters, no longer do we consider only water main breaks, power failures and acts of nature. Regardless of the cause and magnitude of the event, there are certain procedures and precautions that should be firmly in place — and tested — before disaster strikes. That so many downtown Manhattan firms were able to continue business from a remote location within hours of the Sept. 11 attack is a testament to the importance of disaster planning. Our firm has had a business continuity strategy in place since the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, with an emphasis on securing and backing up our network and computer applications. Although I am confident that the library’s electronic records are reliably backed up, one cannot always count on restoring from the backup tapes or, for that matter, having access to the servers. In light of the events of Sept. 11, I had to consider the possibility that the library staff would need to provide some level of service without having access to our physical facility, and with limited and/or delayed access to our network. My goal was to develop a plan that I could implement on my own, but that would fit into a firmwide plan as it continues to evolve. I primarily addressed the challenges of providing day-to-day library services, and spent less time considering how I would rebuild the collection (perhaps subconsciously refusing to admit that it could ever come to that). After reviewing the literature on library disaster preparedness, I decided that the most useful way to look at the disaster planning process was to consider this thought-provoking question: If you suddenly had to abandon your work space for three weeks, what would you wish that you had done to prepare? Without our physical and electronic resources, how would we provide service to our lawyers? For librarians just starting to develop a disaster recovery plan, I would like to share some suggestions and recommendations based on my experience and on those of some of my professional colleagues at other firms. Step 1: Read the literature. Fortunately, there is an abundance of current and readily available articles and checklists on disaster preparedness, many of which are on the Web. Reviewing this literature, especially if you have not begun to develop a plan, will help you to get started. While reviewing the literature, make sure to compile a list of organizations that can supply disaster control services, supplies and equipment, especially experts in salvaging water-damaged materials. And while you’re at it, assemble a basic first aid and emergency supply kit for yourself and your staff, and suggest that everyone keep a change of clothes, comfortable shoes, a sweater and personal hygiene items in the office. There are any number of nondisaster situations that might force you to remain in your office longer than you had planned, such as public transportation problems and bad snowstorms. Step 2: Create an emergency calling tree. Insist that each staff member take home a copy and store it where they can find it again. In our case, I would call three senior library staff members and my administrative assistant, each of whom is assigned other staff members to call. The chart includes home and cell phone numbers, and personal e-mail addresses. I suggest adding an out-of-town contact for each staff member as well, because it is often easier to reach someone outside your immediate area than someone within your area. If you have library staffs in branch offices, include their contact information as well. You may need to reach them to help provide services to your attorneys, and they will certainly want to be able to keep in touch with you. Step 3: Compile a list of critical library services. Determine which ones could be provided from a remote location and then look at all the resources and record-keeping systems that support these services. This is the time to verify that all of your critical records are available electronically and securely backed up, and to remedy the situation if they are not. Fortunately, all of our critical records are available electronically, with one important exception: our firm’s weekly newsletter, The Bull. This is an integral part of our firm’s history, and the library has the only bound set, with indices. I wrote a proposal to digitize our collection, which we will be doing. You may have similar print collections in your library that would be impossible to replace. Step 4: Assemble your critical records, and decide which format to store them in. Again, I was working with the assumption that access to our network would be limited or nonexistent for an indefinite period of time. After considering portable electronic media, like floppy disks, CD-ROMs and zip files, I decided that there is a certain comfort and convenience in being able to browse through paper documents. These records are stored in our firm’s off-site records storage facility in New Jersey. I plan to update these records at least once a year, adding documents during the year as necessary. My files include: � Contracts. As recently as five years ago, I had only two contracts — Lexis and Westlaw. Now I have two full loose-leaf binders of contracts and copies of all license agreements; contracts for fee-based services, including details of approved access and usage; and contact information. Other than The Bull, these are the only critical records in paper for which there is no electronic backup. I could have scanned them, but decided that I would prefer to be able to browse and read through a paper set. These contracts represent all of our fee-based services, so they would provide a good jumping-off point for restoring service. � Passwords. We keep a Lotus Notes database of all passwords of the library staff members and the attorneys, including URLs and contact information. Many research tools are available anywhere you have Web access, but if your attorneys are anything like mine, those who are occasional users cannot remember their Lexis and Westlaw passwords, let alone those for CCH, LivEdgar, etc. I encourage them to keep a list of their passwords at home. � Collection. If you haven’t weeded in recent memory, this is a good time. Our decision to weed led to running a claims report, checking the currentness of treatises, de-accessioning lost books, and canceling certain titles, all of which necessitated shifting large portions of the collection. Once all that was completed, we were able to generate for each office an accurate list of holdings arranged by title, and another list by call number. We also made a list of books and periodicals in off-site storage. I would also recommend including a set of floor plans, shelving diagrams, maps and a volume count. � Library Suppliers. Our supplier file is on SydneyPlus and includes all contact information and account numbers. This is an invaluable source of information should we need to contact any of our publishers. We created a separate list containing all of the document delivery services that we use, with telephone and account numbers and passwords. � Directories. Include library chapter, regional and national directories, as well as Union Lists. While you are at it, include local white and yellow pages. � Equipment Inventory. Although your IT department probably has an inventory, it would be handy to have a copy as a guideline for setting up shop outside your office. Include computers, printers, scanners, fax machines, digital senders and TV/VCR microfilm/fiche equipment. The list should include serial numbers and contact and service information, if equipment is covered by a maintenance contract. � Software/Applications. If you have specialized software that is not offered firmwide, store a copy, including documentation and information about unique or customized installation issues. � Documentation. Include manuals for all of your automated systems, such as cataloging, any job procedure manuals, style manuals and internal forms. Copies of messenger forms might come in very handy if you are working off-site. � Periodical renewals. Since we use a subscription agency to handle most of our periodical subscriptions, I included a current “Summary of Publications,” which includes ship-to information and annual subscription costs. � Miscellaneous records. Consider storing: � the library budget for the current and previous two fiscal years, including staff salary budget; � purchase orders for the past 12 months; � routing lists, by title and by requester; � interlibrary loan records; and � any specialized indexes that you prepare (e.g., we index selected corporate documents using askSam). Step 5: Make sure that you and your senior staff are ready to work off-site, including at home. You will all need, at a minimum: � remote access to your firm’s network; � the password list; � information on document-delivery contacts; � a copy of your Bookmarks or Favorites file; � the firm personnel directory; � library and firm emergency contact information; and � personal address book or Rolodex. If you haven’t yet developed a business continuity plan, these tips will help ensure that your department can continue to operate under adverse circumstances. It’s a lot of extra work, but in these uncertain times, being even partially prepared is better than no preparation at all. Gitelle Seer is director of library services at New York-based Dewey Ballantine. She recently co-chaired a PLI program on the law library.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.