BY GAIL FINEBERG
Congress and the president have approved a $29.6 million supplemental security appropriation for the Library to pay for the cost of recovering from the Oct. 15 anthrax threat, an off-site mail processing facility and an off-site facility to protect computer systems and data.
Included in the appropriation is $4.2 million for the anticipated cost of processing a 3 million-item backlog of irradiated books, serials and letters, once they begin to arrive at the Library sometime next month; replacing materials that have been damaged by irradiation; and new operations to cope with terrorist threats.
The Library's supplemental security appropriation was part of $40 billion appropriated in September for emergency homeland security and disaster recovery and allocated in a bill (H.R. 3338) that Congress approved on Dec. 20 and the president signed into law (P.L. 107-117) on Jan. 10.
The Library prepared an "obligation plan" for spending $13.9 million during the remaining three quarters of fiscal year 2002. The balance will cover the costs of the off-site computing center, explained Financial Services Director John D. Webster.
Sixteen million dollars of the supplemental will be spent to create a secure off-site computing center at which the Library's computer systems and data, including those that serve Congress, will be replicated.
Mike Handy, acting director of Information Technology Services (ITS), said, "ITS has a project team working with staff in the Senate Computer Center in the office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms and with technical staff from House Information Resources, as well as with technical staff from the Architect of the Capitol, to ensure our plans are compatible and complementary.
"Our primary goal is to develop for the Library an alternative, secure computer facility to ensure the continuity of operations in the event of a major disaster in the Madison Building or on Capitol Hill," Mr. Handy said. "We aim to ensure the survivability of our computer systems and our digital collections regardless of the nature of any future catastrophe."
Of this allocation, $300,000 is obligated for the second quarter of fiscal 2002 to contract with industry experts and technical consultants to help the Library develop a detailed plan for the center. Once the technical plan for the computer center is completed, the Library will submit an obligation plan for the remaining $15.7 million.
The Library's supplemental security appropriation includes $4.2 million to pay for the Library's cost of staff overtime and contractors to process the 3 million-item mail backlog and other expenditures, such as hazardous materials training and testing. Included is $398,168 to replace collections materials that may have been damaged or destroyed in the decontamination process. Director for Acquisitions Nancy Davenport pointed out that the mail backlog includes items being sent to the Library for copyright deposit as well as materials that the Library orders for the collections from publishers and overseas dealers.
The Acquisitions Directorate's three divisions–European and Latin America, Anglo-American, and Africa, Asia, and Overseas Operations–are all bracing for the backlog by clearing shelf space.
Staff of the Acquisitions Directorate, the Serial Record Division, and the Copyright Acquisitions Division were to begin taking classes in "irradiation triage." Staff will learn how to handle irradiated mail safely, even though it will have been tested and handled several times off site before delivery to the Library, Ms. Davenport said. Ms. Davenport said her staff will be able to assess material damage from irradiation only after materials begin to arrive. She said she expects microfilm to be destroyed, paper to be embrittled and other formats to be damaged.
Irene Schubert, head of the Preservation Reformatting Division, has been sending various materials to the Titan Corp. irradiation plant in Lima, Ohio, to test the effect of intense heat on items such as transparent tape, plastic sleeves and plastic stoppers of mail tubes. Although it is clear that irradiation damages electronic equipment, electronic tape appears to survive, Ms. Davenport said. Preservation Director Mark Roosa is in the process of determining the long-range effects of irradiation on digital media.
Collections Preservation Disaster Recovery
Included in the supplemental appropriation is $415,000 to prepare for collections recovery from a large-scale disaster. Of this, $300,000 will be spent for three "flash freezers" that will instantly freeze waterlogged materials at 40 degrees below zero to prevent mildew–the greatest threat to water-damaged materials. Each freezer holds 500 cubic feet of materials.
This money also will buy plastic "rescubes" used to transport water-damaged materials from the disaster site to the flash freezers, and additional "Reactpacks" and emergency response kits that staff use to protect the collections from water damage and themselves from contamination.
Ms. Fineberg is the editor of The Gazette, the Library's staff newsletter.