Summer 2002

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Technology Disaster Planning For Libraries

By Samuel Patton, NYSALB Trustee

Summer 2002 issue of Trustee

NYSALB's Trustee Institute offers an excellent mix of subjects for trustees attending the annual spring program. For example, Presentor Barbara Lilley, (Project Officer, NYS Education Department, Preservation of Library Material) talked about disaster planning and recovery for libraries.

Her excellent presentation got me to thinking about another aspect of disaster planning. As we become more and more dependent on computer and communications technology, how do we include technology in our emergency and disaster recovery planning?

Assuming that you have taken the conventional steps of backing up your computer data regularly, and storing the back ups off premises, and providing for an uninteruptible power supply for critical workstations and servers, what else should you consider?  What about the source diskettes, CD's and documentation of your software?

Could you set up or rebuild your systems on new computers, even if you had the back up tapes and brand new computers?  Do you have off site a complete inventory of your software and hardware, and an accurate record of your network (assuming you have one)?  Is there more than one person familiar enough with your system to help a vendor rebuild a system?  Do you have a record of the telephone lines in the library, and the numbers programmed into the fax machine?

Try this mental exercise: assume all your library technology becomes unavailable and unusable, but a generous donor gives you all new hardware to duplicate your system.  Can you rebuild and restore all your necessary systems?  These are some considerations for disaster planning for the physical damage or destruction of library technology.

Now what about the malicious damage that can and has been done by computer hackers and virus writers?  Do you have a policy that controls who can bring diskettes to use in your computers?  Do you have a secure computer that can do a virus scan on any diskettes patrons want to use in your systems?  Do you allow anyone to download programs from the Internet to your computers?  Do you have an up to date virus checker that both protects your computers from viruses and damaging emails and attachments?  Especially if you have a high speed internet connection, or your computers stay connected to the Internet for a long time every day, do you have a firewall or other security mechanism in place?

For some thought provoking information, and a way to test your system for weaknesses, point your browser to and look for the "Probe my Ports" and "Test my Shields" sections.  They may reveal some surprising things about your system, and give you food for thought about your system.

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