As I write this, I’m glued to my chair behind the circulation desk. As a school librarian I’m often up and down, heading to the front office periodically to retrieve something from a mailbox or request a purchase order, making my way to a classroom to check in with a teacher, wandering into the stacks with a student to hunt down a misshelved book.

And then there are days when I’m grateful to stay in one place for a while.

Like today, when another teacher pointed out I have a four inch rip down the back of my pants.

My crisis is a small one–the school accountant is having her husband drop off her sewing kit (and a pair of sweats, I’m hoping, lest I be sequestered while my pants are being repaired!) and I’ll survive the minor embarrassment–but the whole thing has me thinking about emergency preparedness. What do I need to have in my library emergency kit?

1. Tools for a natural disaster. If you don’t already have a plan for inclement weather, particularly leaks and floods, now is an excellent time to start. When I worked in my college library, new employees were all introduced to the emergency binder, which included the number to call immediately for water damage.

2. Basic first aid supplies. In school settings anything beyond a band-aid must be handled by the school nurse, but I think it’s important to keep tissues, hand sanitizer and a bag of band-aids (there is the occasional risk of paper cut, after all) handy, particularly during cold and flue season. Make sure you know the policies and procedures around first aid and medication in your building. Do you know who to call if there’s a major injury or a spill involving blood?

3. Backup circulation procedures. While a power or network outage means your computers are toast, ideally other services can continue with or without your barcode scanner. Is your circulation heavy enough that you need backup circulation cards, or can you write down patron and item numbers by hand? And do you have a procedure manual in general, in case you’re out of the building (and lucky enough to get coverage)?

4. Fire drill and other emergency protocol. Are your exits clearly marked? Do you have a fire route clearly posted? If you had a fire, earthquake, lockdown or other alarm–drill or not–would you know what to do for your staff and patrons? If you’re in a school, make sure you know exactly what the expectations are for the library during a drill. You may need to take attendance once you and your students are in a safe location, and in a lockdown situation you may need to gather students from surrounding hallways. If emergency procedures involve rooms or areas of the library you don’t usually use, make sure you test phones there regularly.

5. Keep a supply stash. You never know when you, a co-worker or a teen might need an umbrella, a quarter for a parking meter, or a spare change of pants. Pay attention to frequently requested items and try to keep a spare on hand, whether in your office, car, or desk drawer. And if you happen to have sewing skills, keeping a needle and thread nearby might not be a bad idea.

What’s in your library emergency kit? Have you had to use it?

About mk Eagle

I'm the librarian at Holliston High School, a bit west of Boston. In my spare time I advise my school's yearbook and Gay Straight Alliance, write about food, and root for the Red Sox.

7 Thoughts on “Be Prepared

  1. Becky on March 16, 2010 at 8:57 am said:

    The most commonly asked for thing at our library–which we may or may not have–is a wire coat hanger because people have locked themselves out of their car. I now try to keep one around in case it’s needed, but it often goes missing…

  2. What a coincidence–a teacher here locked her keys in her car just this morning! (We actually have a school police officer in the building, and apparently he has some expertise when it comes to getting into a locked car…)

  3. MK,
    While a first aid kit for yourself is a good thing, what are the laws/policies regarding giving first aid to students? I’ve yet to encounter a medical emergency in my school library (and hopefully will only encounter paper cuts), but for all other medical issues I send students to the nurse. When I worked at a local museum, our first aid policy was to give the supplies to the parents or chaperones and have them apply the ice pack or band aid or whatever.
    I’m not up on the laws regarding schools, but I remember from my days as a summer camp counselor (at a city run camp) that there is a lot of liability to be dealt with in these situations. Many organizations have the policy that someone not certified in first aid cannot administer it. A teacher should be aware of the policy at his/her school.

  4. Jonah, that’s a really good point–and I actually had a sentence in the post originally that I had to keep writing and rewriting and eventually deleted because I just couldn’t come up with non-awkward phrasing…

    In my school, band-aids can be administered by anyone as long as it’s just for something minor like a paper cut–injuries and accidents must be reported and documented by the school nurse. I probably should’ve phrased that section differently–I meant more along the lines of tissues, hand sanitizer, band-aids, etc. Indeed, in a school setting medical issues are very strictly regulated–we’re not allowed to give students painkillers, for instance.

    Wordsmithing that sentence back in now!

  5. School librarians should always have a box of plastic utensils on hand-teachers and students will sing your praises when they need them for a meal or craft project.

  6. It’s also worth noting that in many cases “good samaritan” laws protect non-certified strangers. A doctor, nurse, or cpr/first aid certified person, or an employee of a school acting in loco parentis (especially a public school), may not receive the same freedom from liability as a person just trying to help.
    I could be wrong, though, it’s been a while since I was a camp counselor (or first aid certified, for that matter).

  7. Chris on March 18, 2010 at 7:33 pm said:

    So true to be prepared. We never know what emergency will befall us. The story of the ripped pants reminded me of one that happened to me many years ago. I was coming in to work wearing shoes with a bit of a heel. I tripped on the stairs and broke the heel off. Needless to say, I didn’t have a second pair of shoes along, so I spent my entire ship hobbling around with only one heel. To this day, I always have at least one extra pair of shoes in my car.

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