Thursday 29 April 2010

Burny burny burny...

We like to keep things topical for you and so quite often use our good friend Wikipedia to see if there are any interesting Birthdays, Festivals or events that we can celebrate on the days that we post.

At approximately 2.55pm yesterday, if the wind was blowing in the right direction and your windows were open, you may have heard a high pitched screech coming from the general direction of Junction Road.

Today, in 1986, a fire broke out in Los Angeles Library and they lost 20% of their stock. That is 400,000 books! To put this into perspective, Orkney Library has about 80,000 items, the photographic archive holds about 60,000 original photographs and the archives hold about 30,000 documents. The thought of an entire Orkney Library and Archive's worth of material, doubled, going up in flames was too much to bear and the final two hours of the day were spent stroking books and whispering consolingly to glass negatives and maps.

Archivists spend an awful lot of time thinking about worst case scenarios simply because of the priceless nature of most deposits. Part of our Assistant Archivist's job is to maintain an up-to-date 'Disaster Plan' which details our course of action should there, shudder, be a fire, flood or infestation of some kind.

Bearing in mind the possibility that we may have to save an archive from fire, water or vermin, we spend any downtime holding our breath in buckets of water, thrusting our hands into flames and thinking up cutting insults to shout at beasties. You're welcome Orkney.

Disclaimer: After posting this yesterday afternoon, I was accosted by members of staff from both Library and Archive and told that I had gotten the estimates of our stock levels wrong. They were totally hassling me! They were all up in my grill!

Apparently the Library holds nearer 145,000 items, but this includes Stromness and the Mobile Libraries. I suppose it is possible for a fire to consume Kirkwall library, spread across the West Mainland, gobbling up Mobile 1 as it goes, ravaging the whole of Stromness' main street on it's way to set the Stromness library ablaze, before leaping across the water and catching Mobile 2 on Hoy. Not

I took my number of archives from those catalogued on the database, but we do have entire room full of uncatalogued items which I forgot about. What-ever.

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