Role of library and information centres in disaster management.

Author:Rattan, Pardeep


The library and information centres world over have experienced a sea change in the methods of acquiring, processing, storing and making that information available to the end users especially after a revolution in the information and communication technologies. Libraries have very successfully geared themselves to adopt any new technology that is emerging with new innovations every day. Libraries are now functional 24x7 day and night in a networked world. In the era of www, internet and other technological advancements that have been implemented in library and information centres, the librarians are now facing a new challenge in managing the affairs of their institutions in the present scenario of new modes and methods of information bases, new formats of storage, and ever changing information seeking behaviour of the users. Librarian is now working as an information scientist, researcher, educator, psychologist, coordinator, public relations officer and what not.

With huge responsibilities on the shoulders of a librarian or the information scientist one has also to safeguard and preserve the variety of precious and invaluable information sources and tools in print and non-print form, staff and other infrastructure from any potential disaster or any risk. These disasters - man made or natural can completely or partially damage the information sources and infrastructure kept and preserved for the use of present generation and for posterity. At the same time it can also paralyse the functioning of that particular library and information centre where the disaster has hit. It is in this light why planning to face any potential disaster is so important.


The objective of the present study is to ascertain and suggest the roles, a librarian and the supporting staff, library and information centre may assume or perform during any disaster or emergency. How the library and information centres can be helpful during any emergency for the community and how a disaster can be best managed by pre planning, preparation and response are the other angles of this study. The paper also aims to spread awareness among people and sensitise the library professionals in particular for their prospective roles in case of any emergency.


The study involved interviews, enquiries into the present operations, services and functions of the library and information centres and has tried to explore whether the libraries have ever encountered any disaster and how these libraries managed that disaster. A structured questionnaire was designed that would address the objectives and requirements of the study.

It is an exploratory research in which the selected population constituted the librarians and assistant librarians of the libraries of four post graduate degree colleges, the assistant library and information officer of Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER ), and Central State Libraries (Sector 17 and Sector 34), situated in Chandigarh(U.T.), joint capital of the state of Punjab and Haryana, India. All the libraries which have been selected for this study are being managed and run under the Department of Higher Education, Chandigarh Administration and Govt. of India. Only the government libraries and information centres have been taken as a study population.

An effort has been made by the researcher to explore the kind of help that the librarians and information centres can provide to the local community and society as a whole during any disaster besides supporting their own institution.


Eden and Mathew (1996 ) define disaster as an incident which threatens human life/ or/ and damages or threaten to damage a library building, collections, equipment and systems.

The Dictionary for Library and Information Services (2005) defines a disaster plan as a set of written procedures prepared by the library staff in advance to deal with an unexpected occurrence that has the potential to cause injury to personnel or damage to equipment or to collections and/ or to facilities sufficient to warrant temporary suspension of services.

Such disasters in any library can damage the print material, documents, records, computer systems and the invaluable information stored in different storage media.


Disasters or emergencies can be caused or produced by a variety of natural and man made agents.The natural agents or reasons of disasters can be climate and weather with their different phenomena such as clouds, precipitation, avalanches, blizzards, dust storms, drought, earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, landslides, wildfires, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions and many more. The man made reasons may vary from the poor design and quality of the buildings and properties to no or very poor maintenance, leakages, electric short circuits, burglary, vandalism, arson, wars etc.


Owing to human nature the plans to counter any emergency are normally put off with the thought of experiencing such a crisis as a distant thought. An ounce of prevention is worth Pound of care and prevention is always better than care are the most valuable and natural aphormisms for any disaster prevention. Planning though not completely helps to prevent the disaster but it definitely helps to lessen the impact of its damage. Any plan should be clearly spelt in black and white with all the necessary inputs of familiarities with disaster, risk involved, financial implication, training of staff, etc. The disaster control plan involves four stages as following:

  1. Prevention,

  2. Preparedness,

  3. Reaction, and

  4. Recovery.

    UNESCO has provided its 2005 convention online " International Strategy for Disaster Reduction " and a portal for making aware the community as " Memory of the World ".The Director General of UNESCO, in her massage on International Day for Disaster Reduction 2010, ( Oct.13,2012) pointed out the need " to promote a culture of disaster...

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