Fire Suppression Systems in Libraries and Archives

Hi All —

As we prepare to head back to the BHS on Thursday, I thought you’d be interested in this message from BHS Outreach and Public Services Archivist Robin Katz:

Following up on your students’ amazing question about our sprinklers… – I guess both Halon and Argon (the other gas name I had in my head) are used for fire suppression.

I suspect that in addition to just money, our building might not physically accommodate this sort of a system.  There needs to be a way to really isolate the space, and evacuate people in time – but your students may know more about this kind of thing than I do.  I do know that working in an institution with this kind of a system requires a lot of staff training around getting out in time!

In general, cultural repositories (archives, libraries, museums) have disaster plans – for fires, floods, storms, etc.  There’s often a team of people responsible for designing the plan and at university libraries where there is a campus office with planners and architects, those people are often at the table alongside facilities folks and library professionals.  Sometimes the plan calls for a high tech halon system, but a lot of it involves low-tech plastic tarps and fans and a phone tree for the dreaded 3 am call that there’s a major leak.

It’s also so great to think about how space impacts use in a place like a library or museum.  Our lighting situation means we have to have lamps  in the middle of tables, which makes it hard to look at big materials; at the big material table, it’s pretty dark.  We don’t have a great space for coat/bag check, and our reference desks don’t conform to what’s in style today, a more open, no-barrier, sit-down-next-to-me-as-I-show-you-my-screen style desk – and we can’t change it because we are an interior landmark.  Of course, clever solutions could probably be designed…

Thanks to Robin for this info! Please leave any additional thoughts in the comments.

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