Fire risks and new threats from climate change to libraries and archives

Key observed and projected climate change and impacts for the main regions in Europe from: Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe. Source: EEA Report 2012

According to the document published in 2012 by the European Environment Agency  (EEA), Europe will experience over the next few decades some effects caused by climate change. The expected changes are not uniform throughout the mainland, but they can be summarised in a number of homogeneous areas. Table 1 illustrates the qualitative trends provided in seven climatic regions. Continue reading “Fire risks and new threats from climate change to libraries and archives”

The NFPA 909 – 2017 Edition on “Protection of Cultural Resource Properties: Museums, Libraries, and Places of Worship” has been published

The 909 Standard “Protection of Cultural Resource Properties — Museums, Libraries, and Places of Worship” – 2017 Edition has been published by National Fire Protection Association.

The standard describes principles and practices of protection for cultural resource properties (museums, libraries, and places of worship etc.), their contents, and collections, against conditions or physical situations with the potential to cause damage or loss. The updates for the 2017 edition include:

  • expanded provisions for outdoor collections and archaeological sites and their protection against wildfire;
  • further clarification of sprinkler system corrosion protection criteria;
  • mandated integrated system testing per NFPA 4, Standard for Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing;
  •  the addition of numerous events to Annex B, Fire Experience in Cultural Properties.

According to the 909 code, libraries, museums, and places of worship housed in historic structures have also to comply with the requirements of NFPA 914 (Code for Fire Protection of Historic Structures).

The standard includes provisions for fire prevention, emergency operations, fire safety management, security, emergency preparedness and inspection, testing, and maintenance of protection systems.

As in the previous editions, criteria are provided for new construction, addition, alteration, renovation, and modification projects, along with specific rules addressing places of worship and museums, libraries, and their collections.

Fire in Moscow Library Destroy 1 mln Books

Fire at the Moscow Academic Institute of Scientific Information
Fire at the Moscow Academic Institute of Scientific Information

On January 31st, 2015, one of Russia’s largest academic libraries, which contains millions of unique historic documents, has been severely damaged by the  flames. A part of the building’s roof collapsed before many of fire fighters teams managed to contain the fire.

The fire has destroyed some 2,000 m2 of the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences (Inion) in Moscow, created in 1918 and holding 10 mln documents, some of which date back to the 16th century.

The library has been founded in 1918, has the Russia’s most complete collection of documents of the League of Nations, the UN, and UNESCO, as well as parliamentarian reports of the United States (since 1789), the UK (since 1803), Italy (since 1897), and many others.

According to Russian media, investigators looking into the cause of the blaze suspect an electrical short-circuit was to blame.

NFPA 909 (2010 edition) – Code for the Protection of Cultural Resource Properties – Museums, Libraries, and Places of Worshi


The need for fire standards in cultural resources buildings has been addressed by NFPA 909: Code for the Protection of Cultural Resource Properties – Museums, Libraries, and Places of Worship. This Code describes principles and practices of fire safety for cultural resource properties (museums, libraries, and places of worship); their contents; and those who operate, use, or visit them, through a comprehensive fire protection program.

The 2010 Edition adds important addition about security. The main technical changes are:

  • Expansion of the code’s goals and objectives to include ‘hazards other than fire
  • New requirement for a vulnerability assessment
  • New chapters on planning for protection, emergency operations, and security
  • A new annex describing commonly used premises protection systems and equipment

The 2010 Edition deals also with new issues as:

  • Reorganization of requirements pertaining to construction, alteration, addition, and renovation projects into one chapter
  • Addition of design and installation requirements to reduce the risk of corrosion damage in dry-pipe and preaction sprinkler systems
  • New requirements for sprinkler protection inside some exhibit cases
  • Annexes pertaining to renovation of historic structures and fire ratings of archaic materials have been deleted and are now part of NFPA 914: Code for Fire Protection of Historic Structures

Anna Amalia Library Fire – Weimar (Germany)

1The historic Anna Amalia library in Weimar, Germany, was ravaged by a fire in September 2004 that caused more than 60 million euros of damage and destroyed about 10 percent of the library’s prestigious collection of books and artwork. The library was being renovated at the time, and investigators believe that equipment being used to test the building’s structural integrity apparently overloaded a 1940s copper wire that ran through the library’s edifice.

Anna Amalia Library (World Heritage site) reopened  three years after the blaze that destroyed some 50,000 historical books. The fire, that was ignited by an electrical fault, severely damaged the 16th-century palace that houses the library.

Among the volumes destroyed were a collection of 18th-century musical works donated by Duchess Anna Amalia and a renowned book collection gathered by the first librarian, Daniel Schurzfleisch, who brought them to the library on 35 horse-drawn carts in 1722. The restoration of all 62,000 books damaged in the fire would not be complete until 2015.

The 12.8 million euros restoration of the palace building was finished few days before the opening and it includes many modern additions (a sprinkler system hidden so as not to disturb efforts to return the building to its original appearance).

The total estimated cost of books destroyed or damaged is 67 million euros. The books were part of a collection of some 1 million volumes belonging to the library, held at several places in Weimar.

The state of Thuringia and the federal government paid for most of the restoration work to the building, nearly  21 million euros in donations from Germany and around the world has been put toward the restoration of the books.

The library was added to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage List in 1998 .

Hydrant water damages books of California Historical Society

american domeThe California Historical Society reopened on March 2nd, 2009,  after a flood damaged more than 1,500 antique and historic books and its building four months before. On December 2008, a car hit a fire hydrant in front of the society’s Mission Street building causing a geyser several stories high and a flood that seeped through the front doors into the building. Water soaked through the hardwood floors and into the book vault below, damaging the books.
The estimate for restoring the books is about $240,000 and repairing the building is about $60,000. About 20 books are probably unsalvageable, although these items are

expected to be replaced through specialized book dealers. The efforts of restoration technicians and library staff are credited with saving many of the historical texts that date back as far as the 1920s.

After staff arrived at the scene, the waterlogged texts were quickly put into boxes and then into a freezer trailer where the cold fended off the onset of mold growth and deterioration. At Fort Worth, Texas, document facility, 670 soggy books were put in a vacuum freeze-dried container that expels moisture from damaged texts,  At the
Hayward compound of Belfor Property Restoration, nearly 1,000 books were put on specialized racks in sealed rooms equipped with dehumidifiers and fans to draw the water out.

Because the society’s building also was damaged by the flood, crews were called in to remove nearly 2,000 boxes of undamaged books so construction could begin on the waterlogged hardwood floors, insulation and celling of the library.

The privately funded California Historical Society is primarily a library of books, used by researchers and historians. It also houses manuscripts, pictures, documents, artifacts and various texts that chronicle California’s past.