In this week’s Princh Library Blog post, guest writer Nina Grant explores how libraries tackle the challenge of mold in their collections. Discover the behind-the-scenes efforts librarians make to keep books safe and sound!

Mold in libraries is like that uninvited guest at a book club — it just shows up, especially in the older collections. These are the treasured tomes, with spines that have seen better days, sitting on shelves in that musty corner of the library. When mold hits, it’s not just a “wipe it and forget it” situation. Libraries have to play detective, hunting down the source — be it a leaky window or an ancient HVAC system. They go all in, inspecting the nooks and crannies to protect these paper-packed guardians of history.

Librarians to the Rescue

Once the mold’s made its unwelcome debut, it’s showtime for the library staff. Donning gloves and masks like they’re about to perform surgery, they’ll carefully quarantine the affected books. It’s a delicate operation, involving gentle cleaning methods that don’t damage the fragile pages. Sometimes, they’ll even freeze the books solid, because mold hates the cold as much as the rest of us hate spoilers. This isn’t just cleanup; it’s preservation — keeping stories alive for future binge-readers.

How do they do this? It’s quite intriguing. The process of freezing books to kill mold involves placing the affected items in a freezer at a temperature that’s well below the freezing point of water. This method — often used by conservation experts — is called “lyophilization” or freeze-drying. The books are first sealed in airtight bags to prevent additional moisture from getting in. They’re then placed in the freezer — where the cold not only stops the mold from growing — but also kills any mold spores present. After a sufficient period (usually at least 24 hours), the books are carefully thawed and dried, which helps to prevent the mold from returning. “But why is this process so effective?” one may wonder. It’s because mold cannot survive the extreme cold and the subsequent lack of moisture.

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Unseen Mold: Finding the Hidden

However, there are scenarios when even the sharpest librarian’s eyes can miss the stealthy creep of mold in between the pages and along the quiet corners of their libraries. Mold can be a master of disguise, hiding out of sight and silently spreading until it’s a much bigger issue. That’s when it’s time to call in the mold detectives — professional remediators. These experts are trained to spot even the sneakiest mold spores, ferreting them out from their hiding spots. They use their specialized skills to cleanse the library of this hidden nemesis, ensuring the safety and longevity of these cherished community treasures. So, while librarians do an outstanding job guarding the gateway to knowledge, even they need a hand when the microscopic mold marauders slip through the cracks.

A Breath of Fresh Air: Ventilation is Key

When it comes to keeping mold at bay, libraries are stepping up their game with some serious air management. It’s not just about letting in a breeze; it’s a calculated move to high-tech ventilation systems and dehumidifiers that strip the air of excess moisture, mold’s best buddy. By dialing down the dampness, libraries create a dry haven, much like a mini-desert inside the stacks, making sure mold doesn’t stand a chance. It’s all about setting up a space where our paper friends can breathe easy and stay crisp, away from the threat of those pesky spores. So, next time you wander through the aisles, remember there’s an invisible shield working overtime to keep those pages pristine and ready for your next reading adventure.

The Preventive Plot Twist

Here’s the twist in the tale: prevention. Libraries don’t wait for the mold to throw the first punch. They keep indoor temperatures a tad below 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 Celsius), where mold dares not tread, and they carefully monitor humidity, aiming for that sweet spot between 30-50%. It creates the perfect, dry sanctuary for volumes young and old. It’s a bit like giving the books a spa day, minus the cucumber eye masks, ensuring these literary gems are around when the next generation is ready to crack them open.

The Happy Ending: Mold-Free and Thriving

So, what’s the happily ever after in this mold saga? Libraries adapting, learning, and outfitting themselves to keep their pages turning and patrons reading. They’re not just buildings with books; they’re time machines, idea incubators, and community cornerstones. By tackling the mold menace head-on, libraries ensure they remain vibrant and vital havens of knowledge, free from the grip of the green gunk. And that, dear readers, is a story worth telling.

We will be back with another interesting article from the library world soon!

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Nina Grant

Nina is a passionate writer and editor who likes to cover a variety of topics.

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