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The two types of disasters that occur most commonly and present the gravest threats to libraries are fire and water damage. Unfortunately, in the case of materials subjected to the extremely high temperatures and heavy smoke exposure occurring during a conflagration, the damage is generally irreversible. Although photographic steps may be taken to preserve what remains of materials after a fire, there is often little that can be done to restore materials that have been burned. However, when damage is limited to smoke and soot exposure, some salvage efforts may bring satisfactory results. In all cases, before any steps are taken, a professional conservator should be consulted to avoid any further damage to materials.


Some methods that have had a degree of success in cleaning books after a fire are: careful use of vacuuming, use of Pink Pearl erasers and chemical sponges, and extra fine steel wool on leather bindings. Thorough airing of books has been found to help remove smoke smell after a fire. The materials should be placed on a table in the shade and slightly fanned. They should not be left outside overnight. Another technique that may be useful for removing soot is dry ice blasting. This is a process by which solid carbon dioxide is propelled at high speed and sublimates upon contact removing soot. This process is similar to sand blasting, but is non-abrasive.

Because of the hazards involved and the labor intensiveness of the task, the cleaning of fire-damaged materials might best be handled by professional conservators. However, when staff is used, breathing masks should be worn to prevent inhaling soot, and proper ventilation of the work area should be maintained. Staff with respiratory problems should never be allowed to enter the work area.


Although daunting tasks, salvage and restoration efforts in the case of water-related disaster have a much greater chance of success in comparison to large-scale fire damage, as long as proper measures are taken expeditiously. The following section presents guidelines to be used in developing salvage procedures as a specific response to a water disaster, but, as pointed out in the previous section, a more complete examination of detailed procedures supplied in the Appendix to this Manual and current literature, along with recommendations from experts, should first be made before beginning of any recovery operation.

box bullet Assessment of Damage

box bullet Stabilization and Control of Conditions box bullet Removal of Books from Library box bullet Freezing of Materials box bullet Drying of Materials box bullet Rehabilitation and Completion of Recovery