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.
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.
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.
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.
Assessment of Damage
Remember, replacement of damaged materials will almost always
be less expensive than restoration. Follow established salvage priorities
and emphasize restoration of materials which cannot be replaced.
Attempt to secure a decision from Library Administration
on what can be discarded before salvage operations begin, as this will
speed the recovery effort.
Ascertain whether water has been contaminated (e.g., with
ash or soot from fire, or polluted as a result of a sewage system
leak, etc.). Fungicidal sterilization may be called for.
Stabilization and Control of Conditions
Attempt to gain the most accurate possible idea of the extent
and degree of damage as it will determine the nature of the actions to
be taken, the size and nature of the salvage team, the supplies needed,
and other vital factors.
Wet books will develop destructive mold within 48 hours.
Heat and humidity foster its growth. Therefore, reduce temperature and
humidity. Create maximum air flow using fans, air conditioning system,
Damp books are susceptible to mold. Books immersed in water
will not mold as air is needed for it to grow. Under most conditions,
books immersed in water should be temporarily allowed to remain there,
or be placed in clean, running water until ready for removal for treatment.
Books that are tightly shelved will mold only on the outer
edges. Do not separate them until they are ready to be treated.
If mold growth has begun, the affected items should be isolated
and thoroughly dried. A conservator or recovery service should be consulted
for advice on the best method to use for mold removal. Treatment can vary
according to the extent and nature of the growth: from individual treatment
of items, to area fogging on-site, to large scale fumigation in a vacuum
The most effective current treatment of books which cannot
be immediately dried is freezing. This will prevent any further water damage,
will inhibit further mold growth, and will allow for time to develop more
complete restoration plans.
Removal of Books from Library
If water damaged microforms cannot be re-purchased, they should
be placed in plastic bags filled with clean, cold water at once and sent
to a commercial laboratory for re-processing.
An inventory of all items removed from the Library should be kept. This inventory
may be in print format or created on a computer-generated spreadsheet. The
inventory should contain such information as time will allow to be recorded
that will identify the material being removed. Suggested data are: Salvage
Container Number into which materials are placed for removal, Shelf Location
from which materials were removed (range/section number), Item Description
(call number, author/title, bar code, etc.), Date Removed, and any other
information considered important, such as format or recovery destination.
Every effort should be made to avoid actions that might remove identifying
marks or labels on items taken from the Library. Containers should be coded
to correlate with inventory forms.
In conjunction with the priority listing found in the section
on Salvage Priorities, systematic
removal of items from the Library should be made in this order:
Wettest items should
be removed first, as this will assist in lowering the overall humidity in the
Books which have
fallen on the floor between shelving units will most likely be among the wettest
and should also be removed
first to eliminate the obstruction to salvage efforts they cause;
Books on the lowest
shelves will likewise be among the wettest and should be removed in horizontal
Other books that
are wet should then be removed, with emphasis placed on items that may have
developed mold, as well as badly charred books if fire is involved. Charred
items should be placed between cardboard sheets and wrapped for protection;
also be given to removing even dry and undamaged books from the disaster area
to a controlled environment
where they will be protected from damage and not inhibit clean-up of the
Removal should be done quickly, but with care, as wet books
are very fragile. No attempt should be made to open closed books or separate
pages, to close books which are open, or to compress books which are swollen.
Books should be packed in the condition in which they are found.
If materials are to be frozen, items which are muddy or dirty
may be cleaned before freezing. In most cases this will not be feasible
because of the lack of time and the quantity of the materials to be handled.
However, if it is possible, follow the methods given in Procedures
for Salvage of Water-Damaged Library Materials by Peter Waters
(Z701.W37 1979), or other sources found in current literature.
If books cannot be packed on-site, the formation of "human
chains" or the use of conveyor belts will be the best method for removing
large quantities of damaged books.
Plastic milk crates may be used to remove and transport damaged
materials, but may be difficult to acquire in sufficient quantity. Therefore,
strong cardboard boxes of a uniform size may be the best option for this purpose.
When lined with plastic garbage bags they will be waterproof and sufficiently
durable. Care should be taken to limit how high such boxes are stacked.
If materials are to be frozen, they should be separated when
possible with freezer paper or waxed paper as they are packed to prevent
sticking together during the freezing process.
Containers should not be packed too tightly and should
be only three-quarters full to facilitate freezing and subsequent drying.
Freezing of Materials
Containers should be properly labelled to identify their
contents for inventory purposes.
If large quantities of books are involved, an adequate facility
will need to be located that will be able to rapidly freeze materials at a temperature
of approximately -10° F.
Rental of a truck (or trucks) may be necessary to transport
materials to the freezing facility. A freezer truck may be advisable for
large quantities of materials. This type of truck should be packed only
three-quarters full for faster freezing. Dry ice may also be used to freeze
materials transported in unrefrigerated trucks.
If freezer space is limited, it may be necessary to develop
priorities regarding which materials should go to the freezer facility.
Drying of Materials
Do not remove materials from containers - freeze them in
The method used for drying materials will be determined by
varying factors, such as the quantity of materials involved, the condition
of the materials, the value of the materials, time constraints, etc. Use
of more than one drying technique should not be overlooked.
A variety of methods are available for drying water-damaged materials:
Freeze-Drying. In this process, frozen materials are placed in a vacuum
chamber and dried at a temperature below 32° F. A high vacuum and controlled
application of heat is introduced to remove moisture by causing ice crystals
to sublimate, or vaporize, without passing through the liquid state. This is
the best method for successfully drying coated paper, and limits further swelling
and distortion in wet materials.
Thermal Drying. Materials are placed in a chamber either wet or frozen,
a vacuum is introduced, heat is applied, and materials are dried at above 32° F.
In this process, materials remain wet while they are drying. This procedure
may cause distortion in books and adhering of coated paper. It is a cost effective
method for drying loose papers or materials of lower intrinsic value.
Thermal-Vacuum Freeze-Drying. This process is similar to vacuum freeze-drying
in using a vacuum and applied heat to sublimate ice at sub-zero temperatures,
but also employs a procedure to compress materials into shape.
Freeze-Drying. Wet materials are placed in a freezer chamber and quickly frozen
at temperatures of -10° to -40° F. This process may take several weeks
to complete, may result in some distortion, and coated paper may adhere.
Desiccant (Dehumidification) Drying. This method relies on a dehumidifier
to reduce relative humidity to a very low level, and dries materials by applying
controlled temperature and air flow.
Drying. This process requires a large, open work space with constant air circulation,
and is a very labor-intensive procedure. However, if the number and value of
the damaged materials do not warrant more expensive methods, and a sufficient
work force is available, this may be the best process to use. Wet books should
stand on their head ends and, if it will not cause further damage, their pages
should be fanned open. Absorbent paper should be used to interleave pages and
should be changed often. Misshapen books may be remolded by hand, if possible,
before drying. Dirty books should be cleaned before processing. When nearly
dry, selected materials may be hung on nylon line to complete drying, careful
application of heat sources may be used to assist in the process, or books
may be laid flat on a table. Drying books should not be stacked on top of each
Rehabilitation and Completion of Recovery
Fumigation and sterilization can be done most efficiently
in a vacuum chamber if one is being used for drying.
After drying, water damaged books should not be returned
directly to the collection. It is recommended they be shelved in a separate
rehabilitation area which is well ventilated and climate controlled for
at least six months. Newly dried materials should not be packed in boxes.
Once in the rehabilitation area, the materials should be
checked, ideally with the assistance of a conservator, to identify items
which should be replaced or which need further conservation work.
Materials should be periodically checked for mold development
while being maintained in the holding area.
Shelving in the water damaged area of the Library should
be thoroughly cleaned with disinfectant and completely dry before materials
are returned to the collection.
Materials should be thoroughly dry before reshelving into
the collection, and, ideally, examined by a conservator to insure that
they are ready to be returned to the collection.