October 31, 2012
First-aid for water damaged books
by Claire Kelley
The Melville House office and bookstore is open. We are lucky that the water level did not reach our elevated first floor space. Libraries and bookstores throughout the Northeast experienced flooding and water damage, including our Dumbo neighbor, Powerhouse Books.
If your books encountered water from the storm (even if you followed MobyLives precautionary measures) here are some tips from the resource pages of the University of Rodchester Library, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library (with instructional photos), and The Library of Congress to care for water-damaged books.
- Prop up the books vertically by fanning out the pages to promote air drying of pages. You can also put paper towels between the separated pages.
- Books can be placed in a plastic zip lock bag or stacked in a crate spine down and frozen to keep the material stabilized if you need more time to carefully dry the books. Rapid freezing to -15 to -20 degrees is necessary to minimize damage from ice crystals, so be aware that home freezers can’t always achieve this. A food storage freezer is ideal for this method.
- If you see signs of mold, be careful to separate these books from others because the mold can spread.
- If possible, put the damaged books on a hard, non-absorbent, color-fast surface to prevent moisture from being retained under books and to keep them from sticking.
- Don’t put weights on the books, let them dry out first. Once they are almost completely dry, they can be stacked to smooth out wrinkled pages and warped pages.
- Use fans to speed up drying. Good ventilation is important to prevent mold.
A “Cleaning Up After Water Damage” Q&A in the American Libraries magazine offers further information about drying out books for libraries and individuals. School librarians should be aware of the “Beyond Words” relief fund.
The ALA’s disaster fact sheet and bibliography is up-to-date and offers emergency response hotlines for libraries and cultural institutions.
Claire Kelley is a the former Director of Library and Academic Marketing.