Mold Risks and Prevention Strategies for Libraries

September 24, 2019

Mold can be a problem for libraries and archives, presenting plenty of health risks for those who come in contact with books, magazines, and other materials available for use. Wet surfaces or areas with high humidity can create the perfect conditions for mold to be produced, creating plenty of potential issues for patrons and staff.

It’s important for libraries to take mold seriously and look for ways to detect it, clean it out, and prevent future mold from forming. Mold can grow almost anywhere, even between the pages of a book, and as it grows, it can cause stains on materials, which can lead to losses.

To avoid any material loss as well as claims related to health issues as a result of coming in contact with mold at your library, here are some tips on preventing mold from occurring.

Health Risks

Some molds commonly found in libraries can cause major health issues including respiratory infections, migraines, nausea, and eye and skin irritation. People who already suffer from respiratory issues, like allergies and asthma, will have a harder time when coming in contact with mold as it will ignite their predisposed medical issues. Serious lung infections may occur following being exposed to mold.

Even a small amount of mold should be taken seriously. Staff should wear disposable rubber gloves and a respirator whenever handling moldy materials.

Detecting Mold

A survey of the library should be conducted on a regular basis, done in phases, to detect any mold that may be forming. Dust mites known as booklice, if found, can be solid indicators of mold. They’re tiny and grey or white insects that lodge themselves in the margins of damp books. Hidden mold can be detected by using ultraviolet light as well, which turns the fungi fluorescent if detected.

If mold is discovered, immediate action should be taken to find the direct cause of it. Any water infiltration, such as wet floors, ceilings, or walls, should be looked for and a scan of the nearby HVAC system should also be conducted.

Preventing Mold

In order to prevent mold from happening again, conditions of a library should be altered, such as moving paper collections from a basement with a low temperature, high humidity, and low air circulation–in other words, the perfect combination to create mold. Materials can quickly deteriorate if they are returned to the same kind of conditions.

When the cause has been discovered, immediate steps should be taken to remove it. Mopping standing water, adjusting the HVAC system, and installing electric fans to speed up the circulation of air should all be pursued as ways to limit mold and moisture.

Treating Moldy Materials

There are a number of ways in which materials can be treated if they come in contact with mold.

If a large number of books and magazines are wet or damp, you can opt to freeze the materials as a way of quickly stabilizing the infestation until appropriate treatment can be given. Books can be air-dried or freeze-dried before attempting this solution.

Books should be taken to a well-ventilated area with electric fans in place that can help increase airflow. Rapidly moving air will help dry out the moisture found in books and clean out the mold spores. If possible, you should also take the books outside and place them in an area with a low breeze, but only for a short period of time as exposure to sunlight can be detrimental to the overall integrity of the books.

After the books are dry and the mold is deemed inactive, a vacuum cleaner can be used to remove as much inactive mold as possible from the covers and pages. The covers of the books can be wiped down with a solution of ethyl as this acts as a mild solvent to remove some of the stainings that can occur as a result of mold.

Insuring Materials

While these steps can help detect, prevent, and treat mold, you have to be prepared for the possible loss of some materials. Even one page can completely take a book out of use. In this case, it’s always important to be proactive and invest in library insurance, which can help protect a library experiencing financial loss due to materials loss.

Library insurance is a comprehensive option for libraries looking to get ahead of potential major loss following a mold breakout. With a combination of regular scans for mold, treatment of books, and working with your insurance carrier to have the best library insurance coverage option backing up your materials, the negative effects of mold can be kept to a limited reach.

About Regan Agency

A family-owned business, Long Island-based Regan Agency has more than 35 years of experience serving the library insurance and risk management needs of Tri-State residents and businesses. We have earned the trust of our clients based on our integrity and commitment to offer individuals and businesses quality library insurance products at competitive prices backed by unparalleled responsive service. Just give one of our professionals a call at 631-669-3434.