Information on the flooded library collection at Sundarayya Vignana Kendram, Hyderabad, August 2000
The information below was culled from a number of websites
and professionals. We were given assistance by the Northeast Document
Conservation Center (Karen Brown), the Library of
Congress-Preservation Department (Ann Seibert and Peter Waters),
Harvard University-Head of Preservation (Jan Merrill Oldham), the
Association for Research Libraries (Duane Webster), Columbia
University-Head of Preservation (Janet Gertz), Head Conservator of
Columbia Libraries' conservation laboratory (Maria Fredericks).
Recommended organizations for dealing with
Recommended readings for dealing with library
Schedule for emergency response
How to Air Dry Wet Books
How to deal with Mold
More info on Freezing
For Assistance contact:
David Magier, Columbia University. firstname.lastname@example.org
James Nye, University of Chicago. email@example.com
Rebecca Moore, Center for Research Libraries. firstname.lastname@example.org
Sundarayya Vignana Kendram office in India 91-40-7667543
Cell phone 91-98480-63241
Recommended organizations for dealing with library disasters
Recommended readings for dealing with library disasters
Schedule for emergency response:
- Assign Responsibilities
- Prioritize the materials.
- Is the item unique/valuable?
- Can the item be replaced?
- Is the item available in another format, or in another collection?
- Does the item have a high or low collection priority?
- Are there items which belong to others being held at the facility?
- Determine what to throw out, what to freeze (if possible), which items to air dry.
- High priority should be given to salvaging the catalog and
other records of the collection. Salvage operations should
avoid any action that might remove or deface identifying
marks and labels.
- Get supplies.
- Good boxes are important; plastic is the best followed by
wood and cardboard is the least preferred material. See the
supply list below.
- Safety equipment. Workers will need to have dust masks and
rubber gloves. As the materials dry toxins can become
airborne- if there was fecal material involved in the flood
this can cause serious health risks.
- Clean water is very important for washing the books and for the workers to keep themselves clean.
- Arrange for offsite processing center if possible. Organize people
to help with the work. Document the condition of the materials and
where they are being moved to.
***Submerged printed materials that cannot be
IMMEDIATELY frozen or air-dried should be left in situ, since it
is precisely in damp conditions rather than under water that
mold begins to really take hold -- facilitated by exposure to
air. Prolonged immersion will NOT dissolve the paper in most
situations. It may soften the image layer of coated (glossy)
papers, and any manuscripts or miniature paintings should be
immediately removed from wet conditions, as the inks and other
media will probably bleed and/or dissolve. Immersed bindings may
also be adversely affected, but at least while things are under
water, they will not begin to grow mold.
If soaking wet or submerged materials need to be
moved out of buildings so that the building can be stabilized,
keep the materials tightly packed together as they would be on a
shelf until they can be frozen or air dried, and you may even
want to actively keep them wet; this will keep the penetration
of air into the wet materials to a minimum and help limit the
mold growth to the edges of the text blocks and the outsides of
The key thing is, if possible, to avoid creating
situations in which large masses of sodden books are beginning
to air dry in an area of high humidity -- this is what will lead
to rapid development of mold. Bring out of the water only as
much as you think you can spread out and dry right away.
- Move the materials to dry locations, the offsite storage area,
houses, upstairs, anywhere. Materials that are going to be frozen
should move to those locations- hotel freezers, individual's
- Begin with the wettest objects and items on the floor.
- The best approach is to get plastic or wooden
crates, and, if you have enough of them, to gently lift the
books out of the water and lay them with the spine facing
down into the crate, one layer deep. These crates can then be
used to move the books to new location.
- Don't open or close wet books or remove wet
book covers. If the water is dirty, wash the books before
freezing. Do not wash open books and those with water soluble
media. Wash closed books in tubs of cold running water and
dab away (do not rub) mud with a sponge. Time and facilities
may limit this treatment.
- The first priority would be to dry them, and
ultimately, the best way to do that would be to FREEZE them
as quickly as possible. I don't know if or when electricity
might be available, but if there are particular high priority
important and unique items that you can easily identify,
these might be crated and moved to a freezer, meat-locker, or
other place where they can be very quickly frozen. Once they
are frozen, we would then have more time to consider the best
logistics for moving them and getting them freeze-dried to
remove the water, and then later thawed.
- If freezing is not a possibility, they should
be removed from water and taken to a flat, DRY surface in a
less-humid environment if possible. Even a dry surface
outside in the sunlight would help, and the books can be laid
out on their spines with the pages fanned open, and a fan can
lightly blow across them to gradually dry the pages.
- MOLD will be a very serious problem, and we
should assume that a substantial number of these books will
be lost forever due to destruction from mold. Removing the
water as quickly as possible, and either freezing the books
or keeping them in a dry place will help reduce the impact of
mold. But keeping them under water will not preserve them
since the water will gradually dissolve the paper and also
remove all the ink and make them useless.
How to Air Dry Wet Books
The air drying of wet books is a process that must be monitored
continuously if mold growth is to be avoided. The interleaving must be
changed regularly, exchanging new dry sheets for sheets that have
already absorbed moisture. Wet interleaving that is left in place will
only add to the book's tendency to retain moisture and will ultimately
inhibit the drying process.
- Secure a clean, dry environment where the temperature and humidity
are as low as possible. The temperature must be below 70 degrees F.
and the humidity below 50%, or mold will probably develop and
distortion will be extreme.
- Keep the air moving at all times using fans in the drying area.
This will accelerate the drying process and discourage the growth
of mold. If materials are dried outside, remember that prolonged
exposure to direct sunlight may fade inks and accelerate the aging
of paper. Be aware that breezes can blow away single records. Train
fans into the air and away from the drying records.
- Interleave every few pages, starting from the back of the book,
turning pages carefully. For interleaving, use paper towels or
clean, unprinted newsprint. Be careful to avoid interleaving too
much or the spine will become concave and the volume distorted.
Complete the interleaving by clean blotter paper inside the front
and back covers. Close the book gently and place it on several
sheets of absorbent paper. Change the interleaving frequently. Turn
the book from head to tail each time it is interleaved.
- Bound Volumes - can be carefully dried for a few minutes with a
hand held hair dryer. Then the books can be placed open on tables
to dry. The best procedure is to hold the book by the spine, turn
it upside down so that the top or head of the book is on the table.
Then gently open the book so that the volume is in a wide "V" for
support and ease in drying.
- When books are dry but still cool to the touch, they should be
closed and laid flat on a table or other horizontal surface, gently
formed into the normal shape, with convex spine and concave front
edge (if that was their original shape) and held in place with a
light weight. Do not stack drying books on top of each
other. In no case should books be returned to the shelves until
thoroughly dry; otherwise mold may develop, particularly along the
- Dampness will persist for some time in the gutter, along the spine,
and between boards and flyleaves. This is particularly true of
volumes sewn on an oversewing machine. Check often for mold growth
while books are dying.
- If the edges of the book are only slightly wet, the book may be
stood on end and fanned open slightly in the path of a flow of air
(as from a fan). To minimize distortion of the edges, lay volumes
flat under light pressure just before drying is complete. Paper or
cloth covered bricks work well for weights.
- If you can establish an air-conditioned room capable of maintaining
a constant relative humidity of 25 to 35% and temperature between
50 and 65 degrees F, books with only wet edges can be dried
successfully in approximately two weeks without interleaving. Do
not try to dry books printed on coated paper by this method. In
most cases, the only chance of saving such books is to freeze them
while wet and dry them by vacuum freeze dying.
Quoted from Emergency Salvage of Wet Books and Records
by Sally Buchanan, Associate Professor. University of Pittsburgh.
Quoted from Salvage Operations for Water Damaged Collections by
Betty Walsh, Conservator, Provincial Archives of British Columbia.
- COATED PAPER (glossy)
- must be interleaved between each page, otherwise it will
permanently fuse together as it dries. If it can be frozen
immediately, interleaving is not necessary. Some sources
recommend keeping coated paper wet (immersed) in cold water
until it can be frozen or air dried. If there is little or no
coated paper present, this wont' be much of an issue.
- Single Items
- can be laid out on a clean, dry, flat work surface or hung on
lines. Remember that wet paper is extremely fragile.
- Watercolors, maps, and manuscripts with soluble media:
- Do not blot the surface. Quickly freeze or dry.
- manuscripts and/or miniature paintings, and any other unique
materials involving water-soluble media must be removed from
the water immediately and dried or frozen. Serious damage may
occur to manuscripts and miniatures within minutes or hours,
so if they are still wet there may already be significant
- Maps, plans, oversize prints, and manuscripts:
- Sponge standing water out of map drawers. Remove the drawers
from the cabinet, ship and freeze them stacked up with 1" x
2" strips of wood between each drawer. Pack loose, flat maps
in bread trays, flat boxes, or plywood sheets covered in
polyethylene. Bundle rolled maps very loosely to go in small
numbers to the freezer, unless facilities are available for
conservators to unroll them.
- Floppy diskettes
- If the diskettes are wet, pack them upright in containers of
cold distilled water. Make arrangements to air dry.
- Typical photographs
- Photographs should be kept wet in containers of fresh cold
water until they are either air dried or frozen. If allowed
to partially dry, they will stick together. Remember to keep
the photographs wet until they are separated from each other
and their enclosures. Pack inside plastic garbage pails or
garbage bags inside boxes. Keep to a minimum the immersion
time to treatment or freezing.
- Microforms in rolls:
- Do not remove the films from their boxes. Hold cardboard
boxes (and their labels) together with rubber bands. Fill
boxes with water, then wrap 5 cartons of film into a block
with plastic wrap. Pack the blocks into a heavy duty
cardboard box lined with 3 garbage bags. Label as wet film
and ship to a microfilm processor.
How to deal with Mold
- Reduce the humidity. Moisture initiates mold growth
- Do not turn up the heat. Additional heat in the presence of
moisture will cause the mold to grow faster.
- Dry the collections (or freeze them)
- Beware of health risks. A few mold species are toxic to people. If
there are no toxic molds present, collections can be salvaged
in-house, but everyone working with the affected materials must
wear disposable plastic gloves and clothing, and use a protective
mask when working with moldy objects.
- Don't use chemicals. Lysol or bleach ) may cause additional damage
to items or be toxic to people; they are also often ineffective. .
Ethylene oxide (ETO) will kill active mold and mold spores; other
chemicals that have been used are less effective. All of these
chemicals can have adverse effects on both collections and people,
and none of them will keep the mold from recurring.
Quoted from Emergency Salvage of Moldy Books and
Paper by Beth Lindblom Patkus Preservation Consultant
A detailed list of resources related to mold can be found at:
- When using fans it is important to use indirect fans, for instance
ceiling fans to move the air around, you do not want to have the
air blowing directly on the books if this can be helped.
- Materials will begin to develop mold 48 hours after they are
removed from water. This time might be less in Hyderabad right now
due to the weather.
- Wet and tightly packed books on shelves develop mold more slowly.
- Submerged paper will not develop mold.
- Wet and loosely stacked books are more susceptible to molding.
- Portable pump
- Camera with film
- Tool kit (crowbar, hammer, pliers, screwdriver)
- Brooms and dustpans
- Mop, bucket, sponges
- Portable folding tables
- Portable fans
- Protective masks/glasses
- Gloves (leather, rubber)
- Drying space
- First aid kit
- Paper towel supply
- Plastic garbage bags
- Absorbent paper (blank newsprint, blotter, etc.)
- Clipboards (also paper pads, pencils, waterproof pens, large self-adhesive labels)
- Portable dehumidifiers
- Plastic (milk) crates
- Sturdy boxes- plastic is best, then wood, cardboard is the least desireable
- Brooms and dustpans
More info on Freezing
- Freezing is the best solution, that would be 0 degrees C. Freezing
not only stops mold growth but it also stops all movement of media,
and stops the continued swelling of text blocks. Keeping the
temperature below 0 degrees does not effect the situation
(negatively or positively).
- If there is limited freezer storage available then put the priority
items in the freezer and get the rest in any type of colder storage
and/or lower humidity storage. Items that can't be moved to
controlled environments will need to be dealt with within 48 hours
after coming out of the water. Mold begins to grow after 48 hours.
- Humidity plays a crucial role in the process, I would say that
humidity control is more important than temperature control for
items not frozen. For instance in 99% humidity with a temperature
of 35 C. mold will begin to grow in 2 days. 90% humidity with a
temp of 35 C. mold will begin in 4 days 80% humidity with a temp of
35 C mold will begin to grow in 13 days
- It looks like the current conditions in Hyderabad are 27 C. with 82
% humidity. This gives us more time than we initially thought-
though we need to move ahead quickly because the books were totally
submerged so their 'relative' humidity will be closer to 100%.
Also, the substances in the flood water carry unknown agents.
- The items should be frozen until they can be dealt with. The
process will be long- each item will need to be dealt with
The URL of this page is: http://dsal.uchicago.edu/flood/information.html