RBML Closure

Rare Book & Manuscript Library to Close Temporarily Due to Mold Outbreak

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library will close temporarily on February 25, 2008, in order to counteract an outbreak of mold in its vault. The library is scheduled to reopen on May 12, 2008.  For detailed and up-to-date information about the mold recovery process, visit the Preservation and Conservation website .

Professor Valerie Hotchkiss, head of the library, and her staff have worked diligently to minimize the effect of the situation on faculty and students. The library was able to accommodate dozens of classes scheduled to view rare items this semester. “Items will be cleaned before the class presentations, which will take place elsewhere in the Main Library under close supervision of curators for security.”

Otherwise, the Rare Book & Manuscript Library must be closed to researchers for the duration of the clean-up. “We are pleased that the mold remediation will only require us to curtail services for eight to ten weeks,” says Hotchkiss. She reports that this “is a very quick turnaround time compared to what we’ve seen at other libraries. At the Clark Library at UCLA, for example, the library was closed for over a year and a half for a smaller mold clean-up project.”

The outbreak most likely occurred after a spike in the humidity late in the fall. Following the discovery, the Library’s Conservation Unit undertook an assessment of the collection. A mycologist also was called in to evaluate the health risks of the mold, which were deemed minimal to healthy individuals. Fortunately, the mold had not reached the point of irreparably damaging any books or manuscripts.

The Conservation Unit determined that the outbreak was of a general nature, rather than one impacting a small section of the collection, and worked with members of the Library’s Administration, Office of Facilities, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, and Preservation Unit to prepare a plan of action. Because of the widespread nature of the outbreak, it was decided that cleaning the entire collection was necessary. The following actions were initiated:

  • Installing and maintaining temporary humidity control devices in the vault.
  • Contracting with the appropriate vendor, BMS Catastrophe, to clean the collection, HVAC system, and interior of the vault.
  • Increasing “compartmentalization” of the vault, as a means of better protecting the collection from invasive elements (mold, pests, etc.), providing tighter environmental controls, and improving fire protection.
  • Exploring options for replacing the HVAC system.

The Library regrets the inconvenience caused by this temporary closure. However, the crisis provides an unparalleled opportunity to evaluate and enhance current systems for the protection for unique, rare, and valuable items. For more information, please contact:

Tom Teper
Associate University Librarian for Collections & Associate Dean of Libraries
University Library
246F Main Library
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
1408 West Gregory Drive
Urbana, IL 61801
E-Mail: tteper@uiuc.edu
Telephone: (217) 244-8755
Fax: (217) 244-4358

Do you have a story you’d like added to the Library News & Events? If so, please contact Heather Murphy ( hmurphy@illinois.edu ).

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