This morning, as I stepped off the elevator onto the 4th floor of the library (where our lab is located), I was greeted by Mindy, our conservation technician, who was on a stake-out.  She had seen an enormous cockroach scuttling out of the men’s bathroom, and had her eyes glued to its trashcan hiding place while she waited for reinforcements.  A moment later, the other Mindy, our preservation assistant, emerged from the lab with a glass speciman jar, which she handed off to me with evident relief.  After a few false starts, I finally managed to corral the devious, speedy bug, and we returned triumphantly to the lab with our quarry.

As it turned out, “Roachie” (as one of our interns dubbed the nasty little bugger) was one of four large, American cockroaches spotted on various floors of the library this week.  You’ve all heard the adage that for every one cockroach you see, hundreds more are infesting the building.  Therefore, four cockroach sightings did not make any of us very happy in Preservation.

The Preservation Department monitors for pests using pheremone traps, which are checked quarterly.  In the past, the traps evidenced so few pests that checking them monthly seemed unwarranted.  Since Bookends Cafe opened on the first floor of Parks Library  in November, 2006, there had been no significant increase in insect activity within the library.  Until now, that is.  I’m wondering if the recent decrease in janitorial staff due to budgetary constraints could be a factor in current roach activity.

In general, although I am a conservator, I do support having a cafe in the library.  The cafe creates a more comfortable work environment not only for students and researchers, but for library staff as well, and ultimately, I truly believe a library should serve the needs of its users.  However, accepting certain conditions, like allowing food near collections, necessitates an equal measure of increased vigilance and care in monitoring and maintaining those collections.  We’re not yet sure what has catalyzed these recent cockroach sightings, but it’s a question that needs to be answered and acted upon quickly.