Mold


CLose up of the textured surface of Tek wipe, which is a nonwoven polyester and cellulose blend.

Close-up of the textured surface of Tek wipe, which is a nonwoven polyester and cellulose blend.

The AIC Annual Meeting in 2014 was abuzz with the virtues of Tek Wipe as a paper conservation material. We had been considering purchasing some as a disaster salvage supply for a while, after seeing how much cotton blotter we used up in the recovery from the Ames Flood of 2010. As the Chair-Elect of the AIC Sustainability Committee, I find the idea of an absorbent non-woven that is washable and reusable to be very appealing. Its reusability makes this material an attractive choice from both an environmental and an economic perspective. However, it wasn’t until I started hearing about other treatment uses for the material that I got over my inertia and ordered some for our lab.  Six months of experimentation later, I’m very pleased with Tek wipe’s versatility and results.

Tek wipe on a 35" wide roll.

Tek wipe on a 35″ wide roll.

Tek wipe is a highly absorbent polyester/cellulose nonwoven textile which can be ordered by the sheet or by the roll. We chose to order a roll and cut it down to sheets that are custom sized for various purposes. We have precut sheets to keep on hand for water disaster scenarios, but I have also been using it for document washing and paper mending in place of (and sometimes in addition to) cotton blotter. For mending, I have used Tek wipe in place of the small rectangles of blotter cut to fit our glass and plexi glass weights. I still sandwich Reemay or Holytex between the Tek wipe and the mend, because the Tek wipe can stick to the mend (or even the paper support itself) if allowed to dry in direct contact.

However, where Tek wipe’s versatility really shines is as a washing material.  I’ll qualify that assertion by saying my assessments are visual and anecdotal; we haven’t the time or the resources in our lab to assess the results with technical analytics (hint, hint to the conservation graduate students out there…)  I’ve been working on a project treating about twenty issues of a mid-19th century horticulture journal suffering from water and mold damage. All of the issues exhibit black and purple mold stains, as well as caked-on surface dirt and pronounced tidelines which fluoresce under UV light. Regardless of whether the tidelines are fluorescing as an indication of mold hyphae or an indication of soluble paper degradation products, reducing them has been a desirable part of this treatment. The project has therefore offered an ideal opportunity for testing out a few different washing techniques with Tek wipe.

Tidelines fluorescing under UV light.

Tidelines fluorescing under UV light.

After the initial treatment steps of HEPA vacuuming, dry cleaning, and misting with an ethanol solution, the separated folios of the horticulture journal were then washed aqueously.  I tried three different washing techniques with Tek wipe: blotter sandwich washing, slant board washing, and a combination of immersion washing combined with abbreviated blotter sandwich washing.  Tek wipe performed usefully in all three scenarios, dramatically reducing the tidelines visible in ambient light and completely removing the fluorescing compounds.  For all three washing methods, documents were dried in a blotter/Reemay stack under weight.

Blotter Sandwich Washing

For the blotter sandwich, I used Tek wipe in place of Reemay or Hollytex.  I sandwiched the document between two piece of Tek wipe, then sandwiched the ensemble between two piece of thick cotton blotter. This method worked the best to the naked eye, completely removing all visible traces of the tidelines. All fluorescing compounds were likewise removed with this method.

Slant Board Washing

In this scenario, I used Tek wipe in lieu of a fleece, but otherwise followed standard slant board washing procedures. The Tek wipe seemed to wick a bit more slowly than fleece, but the stain was reduced almost as well as blotter sandwich washing, with slight ghosting remaining. All fluorescing compounds were also removed with this method.

Immersion Washing Followed by Abbreviated Blotter Sandwich Washing

While trying the above washing methods with Tek wipe proved informative, neither method would be suitable for the scale of this project, which requires the washing of over 200 folios. So, I decided to try immersion washing in combination with a blotter sandwich lined with Tek wipe.  Following usual procedures, I washed a Reemay stack with one full issue of the journal in multiple baths of short duration (5 minutes each): two baths in deionized water, followed by two alkaline baths. Even though the water in the final bath remained clear, some visible tidelines did remain in the documents. The documents were peeled one by one from the stack and placed in a blotter/Tek wipe sandwich stack. The documents were re-misted with recalcified water after about an hour, and left for another hour in the blotter/Tek wipe stack. This method greatly reduced the tidelines, leaving behind only faint ghosting, and removing all fluorescing compounds.  I selected this method for the remainder of the project because it produced acceptable results in a more time-efficient manner.

Before (above) and after (below) immersion washing followed by abbreviated blotter/Tek wipe sandwich washing.

Before (above) and after (below) immersion washing followed by abbreviated blotter/Tek wipe sandwich washing.

Washing the Tek wipe in very warm water and then air-drying it removed the stains the material absorbed from the washing processes above, leaving it ready to be used again.

How Are You Using Tek Wipe?

Are you using Tek wipe for conservation treatments? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section.  I’m especially interested to hear if anyone has tried using Tek wipe instead of blotter in a drying stack in a treatment, rather than disaster salvage, scenario, and whether that was successful.

What do you like or dislike about the material? Have you had any particular successes or failures using it? Do you have any cautions to share?  Please join the conversation!

 

Over the years, we have introduced and highlighted our many wonderful students and interns in the Preservation Department.  They perform an immense amount of work, and work that is often mundane or sometimes just icky.  Our students have helped us slog through hundreds of fishy smelling architectural drawings after the 2010 floods, they vacuum mold, and they help keep us young.

This time I would like to recognize and thank students that work in the Stacks Management unit.  Last week Rylie Pflughaupt, Rebecca Schmid, and Megan Primorse were shifting a portion of our general collection and discovered what they thought was mold on some of our books.  Our Stacks students are trained to look for signs of mold, water leaks, and other library concerns, while they are shelving and shifting, and they have certainly caught many problems throughout the years.  This time their focus and training alerted us to a mold problem that affected three floors of open stacks.  After being alerted to the mold, Stacks and Preservation students also helped us do a walk-through of stacks areas serviced by the same air handler to identify other books with mold.

moldy books

What our Stacks students found looked like a powdery residue on certain books scattered throughout 44,000 volumes.  These were not obviously moldy books with entire areas covered in fuzzy, full bloom mold.  These looked more like books with old, failed book tape adhesive on the spines or just seriously dusty books.

Powdery mold on books

The other mold pattern was a little more obvious.  The mold formed clumps or dots that were more three-dimensional.  Under magnification you could see the interconnected network and what looked like sporangiophore and sporangium.

Mold dotsOur Environmental Health and Safety staff took tape samples off of our books and vents and identified three types of mold in the area.  Facilities Planning and Management identified a valve stuck open on a humidification unit, and dampers that were not responding properly.  Although we do not know exactly when this bloom happened, looking at our temperature and relative humidity data, we think it happened in late July when the temperature spiked for three days with the corresponding drop in relative humidity and then just as quickly the temperature dropped with the relative humidity spiking, creating warm air and cool surfaces for condensation.

This may finally be the event that makes everyone including Facilities Planning and Management take notice.  Deferred maintenance (waiting for something to break) of the library HVAC system is not adequate.  With all of the additions to the building and expansion of  the existing HVAC system and air handling units, environmental conditions in the stacks areas cannot be kept stable under reasonable conditions especially when the system is not functioning at or near 100%.  After years of charts and graphs and complaints from Preservation, progress may actually be made because of three observant Stacks students alerting their supervisor to possible mold in the stacks.

It’s National Preservation Week! While every week of the year is “preservation week” for cultural heritage professionals, National Preservation Week focuses on outreach to the general public and among allied professions such as archivists, librarians, museum curators, vendors of archival supplies, preservation administrators, and conservators.

Library_Front-b-OL

Here at ISU Library, we’re focusing attention this week on what to do about WET BOOKS.  Too often, a library book accidentally gets wet, and by the time the borrower  has returned it to the library, it is so infested with mold that we end up having to discard the book and charge the borrower a hefty replacement fee.  Library users often don’t realize how expensive it is to replace a library book. Not only are they charged the cost of the book itself, but also processing fees for the book to be acquired, cataloged, and marked for the shelf.

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T-Shirt Giveaway

We’ve designed Preservation Week t-shirts with the design above on the front, and advice about how to handle wet books on the back.  Access Services and Preservation staff will be wearing the t-shirts as well as “Ask Me About Book First Aid!” stickers.  This Wednesday, April 30, through Friday, May 2, we will be giving away free t-shirts to the first 40 library users who ask a t-shirt-wearing staff member about preservation or book first aid.

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During the 2010 flood, we waived fees for replacing damaged books, because we recognized that the campus community was struggling to salvage a lot more than their library books. However, we would really like to save students and staff the cost of replacement fees whenever possible, so we’re campaigning to educate our users about what Preservation can do for them. 

Accidents happen! Sometimes, a drink spills onto a library book. Books get rained on, or dropped in puddles. Bringing a wet book back to the library immediately gives Preservation a chance to dry it properly before permanent damage (warping, cockling, mold) sets in.  Follow our simple tips to help us mitigate damage to our collections, and your reward will be avoiding a potentially costly replacement fee!

Damp Book?

  • Fan open pages
  • Stand book on end in well-ventilated area until dry.
  • Return book to Circulation Desk and tell staff.

Wet Book?

  • Return book immediately to Circulation Desk.
  • If Library is closed: Wrap book in wax paper or foil and freeze. Return the still-wrapped book to the Library as soon as it opens.
  • Do not put a wet book in a plastic bag!

Moldy Book?

  • Seal book in a plastic bag.
  • Return book to Circulation Desk as soon as possible.
  • Warn staff that book is moldy.

Thank you for helping us care for the library collections that we all share!

1091map1This month’s 1091 Project addresses that bane of every library and archives conservator: mold. Whether the mold is black, white, green, magenta, or yellow, it is all treated the same way: with caution and immediate action. The mold that we deal with in the lab comes from three main sources:

  1. newly acquired items for Special Collections and Archives which are valued highly enough to make dealing with mold worth the trouble;
  2. items returning from circulation which were not cared for properly by the borrowing patrons;
  3. mold outbreaks in the collection, which could be caused by a leaky roof or water pipe, or extreme humidity in situations when the HVAC breaks down.
Aspergillus

Asexual fruiting structure of Aspergillus. http://www.atsu.edu/faculty/chamberlain/Website/Lects/Fungi.htm

The “sniff test” is a pretty reliable indicator of mold, but technician Mindy Moe rightly scolds me whenever she sees me lifting a suspect book to my nose. Mold spores, even if dormant, find the warm, moist environment of human nasal passages and lungs to be a cozy place to take up residence. Repeated exposure to mold can also lead to sensitivities and allergies which, in the most extreme cases, can induce life-threatening allergic reactions. So, we always take a little extra precaution when dealing with the fuzzy stuff. Mold can be identified by a visual inspection under magnification, especially under raking light. If a visual examination is inconclusive because the spores are in a dormant phase, or the spot is a residual stain, then the presence of mold can be confirmed by examining the item under UV light, which causes mold hyphae to fluoresce rather dramatically.

MoldFluorescingUnderUVlight

Mold hyphae fluorescing under UV light.

The minimum PPE (personal protective equipment) for dealing with mold includes glasses or goggles, a lab coat (and in general keeping as much skin covered as possible), latex or nitrile gloves, and a P95 or P100 disposable respirator.

PPEforMoldMitigation

PPE for mold mitigation.

Nilfisk

Nilfisk HEPA vacuum for mold removal.

Once personal precautions have been taken, we act. In the case of situations 1 or 2 described above, we are usually dealing with just a few items at a time. The moldy items are first isolated from the rest of the collection, and then assessed for damage. In the case of circulating items which have been returned to the Library with significant mold damage, we usually discard the item entirely and charge the patron to replace it.

In the case of Special Collections and Archives materials, we keep the moldy items quarantined until they can be vacuumed under the fume hood with a special vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter. We try to minimize the amount of moldy items we accept because our staffing levels allow us only 1 to 2 hours per week on our “mold workflow.” Items which have been treated for mold are affixed with a small label saying so, along with the date. In part this is to inform patrons about a potential health risk, and in part this helps us keep track of which items might be making repeat visits to the lab.

Situation 3, a mold outbreak in the collection, is dealt with in a slightly different manner. In the case of an active mold outbreak, the first step is not only to isolate the affected materials as quickly as possible, but also, if possible, to make the active bloom go dormant. We wrap items loosely in waxed paper and put them in one of our conservation freezers. The low temperature and humidity in the freezer will cause the mold to go dormant within a few days. Once the infestation is dormant, the items can be removed from the freezer and vacuumed — and treated further, if necessary — in small, manageable batches.

Mold-infested collection materials in the freezer.

Mold-infested collection materials in the freezer.

Meanwhile, the environmental conditions which caused the mold outbreak in the first place must be dealt with swiftly to prevent it from spreading throughout the collection. Leaking or standing water must be stopped and mopped up, while humidity and temperature levels must be brought into a safe range, and the ventilation checked.  We also have a couple of portable HEPA vacuums for vacuuming mold on-site.

Portable 3M HEPA vacuum for mold.

Portable 3M HEPA vacuum for mold.

In the case of a large mold outbreak affecting thousands of items, we would be too understaffed and under-equipped to cope, so we have vendor contracts in place to work with a professional recovery company under those circumstances.

Let’s head over to Preservation Underground to see how they feel about mold in the Duke University Libraries Conservation Department.

1091MapFor this month’s 1091 post, we’re taking a moment to appreciate the impact Mother Nature can have on the preservation of heritage collections, both in terms of natural disasters and climate. After two years of severe drought in Iowa, we have been keeping an anxious eye on groundwater and river levels throughout a spring season of near-daily thunderstorms and heavy rains.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we will not have a repeat of the 2010 flood in Ames, during which parts of the University were flooded and thousands of working documents and architectural plans were damaged.

MotherNature-02

If you’re not familiar with the Midwest, you might glance at these photos (taken from the window of our Conservation Lab) and think you see mountains in the distance, but this is Iowa, and those are storm clouds rolling in over the prairie.

MotherNature-01

Even without flooding, these relentlessly damp, humid conditions have increased the risk of mold blooms, and we have seen more ground-dwelling insects driven indoors by high groundwater.  Let’s head over to Preservation Underground to find out how Mother Nature has been treating North Carolina, home to Duke University Libraries.

Written by Jim Wilcox, Preservation Services Unit.

These are some things I probably should have taken care of 25 years ago, when that water line froze, and then leaked once it thawed out.  This is artwork I did 30 or so years ago (1980-1983), when I was working for Collegiate Pacific in Ames.  Collegiate started out in Ames and made the first Cy mascot costume, as well as stuffed animals for many different colleges, imprinted shirts, pennants, blankets, and banners.  They had done some work for the military during World War II, and later added plants in Roanoke, Virginia, and California.  The Ames Historical Society is currently working on a video history of the company.

I thought the stuff was dry when I put it in the portfolio and boxed it up, but I guess it wasn’t dry enough, as the photos show.  Fortunately, it wasn’t that much of the original artwork and proofs that ended up like this.

Jim-01

This pellon sample (above) was run to make sure the three screenprinting screens in this case all lined up before running the order of shirts.  The few spots of mold along the bottom border could probably best be treated with just a little bit of trimming.

Jim-02

This photocopy of artwork is something we sometimes did in the art department to check things and to help when cutting the rubylithe for the color separations.  This one has a few spots of dark mold and some bleeding ink.

Jim-03

This one is Garfield, on a paper proof like the one sent to the salesman to shop around.  You can see some spots of mold and a nice tideline along the right edge.

With the rain pouring steadily for the past few days, and flood waters rising in Iowa, these old souvenirs of long-ago water damage are a good reminder to get prepared and react quickly.

Evan Anderson started as our new Stacks Manager two months ago and we welcomed him with a roof leak and then a disaster workshop.  Stacks Management is not part of the Preservation Department, but Evan has agreed to be a guest writer on occasion since the departments work so closely together. 

The codex has been around for approximately 2,000 years, or more than a quarter of the time humans have been recording information via writing.  Though codicologists, historians, and other scholars debate exactly why it quickly and largely superseded the scroll as the dominant storage and transmission medium, there is little question of its general durability.  This durability, though, is contingent upon many factors, from the material and construction of the codex, to the conditions it experiences during its lifecycle, to the individuals responsible for preserving and maintaining it.

While this all may be a given, even a codex that is bound well, has sturdy boards, and is kept with care, still faces dangers to its longevity:  disasters happen.  Books, like people, have bad days sometimes.

On April 19 and 20, the Iowa Conservation & Preservation Consortium, with support from an IMLS Connecting to Collections grant, Iowa Library Services, Iowa Museum Services, and State Historical Society of Iowa, held a workshop called “Disasters Happen: Preparation & Response Training” at the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids to address these bad days.

In some ways, for me, this workshop came about a week too late.  The Library Storage Building (the University Library’s off-site storage facility) has a particular problem:  the roof leaks.  It leaks, not always, but enough, and though typically in the same spots, water does like to travel, so once in a while a new leak occurs.  Friday, April 13 was one such ‘once in a while.’  Though the leak was neither prodigious in quantity of water nor in size of flow, it was persistent enough to affect several score of books.  With the assistance of Preservation staff, we began the process of drying out damp books, freezing the more profoundly damaged, and, sadly, discarding some irrevocably moldy volumes.  This crash course in a wet book crisis informed my analysis of the “Disasters Happen” workshop.  As information was presented, I considered whether it was something I should have done, or not have done, or, at the very least contemplated, and then considered how I could incorporate these lessons into future crises.  Sadly, I do know for sure that there will be other crises.

Though I had read the procedures at Iowa State and have had coursework that touched on disaster planning and emergency response, the workshop and the pre-workshop experience demonstrated the absolute necessity of not only developing a plan (or plans) and being cognizant of said plans, but also actually executing said plans and not just reacting as the situation unfolds (a tenuous strategy at best, a horrible exponential scaling of a disaster at worst).

In no part of the workshop was this more amply demonstrated than the concluding mock disaster drill.  We had been presented with information on how to handle various media when afflicted by various problems, how to plan, and what to consider, and now forced to put this into work.  The small group I was a part of assigned roles and attempted to execute a plan, when an outsider decided to ‘join’ and take action, damaging materials, violating collection decisions, ignoring input:  in short, generally contributing mostly harm.  Although frustrating at the time, I found this to be highly instructive upon reflection.

Books may be very durable over the long term, but they can face extreme, adverse conditions.  And, as durable as they are, they cannot plan accordingly, so we must.  And helping a codex cope with a catastrophe directly comes from creating, committing to, and carrying out a well-conceived plan.  Doing so will ensure that in a few hundred years when all our newfangled digital technologies are hopelessly obsolete and all their electrons have escaped, our print books can still be accessed for all the thousands of years of knowledge we’ve contained within them.

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