Three Methods of Recovery:
The method chosen will depend on how many books are involved, available time and space and how wet the books are. All three can be used alone or in conjunction with one another.
Characteristics of Wet Books and Paper:
Wet paper is structurally weak and tears easily. Clay-coated paper can stick together when damp. Some dyes and inks will bleed when wet. Please remember the following when handling wet books:
- Do not fully open a wet book if it is closed.
- Be very careful in closing a wet book if it is found open.
- Keep clay-coated papers damp until it can be frozen. This should be done as soon as possible, preferably within 6 hours.
- If packing for freezing, protect books from one another so dyes and inks do not transfer from book to book, by wrapping in newsprint paper or waxed paper.
- Due to space requirements and the time involved, this is best suited to smaller numbers of books which are not overly saturated. Books should be able to be dried within 48 hours.
- Prepare the area by wiping off a table and laying plastic over it. Place newsprint over the plastic to help absorb excess water.
- Stand book on it’s tail and gently fan open the pages. Check the books on a regular basis to check for drying. Flip them over top to bottom at least once so air reaches all parts of the book.
- Place fans such that they keep air moving gently over all the books, but without so much force that they can knock the books over. Fans must be left on the entire time for drying to take place.
- Test for dampness. If the paper feels dry but is cool to the touch, it is still damp. Pay especial attention to the cover (the boards under the cloth can stay damp for a long time) and in the gutter along the spine of the book.
- This method is best for just a few books since it is highly labor intensive, but is very effective for soaked books. It is often used in conjunction with air drying and pressing.
- Prepare work area as for air drying.
- Place a sheet of absorbent paper toweling or clean newsprint between the pages, every 20 pages or so. Turn pages carefully while interleaving since the paper will be in a fragile state. Do not put too many sheets in the book because that can cause the binding to break apart at the spine.
- After interleaving sheets are placed in the book, stand on end in front of fan as in air drying method. The interleaving sheets will cause the water to move from the interior of the book to the edges through capillary action.
- Change interleaving sheets on a regular basis whenever they are overly wet. Place the sheets between different pages. One way to keep track is to first do pages 1, 20, 40, 60, etc. then switch to 10, 30, 50, 70, etc, and then to 5, 25, 45, 65, etc. The way all pages will have a chance to dry.
- After the interleaving sheets no longer become soaked, follow the air drying instructions.
- This is best for large scale disasters when you do not have enough resources to handle each book as in the preceding methods. Freezing is useful for many reasons. Proper freezing will stabilize the books preventing further damage such as mold and saturation by residual water. Freezing can help prevent the blocking of pages in clay-coated papers and the bleeding of water-soluble inks. Freezing also buys time since books can remain frozen indefinitely so you can deal with a manageable number at a time.
- Supplies needed for freezing include crates, wax paper, and cardboard to insert to keep books from shifting. If there are large numbers of books, this operation can be done in assembly-line fashion.
- Each volume (or at least every other volume) should be wrapped in wax paper in a U-shape around the spine. This prevents books from freezing to each other and makes their removal easier.
- Books should be packed in a single row with the spine down. Do not pack boxes too heavy!
- Books tend to permanently take on their shape at the time of freezing. Care in packing can help the life of the book after its final recovery.
- If books are oversize, place the books going in the long direction or flat on bottom of crate. Do not stack more than a few books like this in any crate. Alternatively, stand books upright and place another crate over the top for protection.
- If a crate is not packed full, place a piece of folded cardboard at the end to hold books upright. Also, place cardboard along the side so books do not slide back and forth.
- Once packed, the crates can be stored in a freezer until the books can be dealt with one at a time. Or, the books can be shipped to a freeze-drying facility.
- The first section of the MSUL Disaster Manual has more details about these, and other, disaster recovery methods. Each manual also has a "Disaster Wheel" for quick answers to recovery solutions.
- Conservation OnLine (CoOL) has many articles about disaster recovery of all types of materials.
- If your library is involved in a disaster, contact the Disaster Mitigation Committee (email: Disaster_Mitigation@mail.lib.msu.edu) and the Conservation Lab (phone: 517.432.8828) for help!
- After a disaster (and after you have a chance to recover) remember to record the event on the Disaster Log on the Library Intranet (http://intranet.lib.msu.edu/dislog).