Blog – Document Recovery

Caring for Damaged Books by the American Institute for Conservation

For libraries, museums and other organizations that house irreplaceable books, a flood or other disaster can be devastating. If not cared for properly, water damaged books will warp, stain and grow mold. Fortunately, with the help of an expert in disaster recovery, documents and books can be dried and restored to usable condition – provided you take the right steps.

Here are some guidelines on handling damaged books, from the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC):

Act quickly. In a humid environment (such as the aftermath of a flood) wet books can begin growing mold within 48 hours. Not does mold pose a health hazard, but it can cause further staining and damage to your books if left unchecked.

Stabilize water damaged books by freezing them. Freezing will prevent mold growth and further deterioration, allowing you to thaw and dry them at a later date. Wrap or interleave books with paper, and pack them spine-down in waterproof containers (or boxes lined with plastic). Freeze them as rapidly as possible.

Air-dry small numbers of books. If you’re dealing with just a few wet books, you can air-dry them yourself: “The books should be stood up, fanned open, alternating spine to fore edge, with sturdy bookends at each end to prevent them from falling over like dominoes. Use fans to circulate the air and increase evaporation,” the AIC says. Keep the temperature as low as possible, and reduce humidity in the room by turning on the air conditioning or using dehumidifiers. Once the books are dry (warm to the touch), lay them flat and place a weight on top to minimize warping.

Consider vacuum freeze drying. When you’re dealing with a recovery project that’s beyond the scope of your abilities, consult a document restoration company offering the latest cutting-edge restoration technology. Our vacuum freeze drying chamber, for example, can quickly dry large volumes of water damaged books with minimal warping.

Here at Polygon, we’re experts in restoring damaged books for libraries and museums. We’ve worked with some of the nation’s leading libraries, and over time we’ve developed a sense of what works best for each situation. We highly encourage librarians and curators to sign up for our Rapid Response Program, which drastically speeds up the recovery process.


[ Photo by: Wild Guru Larry, via CC License ]

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