In 2015, a leaky roof and faulty HVAC system at the Mark Twain House & Museum led to a mold infestation that affected at least 5,000 artifacts, including first editions of the famous author’s books, translations and other documents of interest. The institution was not alone with its condensation control problems. In 2016, the Carnegie Library at Mount Vernon closed its doors when it discovered mold. Each year, libraries around the world battle the damaging effects of mold, making it one of the greatest problems that the knowledge centers face. While the closure of larger libraries and archives are a public inconvenience, incidents that occur at schools affect the quality of education that young people receive. Because schools often close for long periods, their libraries are particularly vulnerable to mold.
Why Mold in Schools Matter
Mold is a type of fungus that grows and spreads through spore propagation. To survive, it requires moisture and a food source. Because paper is an organic material, some varieties of mold survive on the pages and within the bindings well. In addition to discoloration, library books infested with mold often have a musty odor. Without quick mold remediation efforts, the damage could be irreversible.
Just as mold poses a threat to books and documents, it poses a greater threat to human health. When mold infests a library, it affects the quality of indoor air. Contact with mold can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms or worse, particularly in young people whose immune systems are still developing.
The Importance of Climate Control in Libraries
Despite having an HVAC system, the climate within many libraries is not constant throughout the year. During the winter, for example, the air might feel drier. In the summer, conditions are generally more humid, and a school might set the thermostat at a warmer temperature to save energy. Even if the cooling system is on, the air inside may still seem humid.
Seasonal fluctuations in temperatures and relative humidity levels make libraries vulnerable to mold growth. When school is out, the infestation may go unnoticed until classes resume. Because school libraries are a source of collaboration and the sharing of knowledge, climate control is vital to student health and education, as well as the integrity of book collections.
Among the most effective condensation control solutions are temporary climate control technologies that complement HVAC systems. HVAC systems are designed to condition air and promote comfortable temperatures within a building. While their operations help control humidity, this is not their purpose. Independent climate control solutions with monitoring capabilities are much more effective at maintaining ideal temperatures and humidity levels within a library, saving energy, and preventing costly mold-related damage. More importantly, they help keep the air healthy and library doors open.
Mold Prevention Tips for Libraries
- Maintain relative humidity levels between 40 and 55 percent
- Keep temperatures around 70°F or cooler
- Ensure proper ventilation
- Vacuum and dust regularly
- Use desiccants in enclosed spaces
- Use temporary environmental control solutions when temperatures or humidity levels exceed standards
- Regularly inspect books for signs of mold
- If present, remove standing water
- Reduce humidity levels and temperatures, and increase air circulation
- Isolate the books affected by mold while wearing protective clothing; allow books to dry if they’re wet
- Disinfect affected bookshelves
- Use a soft brush, cloth or vacuum with a HEPA filter to remove mold or mildew while wearing protective clothing in a well ventilated room
- Kill mold by dabbing affected areas with denatured alcohol
Mold Remediation Tips
If mold affects a large quantity of books, call the mold remediation specialists at Polygon. An expert will tell you how to stabilize the books to halt the mold growth until professionals arrive. Without proactive condensation control, libraries can quickly become breeding grounds for mold, especially when students are on vacation. Get in touch with Polygon today to learn how its affordable temporary climate control solutions will protect the health of your students and prevent costly damage.
[Kevin Wong via CC License 2.0]