Mold in Hunter Library: An outbreak under control

Moldy books being disposed of. Photo by Ruby Annas/Logan King.

A mold outbreak in the Hunter Library building and on certain books is close to being resolved. 

 Facilities management was first notified of mold in April 2022. The molding of printed materials, books and journals, was first noticed in the summer of 2022. Upon first notification of the mold outbreak, Hunter Library, Facilities Management and external collaborators and consultants helped to control the mold.  

 “I view this as an opportunity for us to work with others to try and resolve some of the environmental conditions in our aging facility,” said dean of library services, Chuck Thomas. 

 Mold growth was identified on a few air handler units, supply registers and interior walls of the Hunter Library. The mold outbreak in the Hunter Library had a direct cause. 

 According to the associate vice chancellor of Facilities Management, Joe Walker, the library’s HVAC system consists of steam reheat coils that control the humidity of the air inside the building. The replacement of the underground steam line near the library caused steam not to be available for the HVAC system. This increased the humidity levels inside the building and caused mold growth. 

Mold spores are a part of the natural environment and are always present, but humidity activates mold spores and causes growth, potentially leading to health concerns. 

 Mold grows faster in the summer, so the mold outbreak in Hunter Library was difficult to handle during that time. Mold is dormant in cooler temperatures, so it was easier to control and maintain. 

 A specific type of mold was not identified on the printed materials, books and journals. The mold is subtle, looking like white powder on top of pages, a foggy substance on book spines, or it may only be visible under ultraviolet light. The infected journals are not available for checkout and if they cannot be restored, it is disposed of. 

 The Hunter Library and Facilities are in the final stages of a six-step process of removing molded materials.  

 The last of the molded journals and books are thrown away in the dumpster behind the Hunter Library. No molded books will be present in the library by February 17 when the dumpster is removed.  

 Once the mold is removed, the next step is maintaining an environment to prevent mold from forming again, especially in the summer when humidity and temperatures rise, encouraging mold growth.  

 Data is being reviewed from heat and humidity sensors daily and weekly by one of the library’s department heads.  

 “Things are really steady, not changing temperature or humidity for the past couple of months, maybe a little longer than that,” said Thomas.  

 SERVPRO Restoration services helped with remediation, getting the mold levels back to normal, natural levels. 

 The following are the six steps that were taken when the mold outbreak was first identified.  

  1. The mold was identified and shelf-by-shelf inspections were done to determine how many items have been affected 
  2. Temperature and humidity sensors were installed throughout collections to begin collecting data and identifying both trends and “hot spots” in the library that require more attention 
  3. Volumes were cleaned by hand when necessary.  
  4. Before Thanksgiving, external companies, Lyrasis and Afterdisaster provided consultation, diagnosed and addressed potential causes of the environmental conditions that led to the outbreak 
  5. An evaluation of affected books was done to see which materials are also available in electronic formats (e-journals, e-books, etc.) so they can be discarded if needed without interfering with access to content 
  6. Hunter Library worked with academic faculty and departments and decided, out of 60,055 thousand volumes, which items should be cleaned and repaired, or replaced with a new physical copy, or re-purchased in an electronic format instead of print. This was completed a few weeks ago.  
Mold in the form of white powder on top of pages. Provided by library staff.
Foggy mold on spines of books provided by library staff.
White circle mold on spine of book provided by library staff.