Category Archives: Environment

Another Day, Another Disaster

We had some torrential rain in Durham last night and early this morning staff at Lilly Library on East Campus reported water on the floor in the basement level. Facilities and Conservation Services quickly sprang into action to assess and respond to the needs of the affected collections.

Video tapes and cases set out to dry

Luckily no books were affected. Only some VHS tape cases and paperwork on a desk got wet, so we were able to set them out on tables with box fans and oscillating fans to dry.

Oscillating fans drying damp papersA crew from AfterDisaster also quickly arrived and began removing water from the carpets, opening the bases of walls to allow the sheetrock to dry, and setting up dehumidifiers. One of the dangers to book and paper collections after flooding is elevated relative humidity (RH) for long periods of time. This can promote mold growth, so their efforts will ensure that the RH returns to normal levels quickly.

This is the second basement water event we have had in as many months, but in both cases we followed our disaster plan and our collections came through relatively unscathed. It’s great to work with such a great team!

How Hot Is Your Book Drop?

We have two external book drops available to library patrons. The “Bostock” book drop is an aluminum box that sits under an archway between our two library buildings. It is somewhat protected from the elements by being under a stone archway and nestled against the library building. The “Drive By” book drop is a powder-coated steel box located at the back of the library near the parking lot. It sits in a sunny spot and is exposed to the elements. Last fall, a coworker in Circulation came to me with his concerns about the conditions of the books he retrieved from the external book drops. He said they often felt damp and even warm. I thought it would be interesting to put a HOBO datalogger in each of our external book drops to see what was happening inside.

Last August we put one HOBO in the Drive By book drop for a short test. I knew it was likely to be hot and humid in that box. I was eager to see the actual data. My advice? If you aren’t prepared for the truth, do not seek it. At its hottest, the Drive By box  reached 131 degrees Fahrenheit. At its most humid it reached 99% rH.

The graph that no preservation librarian wants to see.That test brought up a lot of questions. Since we were moving into the cooler and drier fall and winter seasons, we decided to do a longer test during the spring semester. This January, we put a HOBO in each of the external book drops and set them to record at the same time and interval rate so we could compare them to each other.

This afternoon I downloaded the data for the past week. This week was a typical North Carolina winter week. We had low temps in the 30F’s and high temps close to 60F. There were rainy days and sunny days.

Temperature readings in both book drops.

book drop rh
Environmental readings in both book drops from Feb. 11 to Feb. 19, 2016.

You can see that even in winter that steel box gets quite warm on sunny days. The humidity levels range from very wet to very arid. The aluminum box has its extremes, but they don’t spike as high as the steel box. It’s interesting to think about how the different metals, and the different locations, may be effecting the interior conditions.

I do not expect external book drops to have perfect preservation environments. I am, however, concerned about the extremes these environments present. I’m sharing this data with the Head of Access and Delivery Services so we can figure out what, if anything, we should recommend to the library in terms of these boxes.

I really love these HOBOs. They are easy to use and reasonably priced, and the data  can be easily downloaded in a variety of ways. Henry wrote a review of these HOBOs recently if you are interested in learning more about them.




1091 Project: Whither the Weather?

1091 graphicToday on the 1091 Project we bring you a weather reminder. Over the past several weeks we have had so much rain that we are out of a drought for the first time in three years. That’s a lot of rain. It didn’t come without a hitch.

You get to know your building pretty well and when it starts to rain you check the usual problem areas. During our recent downpours we had a few drips in the lab resulting, we think, from a clogged roof drain on the second floor. Of course, a few weeks ago a roof hatch was open when it rained, causing a leak on an upper floor.

Rain is just one element that we watch carefully. When the humidity levels are high in the summer or very low in winter, the air pulled into the HVAC system can affect the conditions in the stacks. We try to work with our Facilities department to mitigate the swings as much as possible within the system capabilities. Sun and wind are issues to keep an eye out for as well. We installed window shades in our exhibit space to reduce the sunlight entering the gallery. And this time of year we keep watch on hurricanes that come up the North Carolina coast that have the potential to drift inland bringing rain and damaging winds. The Duke Marine Lab Library on the eastern coast is especially vulnerable during hurricane season since it sits on a barrier island.

Bostock Library, Duke University
A beautiful early summer day on the patio between Perkins and Bostock libraries.

Of course, on a day as lovely as today you don’t think much about the problems the weather can cause for the library. Not that I’m complaining, but it is hard to return to the basement after your coffee break outside on such a glorious day.

Let’s travel west to see what the weather is like in Iowa at Parks Library Preservation.