We're right smack in the middle of hurricane season on the Atlantic Coast, and New York City's recent tragic history with storms has reminded us too well that disasters happen. Disasters can be huge, like Superstorm Sandy, but they can also be small, like a burst pipe. When disasters happen that affect the collections of the New York Public Library, the Preservation Division responds.
We recently responded to a small disaster, caused by a leak, that affected approximately 200 books and manuscripts. As soon as we were notified, the staff of the Preservation Division leapt into action. After first making sure that all humans involved were safe and protected (in this case with lab coats and gloves), the books were removed from the affected area and triaged for action. Each volume was carefully examined and either wrapped, bagged, and placed in a large freezer, or propped up on end and allowed to air dry with the aid of large industrial fans.
Mold is a major concern after a water event. Damp items can be quickly air dried with additional air circulation, controlled relative humidity, and low temperatures to prevent the possibility of mold growth. Wet items can often be frozen to allow more time to respond without the risk of mold growth, or freeze dried.
For more information about disaster response, the American Library Association has an annotated bibliography with links to many resources, and the Library of Congress website has some excellent advice about what to do if collections get wet.