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7 The spaces in the building

7.1 Housekeeping
7.2 Illumination
7.3 Temperature control
7.4 Humidity control
7.5 Security in the individual spaces
7.6 Water risks.
7.7 Insect and rodent control
7.8 Control of mould growth
7.9 Control of light to minimize photochemical effect

 

The conditions affecting books and documents, in the rooms and spaces on the different floor levels, in large libraries and archives can vary considerably. For that reason the report must contain comments, from the data on the B forms, about each space in which the institution's collections are exhibited or stored for convenient retrieval. Other rooms and spaces (furnace and machinery rooms, office spaces, staff rooms and kitchen facilities, toilet areas, etc.) are all potential sources of trouble for books and records in the stack areas and conditions in them should be mentioned in this part of the report. The following suggestions are offered for consideration in regard to each type of room.

Comment here should be in regard to the general suitability (climate control, lighting, housekeeping, etc.) of each space for the storage of books and records, with specific remarks on security, fire protection, and water risks that might apply to that space in particular.

7.1 Housekeeping

If the housekeeping arrangements are not sufficient to keep the room free of dust and dirt, accumulations of flammable debris; or insect attracting, sugar and food crumbs under vending machines and in places that the staff uses for coffee breaks and snacking; the required recommendations are obvious.

7.2 Illumination

If a room, particularly one on a sunny side of a building, has large windows exposing the materials to much sunlight, and there are no provisions (curtains and blinds, tinted glass, etc.) for controlling the exposure, there should be a recommendation proposing how to do that. If there are curtains, blinds or shades, but they are not being used, there should be a recommendation that a directive from top level management is required to see that it is done.

If there is too much artificial lighting, recommend that some of the lighting fixtures be disconnected. If the lighting is by fluorescent tubes, and the tubes are not covered with ultra-violet filtering sleeves, recommend that UV filtering sleeves be purchased for installation by the maintenance staff.

7.3 Temperature control

After describing the provisions for heating the space (circulating air, steam or hot water radiators, electric heaters, heat exchange units), and their effectiveness, suggest how obvious deficiencies can be remedied. This will require cooperation and input from the building maintenance staff.

Similarly describe the adequacy of the provisions for cooling the space, if that is required during the summer months. When cooling is required, and none is provided, suggest alternative solutions such as window air conditioning units if a central system is out of the question.

7.4 Humidity control

Monitoring the relative humidity, even if only for a few days, will almost always reveal that the humidity is not stable. More attention to the machinery by the maintenance staff will usually result in reasonably acceptable conditions in the winter months, but not in the summertime. During the transition from heating to cooling and vice/versa in the spring and fall humidity control is particularly difficult. That will always be-a troublesome problem unless the building has the latest state of the art HVAC machinery, and the administration is willing to accept the cost of running it continuously, which is seldom the case.

One solution for this problem would be to recommend that one room be designated as a repository for the establishment's most important books and records, and that a small, efficient, self contained, HVAC unit be purchased for it. A less expensive recommendation would be to purchase portable humidifiers and dehumidifiers for use in the stack areas.

7.5 Security in the individual spaces

If, during the survey of the building, it was possible to get the cooperation of the municipal police for a security assessment, they will probably have already provided suggestions for upgrading the provisions for forestalling theft and vandalism. If not, the librarian or archivist doing the survey can assume that he is a thief or vandal bent on mischief and plan a way to accomplish that evil by circumventing the alarms to gain entry at night; concealing a theft from the staff on duty during working hours; or escaping detection after an act of vandalism. Imaginative thinking along those lines could reveal security discrepancies from which recommendations can be made for improving the system.

7.5.1 Fire hazards

Fire protection should also be assessed in determining preservation needs. If the local fire authorities have previously been recruited for a fire safety inspection, they have probably already identified potential hazards; provided a statement as to the building's vulnerability to fire; and evaluated the effectiveness of the available fire detection and suppression equipment. Recommendations for upgrading fire safety will then be obvious. When getting cost estimates from vendors for the required detection and suppression equipment, they should be asked to submit proposals for several options of varying effectiveness.

In addition to guidance and assistance from professionals, there is much that can be done to identify fire hazards in the various rooms that can be easily eliminated. Examples are (a) too many electric cords, for coffee pots, typewriters and other office equipment, plugged into a single wall outlet - disconnect some of them; (b) aged and worn power cords on electrical equipment - replace them; (c) paper boxes and other flammable material in the vicinity of electric space heaters - take them away; (d) storage of flammable solvents, usually by the cleaning staff, in cupboards and closets - provide outside storage. The list is endless.

7.6 Water risks.

The frequency of serious and costly water damage to books and records by accidents within libraries and archives is many times greater than the frequency of damage by water from rivers overflowing their banks, or by hurricane on coastal areas, or great inland storms. All to often hundreds, if not thousands, of gallons of water find their way to books and boxed documents in the stacks, from faulty plumbing, defective water and steam heating pipes, sprinkler system malfunctions, and roof leaks elsewhere. When there is visible evidence (stains on the walls, ceilings, and floors) of unwanted water sometime in the past, it probably will happen again at the same place. The remedy for that is to recommend regular, and frequent, inspections of the building, and the mechanical systems in it, by carpenters, roofers, plumbers, heating engineers, etc. to identify vulnerable situations as they develop.

7.7 Insect and rodent control

If insects in the building have not already infested the collections in the stacks they eventually will if they are not kept under control. Insect and rodent populations can be wiped out by professional exterminators. After that the probability of reinfestation can be minimized by good housekeeping and the promulgation, and strict enforcement of, explicit regulations in regard to the use of food and beverages in the building. Ideally that should be a simple statement prohibiting the consumption of food and beverages anywhere in the building. If that is not acceptable the recommendation should be to limit food and beverage consumption to specific areas well away from the stacks. Such regulations will not be popular and to be effective they must be issued by a top level administrator or the directives will be exercises in futility.

7.8 Control of mould growth

Mould and mildew on books and document boxes, and other surfaces, is a warning that cannot be ignored - a warning that, in that part of the building at least, it has been overly warm and humid (both at the same time) for a considerable period of time. In hot humid climates, where the conditions inside are always seeking equilibrium with those outside the building, a malfunctioning central HVAC system will result in mildewing in a very short time. To reduce the probability of that recommend more frequent servicing of the HVAC machinery to minimize down time. In those places where the climate is cooler and drier, the source of the moisture, that has started the fungus growth, could be a leaking pipe, a clogged drain, or damp walls. Wherever it is, it must be located and eliminated. Otherwise the problem will soon get worse.

The use of a portable dehumidifier, even in a large room, will usually reduce, and keep, the relative humidity in that space to below the critical value (65%) for mould growth. Those small machines are particularly useful when the weather is only occasionally hot and humid. They are also a boon, when an area has accidently become saturated with moisture, to keep the humidity within acceptable limits until the moisture problem has been corrected. Then there must be a thorough house cleaning to remove the accumulated mould growths and sterilize the area. Mildew (a light infestation of mould spores) in the temperate zones is mostly a nuisance, often of short duration, that is easily removed with vacuum cleaners or by wiping the mildewed surfaces with a cloth dampened with alcohol. However the presence of mildew is a warning that there may be a climate control problem in that area. Mildew in the tropics is a much more serious matter that requires high priority attention. Otherwise there will surely be more widespread mould growth, soon followed by serious staining and disfigurement of books and documents, and ultimately paper pulping and deterioration such as that described in section 5.7.1 above.

7.9 Control of light to minimize photochemical effect

Widespread fading of the spines on books in the stacks is a warning of unsafe lighting that will some day result in extensive and costly damage to those books. Here the solutions are relatively simple. If there is fluorescent lighting, recommend the use of ultra-violet filtering sleeves on the tubes. If the artificial lighting is by photochemically safe incandescent bulbs, then the fading is caused by the sunlight coming through the windows or skylights. That too can be easily remedied by recommending one of these corrective measures in this priority - (a) blocking the windows with wood or by masoning; (b) painting the glass; (c) the use of reflective plastic film on the glass; (d) the use of roller shades, Venetian blinds, or curtains and drapes on the inside windows.


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