UPDATE: MU Libraries director says many more than 120,000 moldy books can be saved

Thursday, February 27, 2014 | 4:27 p.m. CST; updated 4:28 p.m. CST, Friday, February 28, 2014

*UPDATE AND CORRECTION: In an email on Friday, MU Director of Libraries Jim Cogswell said his best estimate is that as many as 400,000 items may be remediated. Also, a previous version of this article misspelled Cogswell's last name.

COLUMBIA — MU Libraries has identified more than 120,000 salvageable books from the 600,000 that were exposed to mold last fall, Director of Libraries Jim Cogswell said at Thursday's MU Faculty Council meeting.

A bid for a contractor to restore the books is due March 7. Remediation will begin as soon as possible after that, Cogswell said.

In an email on Friday, Cogswell said his best estimate is that as many as 400,000 items may be remediated.

MU's lease on the Subtera cavern — the storage facility where mold was discovered — expires June 30. MU Libraries is looking for two storage facilities: A permanent space for the salvageable books and a short-term holding space to keep some of the books during the transition.

Cogswell said "there's no possible way" to move everything into a permanent space before the Subtera lease expires.

MU Libraries has been asking the university to expand the UM Library Depository on Lemone Industrial Boulevard since 1998. Expanding the depository — which already stores 1.2 million volumes — could cost more than $5 million, according to the MU Libraries website.

Library administrators asked for a depository expansion in 1998, 2005 and 2007, said Matt Gaunt, director of development for MU Libraries. "At each turn, we were told to find something else."

Gaunt said that rejection is what led administrators to the Subtera underground warehouse in 2006.

Cogswell said the UM Risk and Insurance Management office is working with Subtera to reach a compensation deal, despite Subtera's earlier statements that the university would not be reimbursed.

Nicole Monnier, associate professor of Russian, said she had issues with MU Libraries deciding which books to save without consulting the faculty. Council chairman Craig Roberts, a plant sciences professor, echoed this complaint.

"If (the administration) made all the decisions without tremendous faculty input, they wouldn't make the right decisions," Roberts said. "They just are not in our shoes."

The faculty also raised issue about not being notified and consulted when the mold was first discovered in late October. Cogswell said he didn't intend to hide the fact that it happened, but that he didn't feel he had enough information to answer any questions at the time.

Cogswell said the exact cause of the mold contamination is still unknown.

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