MU Libraries awarded $400,000 to aid recovery from mold damage

Thursday, July 10, 2014 | 6:33 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — A $400,000 grant will help pay for remediation and content replacement of some 600,000 books and materials presumed to be damaged by a mold outbreak in October, according to a news release from MU Libraries.

The grant comes from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The funding began July 1 and will continue for a year.

"It's wonderful that we received the grant," Jim Cogswell, director of MU Libraries, said Thursday. "It's just been the greatest sort of news."

Also, MU is partnering with Washington University and Missouri State University to acquire replacement documents of some of the lost texts.

In addition to the grant, as much as $600,000 will be taken from the MU Libraries' self-insurance fund to help pay for the damage.

Some of the money will be used to retrieve and prepare materials from Missouri State and Washington University to be shared with MU Libraries as needed.

In addition, funding will help MU Libraries review the availability of needed replacements from library and service organizations.

The mold outbreak occurred in a limestone cavern MU rented from Subtera underground warehousing. The warehouse contained about 20 percent of MU's three million books.

Originally, MU expected to discard half of the contaminated books, but the latest information provided by MU Libraries places the number at about a third or less.

Library staff, however, has decided upon a set of guidelines to ensure that any irreplaceable books are saved and all discarded materials will be of little value.

"They are books that are literally available in provisions all around the state," Cogswell said.

About 100,000 materials will have to be permanently discarded, said Shannon Cary, communications officer for MU Libraries. They will be pulped to prevent them from contaminating any other collections.

Some of the funding will go to hiring library staff to sort through all the material and decide what's worth salvaging. Cogswell said he hopes to have a discussion with MU faculty members in case they feel certain books set to be destroyed should be saved.

"I am hopeful that we will be able to have very few books that will have to fit in the category of discard," Cogswell said. "We're trying to salvage as much as possible."

Although not all books showed signs of mold, they should all be treated as such, said Scott Campbell, industrial hygienist for MU Environmental Health and Safety, in a report of his analysis of the mold.

To prevent further contamination, MU Libraries has rented a storage space that is divided, Cogswell said. The larger part of the space is for cleaned books; the smaller space is more of a holding area for items awaiting decision on whether they will be remedied or discarded.

The books are being treated in Texas, and some have already been moved to remediation, Cary said. The whole process is expected to take about a year.

"It may take slightly less than that time, or more," Cogswell said. "We expect to do a lot of this transfer work over the summer."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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