Be careful what you wish for (redux)

Friday night, a serious quantity of water mixed with glycol from the HVAC systems came through the Dean’s office area.  Carpeting across several rooms was soaked through and some of it continued to the 2nd floor Medical Library offices below.

No big losses, that’s the amazing part.  However, some records (replaceable records) soaked up some of the liquid.  And this is where it gets interesting.  A lot of the disaster response handbooks and manuals–many of them in the Consortium Library collections–do indeed talk about flooding.  But not a one of them details what you do with anything but water.  And a search of a couple preservation-related websites didn’t turn up anything handy and neither did a basic google search (aside from the fact that you should never let a pet drink this stuff and cat litter can be used to soak some of it up.  That might be based on the presumption that your car is leaking antifreeze on the garage floor which wasn’t exactly the situation here.)  We called a couple of preservation experts, no answer so far.  Mariecris is continuing the search.

Now we here at A&SC know that ceiling leaks of glycol-infused liquid are not all that uncommon.  We’ve had a couple tiny ones from bad valves over our reading room shortly after we moved in, but those have been fixed and none have recurred.  A few others have occurred elsewhere in the library.  Now usually they don’t encompass this huge of a leak (maybe a few hundred gallons?) but someone, somewhere, must know.  If it’s you, will you tell us?  Mariecris is putting together a step-by-step guide to dealing with a leak like this and it would be nice to know what kind of response times and safety measures we need to take, what the long-term damage to paper might be, or can originals even be saved?

In this case, since the damaged records weren’t originals, we simply preservation reformatted (i.e. ran new copies.)  Which was relatively quick and easy.  But that may not always be an option.  Hence Mariecris’s search.  So what she learns, we’ll be sure to share here.

About aschmuland

I'm head of Archives & Special Collections at the Consortium Library. I've been with A&SC since 2002, first as reference archivist, now as head of the department.

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