Now that the weather is becoming more extreme the question that comes to mind, after how am I to survive is how will my collections be safe?
The more droll among us would say that not living in a place where there is extreme weather would be good, but let’s face it. Extreme weather can and will happen anywhere.
There are two things that can be done and must be completed before the evacuation orders are sent out.
1: Keep a list of your items, with photos on a drive for insurance purposes .
You will never get the true value of the items back from your insurance, but it will help. Also it is a good way of proving what you had, what you need to get again and what condition it was in so that it can be fixed. Update this list when ever you buy something new or every month so that it is up to date. Keeping a record of where you got the items will help as well. Please remember to keep the drive in a weather safe (fire safe) that can be taken with you. Do not keep in a bank vault. Why? Well if a flood and storm destroys your home, how secure is the local bank’s vault?They may be burglar proof, but water? The link below tells the story of how one bank had to deal with the contents of the vault after Katrina.
2: Get containers.
Okay this sounds simple. Put your collections in to containers. But here at Unique Editions Reads we have over 4,000 titles. Packing these items will take hours. And sometimes you don’t have hours. Sometimes you don’t have enough container or even the correct ones.
So what can you do?
Height. First off if you have your collection in a storage unit get some pallets. I prefer wood, (eco friendly, recyclable) but plastic ones don’t rot. Line the bottom of your storage unit with them Two to three levels high if you can. Most flooding is between 6 inches and 2 feet. Keeping things high enough will prevent them from being soaked.
If you have your collection in your home, put them on a higher secure surface, like in taped cabinets or on a strong steady table.
Look for square containers of equal proportions that have a seal to the, Think about how your food containers are made. Some boxes are sold as weather tight, like the Iris brand. Pick a size that you can lift when full, and get enough for your complete collection for ease of stacking. Also when stacking remember books are heavy. If you are stacking the containers be mindful of the weight. Too heavy and the lids will be crushed. It is good to have a few pieces of wood or drywall to put between layers to distribute the weight.
If possible put each book into a ziploc bag and remove the air. If not get a sheet of plastic and wrap them like a gift and put them in.
Remember to number the boxes and list the items inside. Put this on the interior and exterior of the box and also a copy on the drive.
With paper, this is the main issue. Unless you turn all of your books into “bath books” or typed on waterproof plastic. Weather conditions will cause decay.
Silica Gel can be bought in bulk from art supply shops or you can just save all the little packs that come in various food packages. These will help with the humidity and mold issues while things are being stored. Mylar envelopes can hold smaller books and prints.
What can be done after the storms and your collection is wet? Well the professionals at River Campus Libraries have some good ideas. Some are very expensive, but for the layperson the following will help. .
Air-drying: Fewer than 500 non-coated paper books with non‑water soluble components.
- Cover drying surface with plastic sheeting & absorbent paper (e.g. unprinted newsprint), as needed.
- Open book to a shallow angle & interleave approximately every 20 pages with paper towels. Begin by laying the book flat & interleaving at the front of the book, allowing the work surface to support the main weight. When interleaving has reached the approximate center of the textblock, turn the book over and start interleaving from the back.
- The book may be left flat until paper towels have absorbed some of the water, about one hour.
- Stand book on end (head or tail), slightly fanned.
- Change paper beneath the books and interleaving periodically until the book is only “damp”, and then proceed to #3.
- Keep air circulating by using fans. Do not aim fans directly at the wet materials.
- Cover drying surface with plastic sheeting & absorbent paper (e.g. unprinted newsprint).
- Stand damp books on head or tail, slightly fanned. If the cover is damper than the text, place absorbent paper between the boards and book, change them as needed.
- Use fans to circulate air to dry the books completely.
You can read their article on this subject here. https://rbscp.lib.rochester.edu/3246
As for the smell Baking soda is the best. Put some on flat plates all around the storage unit or room and they will absorb the moisture. Also some sprinkled on the books will get rid of the musty smell. Best of all, it brushes right off and the baking soda can be put in your compost or on your garden.
There are no fool proof ways to do this. And better materials are out there and will be produced. The best thing is to do what you can so that your collection and you survive.
Best of luck in the storm seasons.