When the Dam Breaks:
Salvaging Water-Damaged Books


The modern library collection is generally made up of a variety of different formats: microfiche and film, paper of various types, leather and cloth bindings, computer disks, photographs, works of art, and so on. Each of these formats requires different treatment in the event of a disaster, and the treatments vary depending on the type of disaster. If the items are to be saved, the salvage team must be prepared to handle all of the formats in the collection in their varied ways. Despite the speed with which new formats are being developed and introduced in to libraries, the most prevalent building block of libraries is still printed paper in the form of a book. In the following pages, I will discuss some of the issues that must be considered and steps that must be taken to prevent further damage and loss to a library collection immediately following a flood or other water damage. This paper will be based primarily on the 1993 unpublished revisions to Peter Waters 1979 Procedures for Salvage of Water-Damaged Library Materials.[1] Examples will be drawn from libraries that have faced various degrees of water-damage, to show how his ideas have been put in to practice, and what other methods have been used, with varying degrees of success.

[1] The revisions can be found in many locations on the web. For the purposes of this paper, I have consulted this copy. As the document has no page numbers, I will refer to shortened section headings.

© 2006 Stacey Bissell
Originally written for LIS 598, August 2005
Adapted for LIS 600, March 2006
School of Library and Information Studies
University of Alberta