University of Hawaii at Manoa Library


Preservation Department
Hamilton Library
University of Hawai´i
2550 McCarthy Mall
Honolulu, Hawai´i 96822
Phone:(808) 956-6623

Preservation Department

Mold Damage

The only real way to reduce the threat of mold in a library is to maintain an environment that is not hospitable for the germination of mold spores. The temperature should be 68-72 degrees F, and the relative humidity of 65% or less. It is important that the air conditioning system be kept on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Fluctuations in the temperature and humidity are the cause of many serious mold outbreaks.

What is mold?

Mold and mildew are generic terms for various types of fungi, which are spread by air currents and will germinate if they find a hospitable environment. Once small patches of germinating spores appear, they will lead to a mold bloom unless measures are taken to contain the outbreak.

What causes mold to grow?

moldy books

Mold will grow on any organic host material that offers suitable nutrients, including paper, adhesives, bookbindings, microfilm, slides, videotapes, dust, etc.  Books and paper especially provide a perfect host for mold to germinate since they are hygroscopic and absorb and hold moisture.

A mold bloom in a library indicates that there has been an increase in relative humidity. This could be caused by any number of things:

How to prevent mold?

Controlled environment is essential to preventing large-scale outbreaks of mold. This means:

How to combat a mold outbreak?

really moldy books

First, verify that the problem is mold (stains from earlier mold damage or silverfish damage can resemble a mold outbreak). If mold is confirmed, respond immediately and organize a team to cleanup the mold.

If possible, isolate contaminated materials by bagging them.

Fungicides are not recommended for treating mold in libraries due to the concerns about both toxicity and long-term effects on collection materials. Household chemicals (e.g. Lysol, Clorox) are also not appropriate to use on books.

Vacuum books (binding, spine) as well as book trucks, shelves, and other work surfaces. Using a vacuum with HEPA filter will prevent spreading or further embedding the mold spores.

Wipe all surfaces and walls with householf cleaner (e.g. Simple Green) and clean (or remove) any carpets or drapes in the affected area.

Installing fans after the cleaning process is completed can improve air circulations and prevent mold spores from returning.

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