Salvage Operations Under Way for 500,000 Books Damaged in Floodsat Colorado State University’s Morgan Library

Work crews Thursday began the task of removing an estimated 500,000 books, periodicals and journals damaged in floods that struck Colorado State University’s Morgan Library Monday night.

University officials expected to fill between 50,000 and 70,000 boxes of waterlogged books throughout the week and transport them by trucks to frozen-storage facilities in Denver. The freezing process will allow library staff the time to look through all materials and determine later which are salvageable and able to undergo a second restoration process known as freeze-drying.

"As soon as we got word of the floods Monday night, we began working to call in the appropriate experts to help us with the salvage, restoration and preservation of materials," said Camila Alire, dean of the university’s libraries. "We are doing everything we can to assure as many books are saved as possible."

The salvage process is laborious, Alire said, because each wet book must be wrapped separately to maintain its shape prior to freezing. Later, administrators and librarian preservationists will have the task of analyzing each book to determine if it can be restored to useable condition.

Books that can be restored will undergo a freeze-drying process in which the books are put into chambers that rapidly lower the temperature to below freezing. The temperature then is slowly raised to allow water to evaporate out of the books. A drying process follows.

Library staff also hope to employ the same processes for water-damaged books owned by university faculty and staff, using a smaller version of a freeze-drying machine the library purchased in 1989. The Wei T’o machine–a combination book dryer, freezer/refrigeration and insect exterminator–is one of only a handful in the United States. The machine is housed in the university’s book depository on campus. Faculty and staff who want more information about preserving books for this process can call Diane Lunde at the Morgan Library Command Center, (970) 491-3683.

Because of the processes involved in restoring damaged books, Alire estimates it could take up to a year for all salvageable materials to be restored and returned to library shelves.

Crews are working day and night to dehumidify the Morgan Library, beginning in the basement. After that, workers will chill the building with fans to prevent additional humidity from developing because the heating, air conditioning and ventilation system is currently inoperable, Alire said.

Alire also said that auxiliary plans are under way to work with other libraries to get interlibrary loan priority status for the Morgan Library for the book titles that were affected by the flood. That means Colorado State’s library would have first priority when requesting loaned books from other libraries across the state. Alire said she hopes to discuss the Morgan Library’s resource needs at an emergency meeting with administrators at other libraries across the state in the near future.

In addition, the library plans to establish a remote reference service for Colorado State students and faculty at the Veterinary Hospital’s reference library.