Salvaging Wet Books

Written by: Bexx Caswell-Olson

Primary Source: Wallace Conservation Lab, August 19, 2016

Earlier this month, the MSU Libraries’ Disaster Response Committee practiced our procedures for salvaging wet books.  We took advantage of the nice weather to get outside, get some books wet, and then do our best to salvage them (don’t worry, we used withdrawn materials!).

Eric Alstrom, Head of Preservation and Conservation, showed us how to fan out wet books, interleave with newsprint, and how to pack books being sent to a freezer facility.

Little did we know that this week, we’d need to use those skills in a real life situation!  Heavy rains caused a leak at our remote storage facility.  Fortunately, it was discovered only a few hours later, and less than 100 books got wet.  We were able to fan out most of them, but the wettest books were brought back to the lab for interleaving and pressing.  Although some books are still drying, it appears that we will be able to salvage everything thanks to the quick response of our staff out at Remote Storage and the help provided by our Disaster Response Committee!

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Bexx Caswell-Olson
Before migrating to Michigan and beginning work at the MSU Libraries Wallace Conservation Lab, Bexx Caswell-Olson was employed as a bookbinder and book conservator in private practice in Iowa City, IA. Prior to running her own business, Bexx spent nearly a decade living in the Boston area where she worked in a variety of libraries and conservation labs, including those at Harvard and MIT. She is Vice President of the Guild of Book Workers, a national organization for those working in bookbinding, book conservation, and the book arts. Bexx holds a Certificate in Bookbinding from the North Bennet Street School and a Master’s of Library Science from Simmons College. In addition to her passion for bookbinding, Bexx also has an affinity for typography, bibliomysteries, seed bead weaving, and vegan baking.