Friday, October 31, 2008

Climate change hits the library shelves, too Like every institution that uses energy, consumes resources, and engages in construction or renovation, libraries have an impact on the environment and on the critical problem of climate change.

As guardians of library collections for future generations, librarians have a responsibility to diminish this impact, as well as an opportunity to do more. Facing up to the challenges of global warming is a chance to lay the groundwork now for the security of their collections and make a decisive contribution to the long-range future of libraries.

Taking action to protect library collections is not only an idealistic professional goal but also a very practical one. Disaster preparation measures and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through energy conservation can save money, time, and resources.

There is already an urgent need for libraries to engage in preventative actions, even before concerns related to a deteriorating environment are added to the challenge.

…The undeniable threats libraries face from climate change are coupled with specific needs unique to a library environment. Ranging from catastrophic natural disasters to ongoing pressures to maintain a suitable collections storage environment, librarians must learn about and understand the coming impact of global warming on their collections.

…Air quality and pollution can affect library materials. From black soot commonly found in urban and industrial areas to gaseous and particulate pollutants such as ozone, nitrogen oxides (NOx), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), microscopic toxins are dangerously easy to overlook.

…Another hazard, water, may be one of the most insidious and relentless sources of trouble for preservation librarians. No stranger to water disasters, the preservation community was galvanized and solidified in reaction to the 1966 flooding of the Arno River in Florence, Italy. An estimated 80,000 pre-1840 volumes and 350,000 post-1840 volumes were seriously damaged in that flood, and preservation efforts went on for years.

Carl Spitzweg, "The Bookworm," circa 1850

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