FM helps preserve and protect rare books

Rare Chinese ScrollThe Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine, located on the 5th floor of Diehl Hall, houses over 80,000 rare medical books, artifacts and journals.

By Rachel Lemire

Preservation and stewardship of these unique, old, and valuable collections is of major concern to the library. In recent years, the Wangensteen, with the support of Facilities Management, has taken some large and necessary steps to improve the conditions of this space. These changes have helped to ensure the proper preservation of the books, save energy, and reduce costs.

One project evaluated the lights in the library reception and exhibit area to test for color, intensity, and the area covered by the lights. The goal was to choose lighting that was more appropriate, could enhance the exhibits, and most importantly, would protect the materials from UV light which deteriorates paper, discoloring it and fading the ink on the page. Switching to LEDs and reducing the number of bulb types helped to complement the materials in exhibits and eliminate unnecessary costs.

Another initiative aimed to gain greater control over the temperature within the entire space (exhibits and library stacks). Because the books are so old - some dating date back to the 1480s - they need stable humidity and temperature conditions. Health Science district Team Manager William Rinehart and former engineer Brandon James worked to clean, replace and re-direct ducts in the library. This was a two-part process that included asbestos abatement and the installation of new HVAC equipment. Retired employee Ron Smead was the point of contact to make sure the heat and humidity of the library maintained proper levels. As a result, library rooms maintain appropriate temperatures for the books and artifacts. The replacement and cleaning of the ducts also ensure dust and debris is not released into the air and into the display cases.

Because of FM efforts to obtain optimal preservation conditions, the Wangensteen library now has a greater control over the lighting and temperature of their space, which helps preserve a rare and unique University resource.