Steam Leak Damages Rare Books

None of the rare books harmed in Wednesday's steam pipe leak at Langdell Law Library were completely ruined, but between 100 and 200 books were damaged, a library official said yesterday.

"We didn't lose any books at all," said David R. Warrington, Langdell's assistant librarian for special collections. Most of the damage was to the bindings because the tops and spines of the books were most exposed, Warrington added.

The damaged books are being treated in a "cool, dry place," and it is unlikely that any future damage will occur, Warrington said. Some "original bindings from the 16th and 17th centuries" still need to be treated by "conservation bookbinders," who specialize in restoration of old books, he said.

"We haven't detected any growth of mold," a prime cause of damage, said Warrington, adding that the library plans to disinfect the ceiling of the Treasure Room--where the Law School's 1000 rarest books are kept--to eliminate the possibility of future growth.

About 400 books were affected when a malfunctioning humidity control system, installed shortly after World War II, spewed steam into the upper level of the Treasure Room.

Library officials said they are not sure what caused the problem and are waiting to hear the results of a Buildings and Grounds Committee engineering study. The humidity control system will not be used until the problem has been detected and solved, Warrington said.

Indiana University, whose library uses the same kind of climate control system, suffered a similar accident several years ago, Warrington said.

However, Warrington said this is the first time Langdell Library had such a severe problem with its humidity control machinery. "It really has worked well, except for this one glitch."