Rain-Soaked Books Restored

* Texts were damaged in Nov. storm due to leak in Child Memorial Library roof

About 100 rain-soaked books damaged in a Nov. 9 storm have been successfully restored, said Marion Taylor, head of Widener preservation services.

The books were damaged when a leak in the roof of the Child Memorial Library, the English Department reading room on the third floor of Widener Library, went undiscovered during the weekend storm.

Taylor estimated the value of the damaged books at about $1,000. Most were part of the Loeb Classics collection, in which books currently sell for about $10 each, Taylor said.

By the time the leak was found by graduate students, almost 50 books were thoroughly soaked and another 50 books were wet around the edges, Taylor said.

The books are now dry and will soon be returned to the collection.

Half of the books were freeze-dried and the other half were allowed to air-dry, Taylor said.

Preservation librarian Janice Merrill-Oldham praised the prompt response of the graduate students who found the damaged books.

"[The graduate students] acted very quickly, and they removed [the books] from the stacks where the water was dripping," Merrill-Oldham said.

Harvard will collect no insurance from the leak, said Susan A. Lee, associate librarian of Harvard College for administrative services.

"[The insurance] is only for catastrophic occurrences, none of which we've had in my tenure here, so as far as I know we've never collected," she said.

But Taylor said that the restoration process did not go as smoothly as she would have hoped.

Fearing that the electrical system had gotten wet, Taylor and the other conservationists had to work by flash-light rather than risk electric shock, Taylor said.

Taylor said she is especially concerned that the graduate students did not know to call the preservationists.

By the time she arrived, Taylor said, the wet books had been stacked and some had stuck together.

All of the books were eventually saved, but Taylor said all librarians--including the graduate students that staff many departmental libraries--should know emergency preservation procedures.

"One of those things that needs to improve is the lines of communication for those who are not professional librarians. There should be phone numbers by the desk," Taylor said.

"Small disasters like this occur from time to time in the University," said Merrill-Thomas. "This was not a crisis, nothing was lost."

Child Library will be closed for unrelated renovations until the spring semester, said library supervisor Lisa K. Hamilton.

During the renovations, the books will be stored in a Widener attic.