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Campus Facilities tackles mold outbreak

An outbreak of mold is taking place in the reference book section of the Ryan Library.

Right after the HVAC system broke, Associate Professor of Library Science Beryl Pagan sent an email On Sept. 9, notifying Campus Facilities that the humidity level in the reference book section of the library had about a 20 percent increase.

On Sept. 16, Assistant Professor of Library Science Doug Fruehling was checking for any signs of mold on the books and noticed that the books were “fuzzy like a peach”.

He notified Associate Professor & Instructional Services Librarian Denise Nelson about his findings. Nelson, who was working in the library when the last mold outbreak took place, knew it was mold on the books and grew concerned because the books in the reference section are worth approximately $1 million. In 2003, a little less than 100 books had to have their book spines cut off to remove the mold.

Nelson then notified Director of the Ryan Library Frank Quinn.

“I had extreme concern and was hoping we weren’t seeing a repeat of that [mold outbreak],” Quinn said.

Quinn sent an email that same day to Environmental Health and Safety officer Dias Leonardo addressing the mold in the library.

In 2003, a mold breakout in the reference book section of the Ryan Library took place and a contributing factor was the inadequate air conditioning at the time. As a result, a dangerous mold was found on the books, which shut down and quarantined sections of the Ryan Library for a couple of weeks.

So when the air conditioning stopped working, Quinn contacted Campus Facilities to avoid the same problem that took place in 2003.

“It’s my unhappy duty to report to you that we believe we do have mold on books in our Reference collection,” Quinn wrote. “You may know the 2003 outbreak; involving this same collection [of books] resulted in the closing of our Reference Department for the entire fall semester.”

Campus Facilities checked the reference books and confirmed that there was mold on the books. According to Quinn, Aspergillus and Penicillium mold, dangerous for people with a mold allergy or who have extreme sensitivity to environmental allergens, was found on the books with a low reading for stachybotrys—a toxic black mold.

Quinn said a specialist in mold was called on Sept. 18 to check the ventilation and air ducts to make sure mold didn’t get there.

It was confirmed that there was no mold in the ventilation and air ducts.

This allowed the Ryan Library to keep the reference section open, but the librarians strongly urge students to use the sanitizer located all around the reference department right after they touch any book in that area. Two humidifiers were also put in the library to help the air flow.

To clean the books of the mold, Campus Facilities and PLNU’s House Cleaning are taking books from the shelf and putting them into bins to ensure the mold doesn’t spread. The books will have to be properly cleaned along with the shelves before they are returned.

The Point could not get a response from Campus Facilities.

According to the “Report on Mold Outbreak” that was presented by Beryl at the ACL National Conference, the last mold removal process took approximately three months; however, since this mold is less threatening the process should be completed soon.

Nelson said that the mold removal process is considered a special project for Campus Facilities and they are handling it as efficiently as they can.

Quinn said he’s very satisfied with the response from Campus Facilities and House Keeping staff.

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Jake Henry

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