FAQ Regarding Mold at Offsite Storage

MU Libraries Plan for Managing Offsite Storage Mold Issue   
February 8, 2014

To our students, faculty, alumni and friends:

Thank you for the many e-mails and phone calls expressing concern for the mold situation currently facing MU Libraries. No one cares more about preserving knowledge and scholarship than our librarians and library staff. As we work through our plan to treat, to relocate and sadly, to discard various portions of the collection, please know that we are making every effort to save items with special value and to retain ready access to information in the collection. We welcome your input and encourage you to contact our communications officer, Shannon Cary,, if you have questions that are not answered below.


How Can I Help?

To assist with MU Libraries' response to the mold bloom, we have established the Collection Enhancement Fund. Your gift will be used to treat, relocate and in some cases, replace items impacted by mold. Our goal is to ensure that MU Libraries' ability to serve the needs of our users is not compromised by this sad event. A gift of any amount is greatly appreciated!

What portion of the collection has been exposed to mold?

Roughly 600,000 books, or just under 20% of MU’s collection has been exposed to mold.

The University of Missouri Libraries use two offsite storage facilities for library materials in addition to the on campus libraries.  Both offsite facilities use size-based high density storage (“Harvard Model”). One of the facilities, referred to as UMLD (UM Library Depository) is a purpose-built storage structure owned by the University System. Built in 1997, it is located in an industrial office park on Lemone Industrial Blvd. in southeast Columbia. It holds about 1.2 million volumes, from all four UM campus libraries.  The current second depository, referred to as UMLD2, is a rented underground space in northwest Columbia. It holds about 600,000 volumes from the MU campus only.

In October, 2013, mold was discovered growing on bound journal volumes and books throughout the UMLD2 facility. The damaged collections cover a broad range of subjects, and all belong to MU Libraries.

  • Approximately 64,000 volumes are from the Law Library, consisting of mostly pre-1980 bound journals.
  • Approximately 30,000 volumes are from the Engineering Library, both older monographs and pre-1990 bound journals.
  • Approximately 47,000 items are from the Health Sciences Library, and 9,700 are from Veterinary Medical Library.
  • Remaining items (over 250,000) are from Ellis Library and are infrequently used monographs, federal and state documents, or pre-1990 bound journals replicated in online sources.
  •  Approximately 124,000 US documents.
  • A smaller number of items are from the Geology, Journalism and Math Libraries


Should all of the books, journals and documents be saved?

Much of the content of the damaged collections is duplicated via online sources, in UMLD, or in other MOBIUS libraries and groups with which MU has partnerships. Reducing the size of the collection from UMLD2 is required to decrease both mold clean-up costs and long-term storage needs. MU Libraries staff have been identifying strategies for retention and remediation to allow preservation of collections with unique or special content.

Who is making decisions regarding which books will be saved?

All decisions regarding treatment, relocation and removal of books and journals from the collection are the responsibility of the MU Libraries administration. MU Libraries staff are working with campus faculty and staff to gather information critical to the decision making process. MU Libraries staff are also consulting with outside experts from the Library of Congress and the American Institute for Conservation – Collections Emergency Response Team.

Can people come and take books that are to be destroyed?

We appreciate the well-meaning intentions of those that have offered to take in moldy books, however, we have been advised by preservation staff at the Library of Congress that the best way to deal with contaminated books that will not be treated and returned for use in our collections is to destroy them so that they cannot contaminate ours or other collections.

Can volunteers help clean the books?

Again, we appreciate all the offers of assistance, but the MU Libraries are currently working with MU’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety and Procurement Systems Office to identify the professional services needed to handle these materials in the appropriate manner.

Were the books insured?

Yes, limited insurance funds are available. In 2006, a “special insurance fund” was created to cover the books at the off-site storage facilities and portions of the books in our branch libraries. That fund currently has a balance of $872,000.

Prior to 1979 MU’s collection was not insured at all. From 1979 to 2006 the collection was fully insured. In 2006, with inflationary cost increases pushing the cost of full insurance over $350,000 per year, MU Libraries proposed a plan that would save over $200,000 a year. Half the savings each year was reallocated to academic programming and half was invested in an interest-bearing fund to be used if we suffered a catastrophic loss. Under this plan all bound journals and books in Ellis Library, as well as rare books at Ellis Library and the Health Sciences Library, were fully covered.

Is this a common approach for insuring university collections at other institutions?

There is no uniformity as to how, or whether, universities across the country insure their library collections. At the time of our insurance evaluation in 2006, we found that some state universities with prestigious collections, such as the University of Illinois, relied totally upon state dollars should a catastrophic loss occur. Others chose to fully insure as we had done in the past. Our approach of full insurance for a portion of the collection and a special insurance fund for a portion of the collection, fully protects our most valuable volumes while providing some coverage for the remaining collection. The logic of this approach was further validated by the fact that portions of the collection covered only by our special insurance fund might not be replaced after a loss due to the rise in availability through interlibrary loan, existing duplication, and availability in electronic format.

How will this impact MU Libraries collection?

Our goal is to retain access to all of the scholarly materials that have been impacted by the mold bloom. There will be a loss of a great number of volumes from our physical collection, but we hope to retain access through interlibrary loan and electronic formats. All items determined to have special value will be treated and relocated.

What is the plan to provide a proper offsite library depository?

The MU Libraries have been planning for an addition to UMLD since 1998. Plans have been updated regularly to account for increased costs for construction, as well as increased demand, changes in bond rates, annex rental rates, and other factors. The estimated cost of construction in 1998 was $2,673,500, and in 2005, we estimated construction costs at $3,965,782. In 2007, when the UM System again declined our request to build a proper facility, the cost was estimated to be $4,230,534. Today we are looking at costs over $5,000,000.

The UMLD2 facility is the third annex facility MU Libraries has utilized since reaching capacity at UMLD. Despite the recent mold problems, it is a step above the two previous facilities. A lack of funding for a proper depository has driven decision-making regarding the offsite storage of books. MU Libraries is hopeful that our current mold issue will generate interest in our plans for an addition to UMLD. We are also working with the other UM System campuses to create additional space in UMLD, and hope to have a home for between 100,000 and 200,000 additional books by the summer.

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