University of Missouri Libraries officials are trying to decide what to do with about 600,000 books damaged by mold at an off-campus storage site.
Staff discovered the problem in October at Subtera, an underground storage site in north Columbia, Libraries Director Jim Cogswell said. A health and safety officer reported last week that the mold was not a type that endangered public health, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported.
Cogswell said it's likely that fewer than half the books will be saved because it would cost $3 per volume to remove the mold -- a tab of about $1.8 million. The goal is to save books published before 1870, Cogswell said, although he wasn't sure how many books that would be.
"We have a self-insurance fund, but there is around three-quarters of a million dollars in there," Cogswell said.
The university puts $100,000 a year into the fund. In the last five years, two mold blooms in on-campus collections -- one in the journalism library and one in the health science library -- cost $100,000 to fix. The library has stored books off-campus for the six years because the main library ran out of space, Cogswell said.
After the books have been cleaned, they'll be moved to another facility. Some can be stored in the university's Library Depository but staff members aren't sure how many.
"We are in this predicament because we had to find a cheap alternative," Cogswell said. "We were required to find cheap alternatives to essentially rent storage space because our library is underfunded compared to every other library of our size."
In the past, the library had a preservation officer who would have helped prevent mold problems by monitoring the collections, Cogswell said, but that position was cut several years ago for budget reasons.