May 20, 2022

Report: “Boston Public Library Assessing Rare Book Section After Mold Outbreak”

From The Boston Globe:

A significant mold outbreak has forced the Boston Public Library to close its Rare Books Department for five to 10 weeks after staff found fuzzy white spores on a medieval manuscript and other prized items in the renowned repository for ancient publications and artifacts.

The library routinely battles mold, but has never faced an outbreak “to this scale,” according to Laura Irmscher, the chief of collections strategy. Mold was discovered on a reference book by a staff member Monday in the main library in Copley Square, Irmscher said.


On Monday, the outbreak was discovered when a staff member went to retrieve the “British Museum Catalogue of Printed Books.”

“He noticed right away there was mold on it,” Irmscher said. “He looked at some others and immediately notified his superior, and we started looking at what exactly the problem was and how widespread it was.”

The library is in a constant battle against humidity, she said, and “there are, routinely, mold outbreaks that have been handled through isolation and containment.”

Read the Complete Article

See Also: From a Formal Statement: “Temporary Closure of the Rare Books Department” (via Boston Public Library)

The Rare Books Department at the Boston Public Library will be temporarily closed for 5 to 10 weeks due to the discovery of mold in scattered locations in the department.

This is a proactive measure to safeguard the approximately 500,000 books and 1,000,000 manuscripts in the collection and prevent the spread of mold spores.

BPL is working with Polygon, experts in temporary climate solutions and document recovery services, to clean the collection and address the situation. Because the majority of the manuscripts are housed in archival boxes, the cleaning will focus on the Department’s books.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.