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This web site is not intended to provide any kind of medical advice. If you think you have symptoms of overexposure, contact your health care provider. See the Extras and Links section of this web site for links to more specific information about this condition.

"Librarian’s Lung" is an unofficial term, similar to "Farmer’s Lung." The technical terms for this condition are extrinsic allergic alveolitis, or hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Librarian’s Lung can cause respiratory problems such as wheezing, coughing, nasal irritation or congestion, and even asthma attacks or long term lung damage. See Extras and Links for links to more specific information.

If you use smell to help identify mold in a book, use caution. Be aware that what you smell may include thousands of mold spores:

  • Smell from a different part of the book than where you see suspicious visual signs
  • Sniff gently; don't inhale a huge lungfull of smelly-book air
  • Inhale from a distance of at least a few inches instead of jamming your nose up against the pages of a suspicious book
  • Work with suspicious books in a well-ventilated area
  • Take breaks rather than inspecting all suspicious books from your collection in one sitting
  • After handling suspected moldy books, clean your work surface with rubbing alcohol or other disinfectant, and wash your hands thoroughly.

One moldy book can over time infect an entire collection. If the book circulates, it can infect your patron's collections. Keeping a moldy book due to budgetary constraints can cause more damage over time. Better to discard one book than the majority of a section, or worse, the better part of a library, because mold infection has spread.


Books Gone Bad - Mold in Library Collections was a project sponsored by Maine College of Art, in partnership with the Joanne Waxman Library. Funding for this project came from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation. The Project Lead and Artist for this project was Diane J. Wren. All contents Copyright © 2011 by Diane J. Wren. All rights reserved. No part of this web site may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or stored in a data base or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of Diane J. Wren.