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Step 6: Inspect Suspicious Marks

Visual Examination
This is generally the most important step. Look for something that appears to be spreading within the structure of the book or its pages or along the paper surface, which is distinct from liquids that have soaked into the page. Mold growth can look like tiny legs moving out from an existing stain. Multiple pages may be affected if the mold has eaten through one page and spread to adjacent pages. You are also looking for a raised surface or dusty appearance.

Note that some molds are hard to see. For example, a light grey mold growing on a light-colored book cover may only show up clearly in certain kinds of light. Be sure to look closely, particularly when examining books with signs of past water damage.

In addition, familiarize yourself with what “foxing” looks like. Foxing is the result of acids in paper reacting to moisture in the air. It is a chemical reaction, rather than an indicator of mold. Usually, foxing is a golden yellow, but can also be brown or tan depending upon the paper’s content and the environment the book has been in. Foxing is generally not harmful to a book beyond its appearance.

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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.