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Mold identification is not always straightforward. Sometimes it involves determining what has happened to the book. You may have to look very closely at a suspicious mark, or at other parts of the book to distinguish between dirt, stains, and mold.

Mold can grow in many ways. It would be impossible to illustrate every way that mold could appear in your collection. This section aims to provide you with a general idea of what to look for and how to respond to what you find.

A black powdery substance found in a book that feels dry, smells like ink or paper, and has no signs of run-ins with puddles, rainstorms or errant cups of coffee may just be charcoal. In contrast, a powdery black substance – even a small gathering of it in the corner of a cover – on a book that smells like it’s done time in a moist basement, shows signs of watery encounters (such as stains or wavy paper), and whose pages feel cool to the touch (indicating it is still moist) is likely the beginnings of mold growth and should be carefully discarded.

Staying Organized
Step 1: Examine the Outside of the Book
Step 2: Look Inside the Front and Back Covers
Step 3: Look Under the Dust Jacket – if There is One
Step 4: Examine the Pages
Step 5: Inspect Dust Jacket – if the Book has One
Step 6: Inspect Suspicious Marks
Step 7: Clean Your Work Area


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.