Fire, floods, pests and mould

Fire and flood

When the unimaginable happens, reach out to your library community for help and advice.

Hints and tips

  • Contact Libraries Tasmania or Office of the State Archivist for expert local advice.
  • Consult the ALIA disaster management for libraries guide (pdf) (2nd ed 2019) and ALIA disaster scenarios for staff training sessions.
  • Take photographs of damaged areas for insurance and evaluation purposes.
  • Use reports on your library management system (eg Symphony) to document losses and include in insurance claims. Contact your system administrator for help.
  • Keep air circulating to dry materials, dispel odours and prevent mould forming.
  • Encourage those who want to help to donate money not books. Donated books need sorting, storage, data entry and processing at a time when you may be least able to cope. Donated money allows proper planning of the new library collection in response to school community needs.


  • Set up an area with tables or bench space.
  • Open windows and doors to keep air circulating.
  • Sort items to be:
    • Returned to the shelves.
    • Air-dried.
    • Frozen.
    • Discarded and replaced. Delete these items from the library management system. Ensure their details are recorded for replacement purposes (useful reports may be available via the Library management system).
    • Discarded and not replaced. Delete these items from the library management system.

Depending on the extent of the damage, administrators of your library management system may be able to bulk delete items.

If items cannot be deleted before they are discarded, you will need to do an inventory soon after re-establishing your library. This will ensure library records are accurate.


  • Shelves should be cleaned and disinfected.


  • Books should be clean, dry and checked for pest infestation before storing.
  • Plastics should not be used for storage as they do not allow air circulation and can encourage mould.
  • Boxes should be strong cardboard, able to be closed and free from damp and food odours. Smaller boxes are preferable as they are easier to carry and store.
  • Try to load boxes in shelf order. Use elastic bands or ties to keep items in shelf order within a box.
  • Pack items lying down or standing upright, but not on the spine or front edge as this can damage bindings. Leave enough room for air circulation.
  • Label each box with the range of items inside.
  • Store boxes on pallets or blocks, not directly on the floor. This helps air circulation and prevents moisture absorption from the floor.
  • Do not store boxes in shipping containers as they are not well ventilated and can cause mould.



Many library resources are made from tasty organic materials. This makes them vulnerable to pest infestation. Insecticides can be harmful to human health, can damage paper materials and have little effect on insect eggs, so keep the library clean, dusted and vacuumed to remove food scraps and prevent pests. Professional insect removal is preferred.

Silverfish live on starch and paper coatings. If you notice them or their minute black eggs, remove affected items from the library and brush them page by page. The surrounding area should be cleaned and carpets thoroughly vaccumed.



Mould loves conditions such as high humidity, warmth, darkness or stagnant air. Infested books display staining, swollen pages and smell musty.

Some people suffer allergies or respiratory problems if they encounter mould spores, so in most cases you should discard these items. You can attempt to treat contaminated books by drying them in the sun or with a fan. Brush and wipe them thoroughly and clean shelves and surrounding areas.

To prevent mould:

  • Shelve books in lighter areas with good air circulation.
  • Shelve on inner rather than outer walls.
  • Keep to optimum humidity (47%) and temperature standards.
  • Remove indoor plants as they harbour spores.
  • Inspect shelves and books regularly.
  • Check for leaks, wall cracks and dampness.


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Page updated 14/06/2023

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