Some 8,000 books that had been damaged by water last
summer at the university's George Peabody Library have been
vacuum freeze-dried and returned to the stacks. Library
staff and workers from the New York company that dried out
the books spent several days last week carefully unloading
the 1,634 boxes of books and placing the volumes precisely
where they had been removed last summer.
Sonja Jordan, director of preservation for the Johns
Hopkins Sheridan Libraries, oversaw the book homecoming and
said the process went extremely smoothly. The book reunion
took place in spite of snow and ice.
"We are very pleased with the results of vacuum
freeze-drying the books," Jordan said. "All volumes
responded well to the process. Considering what they went
through, they have come back in great condition, flat,
intact and with only negligible signs of water lines on
pages or covers. We were lucky."
The books suffered varying degrees of water damage in
early August after an air-conditioning drainpipe backed up,
causing water to leak into the library stacks. The leak was
discovered on Monday, Aug. 4, and apparently had happened
over the weekend. Jordan, reacting swiftly, contracted with
Document Reprocessors, which brought in several freezer
trucks to quickly stabilize the wet books.
Over the past several months, the firm used a patented
vacuum freeze-drying process to safely remove excess
moisture. The process was also used on the more delicate
leather bindings in order to prevent warping.
According to Quintin Schwartz, general manager for
Document Reprocessors, books are frozen to remove excess
moisture through a process called sublimation, which allows
a solid to change directly to a gas without becoming a
The library has been closed since June 2002 for
renovations. It is scheduled to reopen in May.
The George Peabody Library, which has been described
as a "cathedral of books," opened in 1878. Reflecting the
scholarly interests of the 19th century, the collection
numbers more than 300,000 volumes, most of which date from
the 17th to the early 20th centuries.
Renowned for its striking architectural interior, the
library's Stack Room consists of five tiers of ornamental
cast-iron balconies, which rise dramatically to the
skylight 61 feet above the floor.
The George Peabody Library is part of the
Libraries at Johns Hopkins University and, in
accordance with the provisions of Peabody's original gift,
is open to the public.