The sample set for this study was culled from books published 1767-1979. Multi-volume sets were used in the expectation that the paper would be sufficiently similar from volume-to-volume within each set to provide a reasonable basis for comparison of the methods. While it was recognized at the outset that this choice eliminated the possibility of precisely replicating the study, the experimental design erred on the side of simulating real life situations so the results would correlate in a meaningful way with real library disasters.
A total of 171 volumes (39 three, five, and seven volume sets) were used as samples. Of these, nine sets were published in the eighteenth or early nineteenth century and printed on handmade (cotton/linen) paper, while the remaining 25 sets were published in the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries and printed on machine-made (wood fiber) paper. The ratio of handmade to machine-made paper roughly approximated the distribution that might be expected in a mid-sized research library collection, except that sets printed on clay-coated paper were unavailable for destructive testing.
One volume from each test group was retained undamaged as a control, while 22 volumes were wetted and subsequently dried by one of five contemporary drying techniques (air drying, vacuum freeze drying, thermal drying, vacuum packing, and Vacme press drying with Zorbix), or
were sterilized after freeze drying with one of two commercially available options (ethylene oxide or gamma irradiation). The experimental design produced 528 data points for each of the seven protocols tested.
Each book was submerged completely for 24-hours in distilled water in a flat bottomed sink. While not realistic, distilled water was used because of the difficulty of providing uniformly contaminated flood water at five sites in Europe and the U.S. When buoyancy posed a problem the text was weighted slightly to maximize its submersion and the text’s subsequent wetting. The wet books were then drained under a polyethylene sheet to maintain high relative humidity (approximately 95%) at ambient room temperature for 24 hours (22 C/72°F), simulating a flooded library prior to pack-out. Books to be vacuum freeze dried were frozen (-18 C/0°F) using a commercial freezer facility, while each of the other techniques proceeded directly to drying.
Books prepared for sterilization followed the same wetting procedure but after draining for 24-hours were individually bagged in polyethylene freezer bags and left to mold at ambient room temperature for seven days (168 hours).