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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 1, 2002

Hau'ula school loses 3,000 books to mold problem

By Jennifer Hiller
Advertiser Education Writer

A rural O'ahu school that shut down its library months ago because of out-of-control mold has gotten help in replacing some of its damaged books but is still struggling with the cleanup.

Hau'ula Elementary librarian Natalie Zane gets help loading books from the president of the Assistance League of Hawaii Darlene Zickefoose, reflection at left, and TuTu Tutorial chairwoman Coralie Vellis, right.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Most of the volunteers, worn out by vacuuming and boxing up thousands of books, have left. There's little hope left that Hau'ula Elementary School will reopen its library by the end of the school year. And librarian Natalie Zane is the only one left to clean and catalog thousands of books.

"We have exhausted our volunteers," Zane said. "It's just me in there."

She was heartened, though, by a donation of 800 books this week from The Assistance League of Hawai'i, a volunteer group that works with children and schools throughout the state. The donation comes from the group's TuTu Tutorial program, which provides tutors who work one-on-one with beginning readers in the public schools.

"We came to the conclusion that Hau'ula needed the books more than we did," volunteer Coralie Vellis said.

Still, the 800 books will only put a dent in the losses at Hau'ula. Zane estimates she has thrown out about 3,000 titles this semester and fears the library may lose another 3,000 of its 12,000 volumes.

Hau'ula has also received books from two Girl Scouts from Manoa and donations from Follett Book Co. and Baker and Taylor.

Hau'ula's situation has helped raise awareness of the mold problem and the need to respond to it quickly. Two more O'ahu schools have discovered mold in their libraries.

Hawai'i's moderate, humid climate means school libraries are battling an environment that is perfect for breeding mold.

The Department of Education has added information to its Web site on protecting book collections.
Cynthia Fukuda, librarian at Moanalua High School, said her library installed two dehumidifiers after discovering mold in some parts of the library where air didn't circulate well.

"As soon as we found one suspicious book I had a vacuum cleaner within two days," Fukuda said. "We're on top of it right now. All the librarians are now more aware. We're all constantly looking for mold. You can find it under the book jackets."

Moanalua will do most of the cleaning in the summer. So far, the mold isn't disrupting the library's operations.

Anne Kuroda, Castle High School librarian, said mold was found less than two weeks ago in the carpet. A roof leak that has persisted for years likely caused the problem. It is scheduled to be fixed this summer.

So far, there's no mold on the books, although Kuroda fears that some of the library's computers are having problems because of the dampness.

"We've checked the books and it doesn't seem to have migrated to them," Kuroda said. "We're fortunate that the area this is leaking from is the farthest from the books."

The Department of Education's library specialists are putting together a team of trainers to teach librarians, custodians and others how to identify and react immediately to mold. And the Hawai'i Association of School Librarians discussed at its spring conference this year how to cope with bugs, mold and mildew, which also can cause serious health problems.

Lucretia Leong, school library services specialist at the Department of Education, said librarians are more aware of the need to check for mold. "If you see mold, you take care of it right away. People are looking for it, finding it and calling to get assistance," she said.

The state has added four dehumidifiers to the Hau'ula Elementary library this semester to fight the splotches of yellowish-brown, black and white dots on the books and the thick growth of mold that could be found in the doorways.

The dehumidifiers have gotten rid of the dank smell in the library, but Zane is still using a vacuum cleaner with a special filter to clean the books. Then she packs them in boxes lined with plastic, and state workers take them to Brigham Young University-Hawai'i in La'ie, which has offered the school free use of its library freeze-dryer to help stop the spread of mold.

Zane figures it will be a few more months before she is able to have books back on the shelves. She hopes to reopen her library in time for the start of the new school year.

Reach Jennifer Hiller at jhiller@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8084.