University of Illinois expert helps Puerto Rico libraries

AP News
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Posted: Jan 05, 2018 5:14 PM

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — A University of Illinois expert is helping libraries in Puerto Rico assess and repair collections that were damaged by Hurricane Maria.

Miriam Centeno is the collections care coordinator at the University of Illinois Library. She's also a Puerto Rico native. She'll spend two weeks as a consultant at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez, the News-Gazette reported .

The university's library sustained heavy water damage from the September hurricane. The collections themselves weren't damaged by water, but by mold from the building going weeks without electricity and air conditioning.

"From what I hear, the climate conditions are pretty bad," Centeno said. "The water didn't hit the books, which is a miracle. It damaged some parts of the library that were more like reading areas. But the problem is the mold that permeates the entire environment."

Centeno said she talked with two librarians in Mayaguez who put together a proposal for a disaster recovery grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The $30,000 grant will pay for supplies such as cleaning materials, vacuums with high-efficiency filters, dehumidifiers, respirators for staff who will clean, and acid-free storage.

Centeno will lead a program to teach library staff members how to assess and clear their collections, put damaged materials in better storage and develop disaster preparedness plans.

"We're so vulnerable right now," she said. "There's less than a year to go to the next hurricane season."

She hopes to provide preservation training to at least two other sites.

Centeno has been working with a National Heritage Responder team partnering with the Library of Congress and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to make a database of cultural institutions in Puerto Rico that need help with disaster recovery. She also recommended the Mayaguez campus help conduct an island-wide survey of libraries and cultural institutions.

"Libraries are a place of refuge for people during disasters," she said. "Libraries and museums give people a place to cope and get away from the stress."

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Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com