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The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

Mold Outbreak Prolongs Library Shutdown

Dickinson College announced a mold outbreak in the Waidner-Spahr Library on March 7, prompting workers to drape a large portion of the second floor in hazmat-style plastic. Though it has been over a month since the closure of half of the library’s upper level, there is no sign that it will reopen this school year.

Dean of Library Services Amy Ward’s initial announcement said the partial library closure “limits student access to call number ranges G-PR and the oversize book collection.” Ward said that sections were restricted “to help us contain the mold and prevent the spread to other areas.” Ward went on to report passable air quality tests and pending mold tests. The college’s Department of Compliance and Enterprise Risk Management are overseeing the cleanup.

The department’s director Lauren Lasater said the college hired environmental consultant Aether Assessments to inspect the space. Lasater confirmed the normal air samples and reported that “some books and bookshelves had some spots of mold on them.” This prompted the college to contract Service 1st Restoration, a professional remediation company to clean the area. “Cleaning continues, and may take several weeks to complete.” said Lasater. 

“The observed suspected growth on the books was Aspergillus, a very common indoor and outdoor mold.” said Lasater. She said “the timeline for reopening the upper floor space is unknown at this time.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, Aspergillus mold poses many health risks including allergic reactions, disease contraction and infections of the lungs and other organs. The good air quality tests put to rest any concerns regarding the safety of the library’s ventilation systems. 

At present, the closed section is guarded by warning signs and doors and windows covered in plastic. The afflicted section is sealed off, while the rest of the second floor is filled with air-circulating fans. Jugs, cleaning supplies and plastic-covered book carts surround the afflicted section. Workers were seen occupying the area for cleaning. 

According to the CDC, mold poses many health risks. While the type of mold was not disclosed, the acceptable air quality puts to rest any concerns regarding safety of the library’s ventilation systems. 

To address the academic inconvenience of the closure, Library Services have posted alternatives on the library website. 

The library’s upper level is a popular location for students to do work. Jeremy Sallade ’27, who frequents the East Asian room to study said, “I’m really bummed that I can’t go to my favorite spot.” Another student, William Kane ’27, also lamented his inability to study in the East Asian room. Kane said, “It’s alright, I just study in the basement.” 

Another library regular, a continuing education worker who wished to be anonymous, was in the library during the initial response to the outbreak. While witnessing library workers moving to cover the upper-level doors with plastic, he said he overheard them talking about attaining a “dramatic visual” with the plastic coverings. Yet despite the dramatic nature of the situation, the anonymous regular was sure to mention that he saw “nothing fishy.”

The implications of the library mold outbreak extend beyond the Waidner-Spahr walls. Recent years have seen mold cases in Dickinson College’s residence halls. Just last November, multiple cases in Conway Hall forced students to relocate. 

“The library has me worried about any mold in the buildings where we actually live. Who knows what they haven’t yet detected,” said Joshua Penny ’27. The frequency of Dickinson’s mold issues have only grown in recent years. 

Dickinson College continues its partial closure and cleaning of the library mold outbreak. With finals week approaching, the library may remain closed for the rest of the school year.  The College has not released a concrete timeframe regarding the library’s reopening.

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