Students and staff at Ohio Wesleyan University will not have the services of Beeghly Library this year as the university has made the decision to shut the facility down for the 2023-24 academic year.
In a letter to the campus community, Ohio Wesleyan President Matt vandenBerg explained the reasoning behind the decision, which stems from increasingly problematic issues with temperature and humidity control in the building that has led to mold spores compromising the library’s collections.
“The latest surface and air-quality analyses inside Beeghly detected stubbornly high moisture levels, as well as common molds that are in lower concentrations than exist outdoors,” vandenBerg explained. “Moreover, the facility’s roofing, HVAC, air handlers, electrical system, elevator, and steam line have exceeded their useful lifespans. We must be proactive when it comes to the health and safety of OWU students, staff, faculty, and visitors, which is our top priority. Therefore, after consulting carefully with numerous campus leaders, expert partners, and trustees, we have decided to close Beeghly Library for the 2023-2024 academic year.”
Prior to the decision, the university employed a variety of measures to address the systems, including bringing in industrial dehumidifiers, but the measures were not enough to stabilize the environment and safeguard the collections.
Beeghly Library, which opened in 1966, contains the Archives of Ohio United Methodism as well as the OWU Historical Collection, among other collections. According to vandenBerg, priority assessment and remediation efforts will begin with collections that are irreplaceable.
“We are committed to ensuring that conservation experts clean and restore our historical and rare items as needed,” he said. “We will soon initiate conversations with the East and West Ohio Conferences on future plans for the Archives of Ohio United Methodism.”
VandenBerg also noted work will soon begin on evaluating the library’s general circulating collections.
When asked if the molds present in the building could have posed a hazard to students and staff last year, OWU Director of Libraries Dee Peterson told The Gazette the two molds found with air and surface tests “are common molds that exist naturally in greater concentrations outdoors than inside the library.”
“It is possible that people can have mold sensitivities, but we know the serious impact the molds can have on library materials in humid environments,” Peterson added.
While Beeghly Library is closed, the school said it will rely heavily on established lending networks, such as the OhioLINK and interlibrary loan systems, to secure physical items required by the campus community. Faculty members with course-specific needs are asked to reach out to the library staff as soon as possible at [email protected].
The main circulation desk will be relocated to the Hobson Science Library in the Schimmel/Conrades Science Center.
As for whether or not Beeghly Library could remain closed beyond this school year, Peterson said it is still too soon to say what the next steps will be for the building. For now, the staff is focusing on preparing for classes to begin and being ready to provide students with the library services they expect.
“Even though the growth is minimal at the moment, it has now been found in all areas of our library, so we must consider the entire collection compromised and not move the items around,” Peterson said. “We are working with conservation, preservation, and remediation experts to assess the collections, focusing on our unique and special collections first. However, once cleaned and clear, they cannot enter back into an environment with fluctuations in temperature and humidity.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.