Pest Patrol | Newberry

Pest Patrol

The quarterly pest management report, compiled and distributed by the Newberry’s conservation team, is something that library staff have come to eagerly anticipate finding in their inboxes every three months. (Few activities demonstrate the conservators’ commitment to preserving our collections quite like their fearless encounters with spiders and silverfish.)

Each report documents the number of pests that have crawled or scurried into 100 traps set strategically throughout the library (both collection and non-collection areas), as well as where they came from. In addition, the reports provide a helpful table that organizes all the insects into an evocative taxonomy, ranging from “ants” and “book lice” to “moths” and, my personal favorite, “over 8 legs.”

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100 fresh pest traps, each assigned a particular location, are ready to be distributed across the library.

In response to my interest in how these reports are made, Virginia Meredith, Conservation Technician, and Henry Harris, Conservation Services Assistant, were kind enough to allow me to join them for their most recent pest patrol.

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After collecting pest traps, Newberry conservators bring them to the Conservation Lab to begin preparing the pest management report.

The process began in the Conservation Lab, where Henry had assiduously assembled 100 new traps, each labeled according to its destination either in the stacks (where the Newberry’s collection resides) or the Cobb building (where our offices, reading rooms, and galleries are located).

From the lab, we ventured into the stacks. On each floor, Henry and Virginia found the old traps, clinically scanned their contents, and replaced them with the new traps. Because the stacks building is climate-controlled, it yields relatively few pests. (According to the previous pest management report, only 8% of the 996 pests collected by our conservators came from this part of the building.)

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Conservation Services Assistant Henry Harris analyzes the results of the pest patrol.

Most of the action occurs in “the link,” which connects the stacks and the Cobb building, or in the Cobb building itself. As we made our way out of the stacks, the traps became more densely populated. One spider that had been caught sent shivers down my spine; it hardly phased Henry and Virginia.

“What we find in these traps helps to inform the alterations we make to our climate-control settings and extermination program,” Henry explained.

Once we had finished combing the entire library, I went to the staff lounge and attempted to forget what I had just seen so I could eat my lunch. Meanwhile, my pest patrol companions returned to the lab to analyze the results and begin compiling the next report.

By Alex Teller, Director of Communications and Editorial Services

Comments

Very interesting topic and results, good work! As a homeowner with lots of books myself, I was wondering what to use for dealing with silverfish? Would your traps work in my home? Julie
Do the conservation staff see spiders as a pest? I hope not, since they eat the actual pests. I suppose a high number of spiders would indicate a serious infestation of pests, though.
Thanks for your question! Actually, our most effective line of defense is not so much the traps but controlling the environmental conditions according to what we find. Restricting food and other organic material to specific parts of a home or work space. It's ideal to keep the humidity in the neighborhood of 50-55% and temperatures below 70 degrees F. Silverfish are attracted to humid areas as well as starch based compounds-- found in food, books, and a variety of household items. Hope this helps!
With regard to spiders: while they don't pose a direct threat to our collection, they signal the presence of other pests that do. Like the traps, they tell us what pests might be present in certain areas of the building.

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