Every librarian’s worst nightmare.
Yes, they are a real thing!

Book worms are actually the larvae of beetles or weevils that eat the pages of books, their covers, or the glue in their bindings. Mmm, tasty glue…
In the Wentz Library a few weeks ago, library assistant David discovered some gnawed volumes while shifting periodicals.
It is unlikely that we have an active infestation, and these worm holes probably occurred even before the early 20th century volumes arrived at the Wentz Library, but taking an abundance of caution, we froze the items to kill any bugs or eggs that might remain in the books.

Books in the breakroom freezer. Library workers are nothing if not resourceful!

Each volume was sealed in a plastic bag to prevent moisture (we don’t want to trade worms for mold!) and stored in the freezer. The cold temperature will kill any pests that may be lurking in the pages. After a week or so, the books were removed and allowed to come to room temperature.

Books thawing in front of a heater after being frozen for 10 days

The books are part of the periodical collection and have now been returned to the shelves.

Wormholes in the pages. While it’s not unusual to see worm holes in codices from the 15th-17th centuries, I’ve never seen them in books this recent.

This is why it’s important to quarantine materials before they are added to the collection. It also highlights why food is not allowed in the library, and why spaces should be kept clean so as to not attract pests and their book-hungry babies!

Published by

Victoria Jesswein

Archivist at United Lutheran Seminary

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