navbar topperAbout the CPPspacerServicesDisaster AssistanceConsulting Servicesnavbar consulting servicespacerInformation ResourcesEmergency Preparedness & ResponsePreservation EducationPreservation ManagementCollections MaintenancespacerDiscussion Listnavbar topper    

Pest Management


While staff and users may consider many insects (ants, spiders, mosquitoes, flies, etc.) to be unpleasant, when we consider the preservation of collections the species of concern are those that feed on the materials that make up books, manuscripts and other library collections, or those that damage the building itself. In California, the most commonly encountered threats are cockroaches, termites, and silverfish, though several other problem species including wood-boring beetles, and earwigs may be found in various regions of the state as may book worms, the larvae of a large number of species of beetles. Powderpost beetles and deathwatch beetles are common problem pests. Rodents may also be a significant threat in some institutions; the strategy discussed below applies in a broad sense to both insects and rodents.


Until a few decades ago, the most common approach to handling pest infestations in library and archive collections was chemical fumigation. While some institutions fumigated only occasionally, some institutions - especially those who regularly acquired materials from insect-ridden regions such as Asia and Africa - carried out wide-scale programs of systematic prophylactic fumigation in which large portions of the collections were fumigated. Since the 1980's, this approach began to fall into disfavor for two principal reasons. First, the chemical fumigants that were most suitable for use in library and archive collections (those that were least damaging to paper, leather, etc.) came under increasing Federal regulation as very serious health hazards. It became apparent that residual fumigant in the collections materials could pose risks to staff and users. See, for example Desorption of Residual Ethylene Oxide from Fumigated Library Materials by Frank H. Hengemihle, Norman Weberg and Chandru J. Shahani, Preservation Research and Testing Office November 1995, Preservation Research and Testing Series No. 9502. At the same time, developments in the pest management field made it clearer that simple fumigation would not solve many pest infestation problems, since it did nothing to ameliorate the environmental conditions that made it possible for the insects to proliferate.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Today, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) has become the key strategy for managing insects and rodents in library and archive collections. Implementing an IPM program for your collection requires the active involvement of an IPM specialist, and the commitment of your facilities personnel, collection managers, library/archives staff and volunteers. An IPM approach typically involves ongoing monitoring of insect populations to determine the nature and extent of infestation; a tightly contained program of extermination (e.g., baseboard spraying, localized use of fumigants, freezing, anoxia); and ongoing control of the building environment, especially at the interface between the user and collections areas and the external landscape (the building envelope). It further demands that those factors that enable the pests to survive and reproduce be carefully controlled, which means that food and plant life in collections areas - and often in staff areas as well - will usually have to be severely constrained. The IPM specialist, will be conversant not only in techniques of monitoring and eradication, but will understand the facilities issues pertaining to your collection and will be able to identify for your facilities personnel those aspects of your building, landscape, and HVAC situation that require intervention.

For an excellent introduction, see “ Integrated Pest Management ” NEDCC Technical Leaflet, Section 3, Leaflet 11.

The following definitions are quoted from an extremely useful document, Introduction to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for "Urban" Landscapes, IPM Associates, Inc., 1996.

IPM is a pest management system designed to provide long-term management of pests, not temporary eradication of them.

This is reflected in the numerous definitions that have been developed for IPM, including the one prepared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its publication, IPM for Turfgrass and Ornamentals:

IPM is the coordinated use of pest and environmental information with available pest control methods to prevent unacceptable levels of pest damage by the most economical means with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.

The goal of IPM is to manage pests and the environment so as to balance costs, benefits, public health, and environmental quality. IPM systems use all available technical information on the pest and its interactions with the environment. Because IPM programs apply a holistic approach to pest management decision-making, they take advantage of all appropriate pest management options, including, but not limited to pesticides. Thus IPM is:

  • A system using multiple methods.
  • A decision-making process.
  • A risk reduction system.
  • Information intensive.
  • Cost-effective.
  • Site specific.

 Pest Management Resources Online

1. Preservation-oriented Resources:

Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC)
Integrated Pest Management, by Beth Lindblom Patkus. NEDCC Technical Leaflet, Section 3, Leaflet 11
For most library and archive staff, this document should be the jumping off place for study in this topic. It is concise, dependable, and discusses IPM in the specific context of library and archive preservation.

Conservation OnLine
CoOL's Pest Management page provides access to a variety of documents on aspects of pest management. See also Environmental Monitoring and Control and Health & Safety for related information.

2. General Resources:

Thomas A. Parker, Entomologist
Pest Control Services, Inc. Entomological Consulting
Dr. Parker’s area of expertise is the inspection, analysis and treatment of pest problems for museums, historic properties, libraries, archives, and their collections.

IPM Practitioners Association
Database of IPM Resources (DIR)
“Database of IPM Resources (DIR) is an information retrieval and referral system and a compendium of customized directories of worldwide IPM information resources accessible through the Internet.” It is intended for entomologists but the DIR's contents span most of the disciplines involved in IPM. Some of its useful documents are:

A List of Some Key Books Related to IPM”a bibliography last updated in March 1996.

A conferencing system for the discussion of IPM-related topics. Currently there is an Open Forum, in which any pertinent IPM-related topics may be discussed and in the future forums devoted to more specific topics will be added. While the service is somewhat new and undeveloped, it could be a useful site for posting your questions concerning your specific problems and perhaps locating specialists in your area.

IPM-Based Landscape Design
Libraries, archives, historical societies and other collections-holding institutions are impacted by the landscapes in which they are situated. This document is of use not only in planning new construction with an eye toward pest management, but will help those responsible for collections to understand the effects of landscaping decisions upon their buildings and their collections. Among the topic covered are: design & maintenance approach; plant placement; plant selection lawns; pedestrian circulation, etc.

IPM Associates, Inc.
Introduction to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for "Urban" Landscapes.

University of California , Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program
UC IPM Online

See especially the Glossary for definitions and Pest Notes: Pest Management and Identification: Pests of Home and Landscape

This database supplies the University of California 's official guidelines for pest monitoring techniques, pesticides, and non-pesticide alternatives for managing pests in homes and landscapes. Specific library and archives pests included in the database: beetles, cockroaches, moths, rodents, silverfish and termites.

Sources of Assistance

To locate an IPM consultant in your area, contact the California Preservation Program at, or The Bio-Integral Resource Center (BIRC).
BIRC is a nonprofit organization which "aims to seek consensus between the pest control companies, resource professionals, environmentalists, and government agencies regarding urban and rural pesticide reduction strategies and least-toxic pest management."

P.O. Box 7414 , Berkeley , CA 94707
(510) 524-2567
Fax: (510) 524-1758

Check general IPM directories such as those offered by IPM Access, or contacting your local County Cooperative Extension office.


  2005 by the California Preservation Program
Page last modified: August 2006
  Comments to the webmaster