Pest Management


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. At the same time, developments in the pest management field made clear that simple fumigation would not solve many pest infestation problems, since it does nothing long term to correct the environmental conditions that make infestations possible.

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.

See Introduction to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for “Urban” Landscapes, IPM Associates, Inc., 1996.

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.  IPM is:

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