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Davies: Science saves rare books
by Tom Busselberg
Feb 02, 2005 | 215 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WOODS CROSS -- For Bountiful's Leon Davies, the fun of a Saturday morning Stanford University football game was shattered when a contractor severed an eight-inch water main. That misstep caused water to start pouring into the college library, flooding the basement and threatening thousands of books -- including some of a rare, irreplaceable nature.

Davies recounted that day, many years ago, when the school's science and engineering community joined with librarians and volunteers to save the book collection.

"We called the Library of Congress to see what could be done," he recalled. It wasn't merely a matter of carrying books out of the basement to save them -- pages would stick together, bindings could fall apart, ink could stain and become illegible.

The 27-year engineer at Lockheed (now Lockheed-Martin) recalled how a process similar to simulated space conditions was used to save the nearly 51,000 books that were in danger of being ruined.

When Lockheed officials were asked if they could help, Davies said the company was reeling from bad public relations that had been generated about the outlandish costs of hammers and toilet seats developed for the military.

"Some books were large, some were very small. Many were rare, and some were really soaked bad," he said.

"We had to get them frozen within 24 hours, before they would start to rot," Davies said. The "space chamber" was pressed into service.

In the end, more than 98 percent of books were returned to the library collection, like new.

After books were frozen in the chamber, they were quickly moved, totaling 40 truckloads, 1,800 lbs. to a load, to a large meat locker plant. "The owner of San Jose Food Locker was a Stanford graduate, happened to be at the game, and said to bring them (books) in," Davies said.

In the meantime, some student volunteers were moving books from the flooded basement.

It took about 1-1/2 days to complete a cycle of books, several months to complete the whole process, Davies said. Each book had to be wrapped individually using freezer paper.

After that, books were placed on tables to regain humidity in an old school.

"Lockheed was a pretty tightly controlled place. The media had never been in there," Davies said. But they were invited inside to see the book process unfold.

Many people got involved in the process, from an Arizona firm that flew in pipe to be used in the freezing process, to members of Davies' LDS Ward who helped move books when students weren't available.

Thanks to all of the donated materials and facilities, materials for the process have cost about $38,000. "It was very labor-intensive, could've easily been hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said.

Davies is a Bountiful resident, where he has lived since 1994.
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