A review of biological deterioration of library materials and possible control strategies in the tropics

Olubanke M. Bankole (University Library, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago‐Iwoye, Nigeria)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Publication date: 29 June 2010



The purpose of this paper is to review the current state of research on the various biological agents that could cause deterioration of paper materials and possible intervention strategies against these biotic agents in the tropics.


Recent literature in the tropics is reviewed to gain insight into the problems that confront libraries in the tropics as regards the biological deterioration of library materials.


The paper identifies moulds as the most important biodeteriorating agents of library materials. In addition to destroying, disfiguring and staining books, the moulds have been linked to numerous adverse human health effects that fall into three categories: allergic, toxic and infectious. The other biological agents include bacteria, insects and rodents. The important insects in tropical environment are cockroaches and termites. The warm humid tropical conditions and dirty environment trigger/promote biodeterioration processes and make book deterioration to be more pronounced in the tropics than in the temperate regions.

Research limitations/implications

Physical visits to the libraries were not carried out and the conclusions reached were based on evidence from scientific literature on the subject in the tropics.

Practical implications

A very useful source of information on how to curb the menace of biological agents against the destruction of library materials in the tropics. These include training programmes for library staff on conservation and preservation of library collections, the creation of awareness on the issue among library users, the adoption of good house keeping practices and modification of storage environment to make them unsuitable for the biodeteriogens. It is recommended that libraries and archives in tropical countries should have preservation guidelines and integrated pest management teams and should also cooperate with scientists in relevant disciplines to be able to find lasting solutions to the problem of biodeterioration of library materials.


This paper looks into the neglected area of biological deterioration of papers which is the main information carrier in libraries. It provides very useful and practical suggestions that libraries in the tropics could adopt to tackle the menace of biological agents.



Bankole, O. (2010), "A review of biological deterioration of library materials and possible control strategies in the tropics", Library Review, Vol. 59 No. 6, pp. 414-429. https://doi.org/10.1108/00242531011053931

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