Folks on this list may want to be aware of the problem that arose yesterday
in the mail room at the Department of Commerce -- apparently the
irradiation of the mail had caused the shrink-wrap on some materials to
melt and toxic fumes had been released. It caused nausea, respiratory
problems.... You may want to be on the alert for any "deformed" packages,

Patrice McDermott
American Library Association Washington Office

>>> Library <[log in to unmask]> 01/10/02 06:33PM >>>

Thank you for an informative post.  I had NO idea that irridiation caused
such damage.  Have you contacted LC's preservation gurus?

My alma mater would probably strip my MLS if they knew, but I quit
materials years ago.  If it's available online or if it's merely
time-sensitive, I don't spend the money.

We are a "zero growth" library so we only keep general periodicals for a
pre-determined amount of time.  Our weeding record file has entries such
"3 years," or "2 Princeton files," or "6 in."  Zero growth makes our
collection somewhat schizophrenic because we have the old bound materials
from the '30s thru the late '70s and the unbound current materials.

OTOH, we're primarily a law library so statute and code books are
over time as a part of each subscription.

Some bound works are difficult to use.  For example, my predecessors
legislative histories they compiled in-house from source documents. Those
volumes are virtually impossible to use because thick pamphets of
sizes are held in a in a single volume.  I compile legislative histories
file folders and trust that readers will take care of them.  Touch wood:
far so good (and I've been doing this 21 years).

Kay Collins, Head Librarian, US Railroad Retirement Board, Chicago

-----Original Message-----
From: Mohrman, Robert J WRAMC-Wash DC
[mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Thursday, January 10, 2002 2:41 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Irradiation of the mail: damage to journal issues

I'd like to ask if anyone in the Federal Library world is addressing the
issue of the damage that
irradiation of mail does to print products.  The mail we receive here at
Walter Reed Army
Medical Center is being irradiated, and while I understand the rationale
doing it, it is very
damaging to a paper product.  Envelopes and their contents become very
brittle; the plastic windows
in envelopes are shriveled, stuck to the contents of the envelope, or
entirely.  Self-adhesive
labels fall off the envelopes.   The effect on white paper is quite
pronounced:  it is visibly yellowed,
as if exposed to sunlight for a very long period of time.

What distresses me most is that this is being done to library materials
well, and the same damage
is evident.  The glue in the binding of one journal issue I looked at
is almost entirely melted
away, and once again, the paper is brittle.  The ink from the bar codes
the outside of two books
that were mailed back to us by a patron had disappeared entirely (I
notice any real damage
to the pages, but who knows).

I'm not sure who to complain to about this.  We are paying a lot of money
for our print subscriptions,
which we bind when volumes are complete, theoretically for posterity.
the damage that this
prophylactic irradiation is doing to our journals, we need to seriously
reconsider this time-honored
practice of archiving information.  I'm also concerned about mailing
for interlibrary loan; what
kind of damage is this causing, and who will be ultimately responsible?
I've done some quick and
dirty searches of the Internet using Google, but I haven't come across
anything on this subject.  The
US Postal Service web site discusses irradiation of the mail, but they
address this issue, either.


Robert Mohrman
Acting Chief, Medical Library
Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC)
6900 Georgia Ave NW
Washington DC 20307-5001
(202)782-6547; fax (202)782-6803
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