SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — When Monday’s hail storm blew through Downtown Sacramento, the California State Library was on thin ice.

“Right above this ceiling right here is a little platform and it caught a lot of rain than anticipated,” said library spokesman Alex Vassar.

Vassar says water seeped through a hole in the ceiling and dripped onto the books below, damaging decades of history.

Librarians began an emergency operation, spreading out hundreds of soaked books, and stuffing them with paper. Then, using huge fans to blow dry the books.

But it wasn’t enough.

The books were sent to the State Museum Collections Facility at the old McClellan Air Force Base. Here, people with special clearance took us inside an isolated room, typically used to zap bugs found in antiques.

“It’s a benign approach to pest control. Instead of pesticides or sprays or gases, we freeze things,” said museum curator Ross McGuire.

McGuire says the museum’s massive freezer can kill anything, including mold, that can grow on wet paper.

“The books are wet, and by freezing them, we’re just solidifying the water. We’re stopping the process of deterioration that water would have on the paper,” he said.

Meanwhile, down at the library, more books are in harm’s way as another storm is blowing through.

The Department of General Services has yet to patch up the ceiling.

“I think we’ll be monitoring the situation closely and working with DGS to have this section repaired as soon as possible,” said Vassar.

For now, the volumes in the rare books room are being relocated, because officials say the freezer just can’t afford to take in any more priceless collections.


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