It may seem, in what follows, that an inordinate amount of attention is devoted to the structure and nature of mold. Because fumigation has for so long been the treatment of choice, there seems to be a feeling that information regarding the organism itself is irrelevant. Moreover, librarians are understandably frustrated by literature which urges them to consult a microbiologist or entomologist in order to identify the offending species. While it is to some extent true that one need not identify precisely the mold involved in order to treat it, an analysis of the problems associated with mold growth and the selection of an appropriate treatment must be based on some understanding of the organism. As Allsopp notes, it does not require a specialist to determine the hazards posed by most organisms. One can, after all, "observe a mouse or a bird and state accurately whether it is dead or alive. Organisms such as these can be seen and identified, and vital signs are easily recognized. Mice rarely lie stiff on their backs, motionless, with their feet in the air when they are alive. Microorganisms, however, pose problems..."1
Because the nature of molds is so poorly understood, their appearance is often cause for disproportionate alarms and excursions, with cries for institution wide fumigation, the formation of committees, and often, a lamentable level of inaction. Much of the older and some of the current literature recommends that items be isolated in plastic bags, to await fumigation or other treatment or that the mold be brushed from the surface of the item. Once the structure of the mold organism is clearly understood, and the staff has some idea of the reasons for its occurrence and growth, recommendations in the literature can be more accurately evaluated, and informed decisions can be made as to the appropriate treatment. For example, in the above instance, placing the item in a plastic bag at the first visible sign of the mold will simply create a micro-climate that may actually accelerate the growth of the colonies, possibly doing serious damage while treatment is awaited or debated. Simply brushing the mold away will only remove the visible portion of the mold, scattering the spores, and pressing the invisible sub-structure down onto the surface of the item. Treatment techniques will be dealt with in detail in a later section, but are mentioned now to stress the importance of this section and the section that follows. Together they will provide the basis for informed decision making. The mold organism must be clearly understood, since the nature of mold, the reasons for its occurance, and the stage of its development will determine the specific treatment and the time frame within which action should be taken.