Starting in June 2020, eight library staff members began a project to flag more than 100,000 books, using blue painter’s tape, to indicate which books in the main circulating collection should be cleaned of asbestos and retrieved from Milne Library. The 100,000 books were selected based on circulation history, date of publication, availability among SUNY libraries, local and regional value, date of purchase by the Library, and titles selected by faculty for retention.
Armed with dozens of rolls of painter’s tape, clipboards, lists, and pencils, the staff visited Milne daily for the next two and a half months to apply one-inch strips of tape to book spines. After flagging was complete, staff went through the stacks again to verify that books not found on the shelf were truly missing and not simply misshelved. The staff spent an estimated 1,384 hours flagging books.
Why painter’s tape? Library staff were instructed to not disturb anything in the building for fear of spreading asbestos dust. Books could not be moved and painter’s tape was determined to be the most effective way to label books without violating asbestos protocol or harming the books.