Chapter 6. Integrated Pest Management

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Contributions by: Caitlin Zant


Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a system of pest management being implemented by museums and library storage facilities aimed at the long-term control and prevention of common pest destruction in book and paper collections. IPM is designed to prevent pest damage to collections in the most effective means, without causing harm to the collections themselves or the curators and museum staff working with them. There is not one method for implementing IPM into a museum or library storage facility; it is a multi-system method, which allows options for the most effective management plan in different situations. The system has five general components: Inspection and Monitoring, Identification of Pests, Climate and Habitat Modification, Treatment and Prevention (IPM Associates, 1996). Taking over the old process of using pesticides, IPM has been successfully implemented in museums and libraries across the world.

Common Threats to Paper Collection

A major part of IPM is inspecting a collection for signs of common pests that could be detrimental to historic books and paper. Generally, pests are attracted to the adhesives and starches found in bookbindings rather than the paper itself, though some pests will attack the paper and cardboard in books directly.

The most common pests found in library and museum collections are cockroaches, firebrats and silverfishes. In an attempt to reach the adhesives in books, these pests can burrow and chew through paper, destroying the value of the book (Patkus, 2007). Signs of these pests include droppings, carcasses, skinning, and holes in the artifacts or shelving nearby. With regular inspection, a small infestation of pests can quickly be eliminated with traps, keeping the problem from developing further. If the pests continue to be an issue, or there are increasing sightings of these pests, monitoring can lead to rapid implementation of other IPM strategies (Missouri Secretary of State, 2001).

Climate and Habitat Modification

Any improperly sealed windows or doors, as well as vents and pipes, act as entry points for pests that could cause potential damage to museum and library collections. Pests generally thrive in areas that are damp and warm, with a higher relative humidity. Unfortunately, many storage facilities provide precisely that environment.

One of the major strategies in IPM is manipulating the climate of storage facilities to create a habitat that is inhospitable to most of the common book and paper pests. Keeping the climate cool and dry, with a low relative humidity, creates an environment in which pests do not thrive (National Park Service, 2010). Another important aspect for IPM is maintaining the possible entry routes for these pests. Tightly sealed doors and windows are a very simple, yet important part of IPM. Removing potential food and water sources for the insects is another step in managing the storage environment. With these climate controls, pests are less likely to infest storage facilities, thus keeping book and paper collections away from damage (Patkus, 2007).


If preventative measures are not enough to keep a pest infestation from becoming a major threat to a collection, there are multiple treatment options as a part of IPM that can be implemented. Some are more aggressive than others, but all are aimed at eradicating the pest problem with the smallest possibility of harm to the collection and the humans handling the collection as possible.

Non-chemical treatments are the first form of defense suggested in IPM systems. Controlled freezing and controlled atmosphere are the two most successful methods for eradicating pest problems. Controlled freezing is only available for individual objects or small sections of a collection. Each book or paper must be bagged individually because it is difficult to control the humidity of freezers being used. Rapid freezing and slow thawing are the two most important aspects of this method (Patkus, 2007).

Controlled atmosphere involves decreasing oxygen, increasing carbon dioxide and using other gasses such as nitrogen to deprive pests of elements necessary to sustaining their lives. This method is usually completed in a fumigation chamber. Alternatively, vacuums and traps can be used to quickly eliminate pest problems (National Park Service, 2010).

Chemical treatments are another, more aggressive, option, which has more potential for creating hazards for the collection and those handling it. Fumigants and repellants are the most commonly used chemical treatments. Aerosol sprays, fogging, and attractants can be used to spray in cracks and crevices to attract and kill pests. Although these are able to quickly kill many pests, there are many long and short term health concerns for those working in the storage facilities. There is also a possibility for long term damage to the books and paper materials themselves. Because of this, chemical treatments are only recommended in situations in which all other options have been exhausted (IPM Associates, 1996).


The largest part of IPM is the focus on preventing insects and other pests from reaching book and paper collections. Although it is impossible to keep all pests out of a storage facility, careful examination and monitoring of storage areas help prevent damage from occurring. By making sure doors and windows are sealed and not propped open for extended periods of time, and by taking additional measures, such as placing screens in front of vents, keeping trash and food away from the area, and keeping plants away from doors, can help prevent the infestation of pests (Missouri Secretary of State, 2001). Being proactive in pest management keeps the need for harsh chemical (and non-chemical) treatments of books and paper down. With prevention, IPM is focused on proactive actions, rather than reactive actions. It aims to treat potential problems before pest infestation occurs (IPM Associates, 1996).


“Integrated Pest Management”. 2001. In Conservation Services Notes. Missouri Secretary of State Conservation Services. Accessed, April 17, 2013. [1].

“Introduction to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for Urban Landscapes”. 1996. IPM Access. IMP Associates, Inc. Accessed April 17, 2013.[2].

National Park Service. 2010. “Integrated Pest Management Manual”. National Park Service. U.S. Department of the Interior. Accessed April 16, 2013. [3].

Ogden, S. ed. 1992. "Integrated Pest Management." In Preservation of Library and Archival Materials. Andover, MA: Northeast Document Conservation Center.

Patkus, B.L. 2007. “3.10 Integrated Pest Management”. In Preservation Leaflets. Northeast Document Conservation Center. Accessed April 16, 2013. [4].