Herndon Middle School Students Reveal the Mystery of Acidic Books
In 2013, students in the eighth grade science classes at Herndon Middle School in Virginia learned about acid-base chemistry. To provide an example of acid-base chemistry in real life use, the Library of Congress offered an in-class demonstration of how the Library neutralizes acidic books. If left acidic, the paper in acidic books eventually becomes brittle and unusable. Fred Glave, a volunteer docent at the Library and Jeanne Drewes, Chief, Bindings and Collections Care Division, brought to class actual examples to show how the Library uses a pH pen to test whether the paper in books is acidic and if it is, how the Library neutralizes those acids with a base. Jeanne and Fred also explained how the acids work to destroy paper, by breaking the paper's chemical bonds.
The students' enthusiasm for the subject and for the practical demonstration is reflected in the following video they made. This project was possible through the support and assistance of Jeanne, Fred, and of the eighth grade science teachers, Amy Helm and Valerie Warriner.