This past winter, while my family and I were in the middle of a move from the mountains of North Carolina to the suburbs of Des Moines, we got a call from the insurance agent working for our moving company. With all the cold weather, a water main had broken in the warehouse where our belongings were being stored. Our things had been flooded.

The insurance agent was particularly worried about our mattresses, but my first thought was to our books and our personal archives. We had 30 or 40 boxes of books and papers, accreted through college and graduate school and life. How were they doing?