Welcome to Our New Intern Amarah!

Amarah Ennis

Welcome Amarah Ennis, our summer HBCU Library Alliance intern. Amarah is a student at Hampton University where she is studying journalism.  She is one of eight students studying preservation this summer through the University of Delaware/HBCU-LA internship program.

This year the program moved online due to COVID-19. The site supervisors all agreed to host one class covering a specific topic. Those topics include:

  • Introduction to Library Preservation
  • Preventive Conservation/Disaster Preparedness and Response
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Archives Conservation
  • Interventive Conservation
  • Digitization

Each module will be taught by a team from one of the host sites. Students are asked to do pre-class reading and/or assignments. During class we will have plenty of time for discussion and Q&A (my favorite part). Each intern will be completing a site specific project, and they will be presenting a short talk at the end of the summer to show what they worked on.

We are really going to miss having Amarah on campus. Hopefully in the future she can come visit in person when it is safe to do so.

Quick Pic: On a Roll (Storage)

Just before quarantine we got our new wall-mounted roll storage unit from the carpentry shop.

people looking at hanging roll storage unit on wall
Our new wall-mounted roll storage.

We have a larger stand-alone roll storage rack where we keep rolls of book cloth and Melinex. But we recently moved the encapsulator and it became clear we needed to move the Melinex storage closer to the new location. The stand-alone rack was too large for that space so Rachel researched wall mounted racks. Nothing “off the shelf” fit the space, so she worked with the carpentry shop on the specifications. The new rack stores two rolls and hangs high enough that one of our height-adjustable tables can be positioned underneath for ease of use.

people testing the new wall mounted roll storage unit
We are very happy with the carpentry shop’s work!

What (Was Once) in the Lab

by Erin Hammeke, Senior Conservator

Even though we’re working from home right now, we thought we’d add to our What’s in the Lab series with some pictures of neat items from the past that we never got a chance to share. It’s nice to revisit these pictures during this time so we can fondly remember all of the cool things that pass through the Conservation lab on a regular basis.

WHAT (WAS ONCE) IN THE LAB: ELECTRICAL HANDBOOK FOR WOMEN

front cover of electrical handbook for women

Acquired as a part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, we found this Electrical Handbook for Women from 1934 as it was awaiting cataloging. We love the art deco cover illustration.

Frontispiece and title page

Photomechanical print of a woman repairing a fuse box.

Woven and Interlocking Books

By Rachel Penniman, Conservation Specialist

About 10 years ago I visited Claire Van Vliet at her Janus Press studio space in Newark, Vermont with another conservation intern. Claire was incredibly kind, spending all afternoon showing us around and talking about her work. At the end of the visit she gave us each a copy of her book Woven and Interlocking Book Structures as a parting gift.

Front cover of Woven and Interlocking Book Structures

I rediscovered this book on my shelf a few weeks ago when I hit my limit on Zoom meetings and was desperate to return to doing some hands-on work. And what a sanity saver it has been! I’ve taken time every day to step away from my computer and work my way through each of the structures.

Image of work bench, laid out with tools and materials.

The book provides instructions for creating a sample of more than a dozen woven or interlocking book structures that are easy enough for anyone to do at home. The samples are small, only 4×5” and just a few pages long. Construction requires a few simple tools: a pencil, ruler, cutting blade, scissors, scoring tool/bone folder, awl/needle, glue, and a microspatula which was not required but “worth getting because you’ll wonder how you lived without it.” While nicer paper or a variety of papers would make more interesting finished samples, you really only need cover stock and text weight papers. Still, I had to make do with the paper I had on hand at home. Sometimes I had to use scraps of paper with the grain direction going the wrong way or that wasn’t quite the correct weight. But in the end I was able to successfully create a sample of every structure.

(Click each image to enlarge)

There are even instructions at the end of the book to create a lovely little slipcase to house your entire sample set of books.

Book in slipcase

If you would like to create your own sample set of woven and interlocking book structures you can access the entire book online for free through Internet Archive:

https://archive.org/details/woveninterlockin00vanv/mode/2up

When It Rains On The Inside

Campus is still closed but that doesn’t mean that things have been quiet for Conservation. Last week we responded to a call from Marvin Tillman, Manager of the Library Service Center (the offsite high density storage facility). He had come in to meet a repair crew from Facilities who were working on the sprinkler system pump. Marvin noticed water on the floor and quickly jumped in the picker and navigated to the top of the stacks. There he found a leaking sprinkler head and many trays of wet books underneath it. Marvin removed the trays, put the books in the freezer and called Conservation. After a thorough review of the stacks he found one more tray that needed to be removed.

I picked up a total of eight bins of books and took them back to the lab to air dry. First step was to record the bar codes so we could deal with them in the management system.

books splashed with grey water
The water inside the sprinkler system reacts to the metal pipes, causing this grey staining.

There were 261 wet books. These ranged from just damp to pretty wet. All were salvageable.

Top of book with stains
It’s like edge painting, but not as pretty.

Mark Barker, Director of Security and Facilities Services set up a couple folding tables in the dirty room for me and brought all the fans from the disaster supply closet. I proceeded to divide the books by wettest, medium-wet, and damp. The wettest items went into the fume hood since that pulls a constant supply of steady air.

wet books drying in fume hood
The wettest materials were set up in the fume hood for maximum airflow.

The medium-wet books got set up on tables with fans circulating air around them. Loyal readers will remember when we invented/discovered the “double-decker drying system.” It really works, and it means you can dry twice the number of books with the same footprint. The trick is airflow. You want to see “the disaster recovery wiggle.” Every book should be wiggling a bit as the air moves around the space.

two-tiered drying system
We set up folding tables in a double-decker configuration to maximize drying space.
books drying in fume hood and by fans
The view from the dirty room doorway gives you an idea of the space needed for drying.

The wiggle:

The damp books were set up on one of the lab tables with a fan.

books fanned out on a table with a fan
Books set up to air dry in the lab.

Once the items were dry they were pressed for a few days to flatten them.

books in presses
Books were stacked in every press in the lab.

The books that were mostly flat but needed a bit of pressure were simply put under boards and bricks.

books pressing under a brick
Pressing books under a board and brick provides gentle encouragement to flatten out.

The majority of the 261 items will be going back as-is to LSC. A small number will be rehoused before returning, and fewer still will be repaired. Thanks to quick identification and action all around we can say that this recovery effort was successful. It did bring up questions about recovery during a pandemic. Those questions will be on the next agenda for the Disaster and Environment Response Team (DERT) meeting.

The Wiggle, part two:

Quick Pic: The Ghosts of Lilly

We are beginning to think that our buildings and their ghosts might miss us. We got a call last weekend about a painting in one of the libraries that fell off the wall. This building is empty, of course, except for the ghosts of librarians past. are they trying to get our attention?

painting on the floor
This painting decided it was done hanging around.
damaged painting frame
The frame sustained some damage, as did the painting.
damaged frame on floor
All the pieces of the decorative frame.

Zoom Tip: Add a Handheld Camera

Each spring for the last couple of years, I’ve traveled up to the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library to teach a workshop on blind and gold tooling to students in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC). The workshop provides a very basic introduction to all the tools and materials that have historically been used to decorate bindings and allows the students to try some of the techniques for themselves. We also use the time to examine bindings from the library’s collection, looking closely at tool marks and other evidence, to determine how they were produced.

With in-person instruction suspended this semester, we decided to try a modified version of the workshop  via the popular video conferencing platform Zoom.

Side by side images of a laptop screen showing a Zoom meeting in progress.
Photos by Dr. Melissa Tedone

I had to change a lot about how I would ordinarily approach this workshop, since I usually provide paper hand-outs and bring a number of physical samples for students to examine. I was able to get around some of this by using the screen-sharing feature to display images of specific tools and diagrams of important concepts during the lecture portion of the workshop. I also shared links to specific bindings in the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Bindings Image Collection, so that each student could zoom in or navigate around the image on their own. Resources like this were a helpful stand-in for bindings from the Winterthur Library’s collection.

Image of book spine from the Folger Bindings Image Collection
Erasmus, Desiderius. 1544. Enchiridion militis Christiani. Folger Shakespeare Library Bindings Image Collection: https://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet/s/b62z6p

But what if you have an item on-hand which you would like your participants to examine more closely? My laptop’s webcam is thankfully good enough to show a fair amount of detail, but it can be a little tricky to orient the object in front of the camera so that your room lighting shows the surface characteristics. It might also be impossible to hold the object upright enough to view in frame.

“Can you see the decoration on this binding?”

I’ve seen some enterprising examples of detachable webcams mounted to headbands or task lights to create document cameras, but my webcam is not detachable. It turns out there is a simple way to turn your smartphone into a secondary, hand-held camera! Unfortunately, I figured this trick out too late for my own workshop – but maybe it can be useful for other folks doing instruction remotely. This trick requires you to first install the Zoom mobile app.

I start by scheduling a Zoom meeting and then either add the invitation to my calendar or email it to myself for quick access later. The meeting is launched on the primary device (in my case, a laptop) and the video and sound are set up. Instruction proceeds as usual until the hand-held camera is needed. At this point, tap the meeting link on a mobile device to join. When the meeting has launched in the mobile app, select “Join with Video” and then tap “Cancel” when asked to join audio. I learned the hard way that you will get some rather unpleasant feedback and echoing if you have audio going on two devices at once.

Side by side images of mobile Zoom interfaceAt this point your meeting participants will be disoriented by your competing video feeds (and maybe by your disheveled quarantine hair), but these feelings will pass.

Screenshot of Zoom interface with 2 camerasTap the button at the top left of your mobile device’s screen to switch to the rear-facing camera. You should ask your audience to find and “pin” the video feed for your mobile device, so that it occupies the majority of the screen when they switch to the “speaker view”.

Zoom interface with main video feed as handheld phone cameraNow you can easily move your mobile device around the object during your instruction session. When you don’t need the second camera anymore, simply leave the meeting on that device. Obviously this setup will put some additional load on your home network and internet connection, but it has worked well enough in my experiments to get the job done. This method will probably also work on other video conferencing platforms, but I have not attempted it.

With so many people developing and participating in online instruction right now, I’m sure others are finding new and helpful ways to use the technology we might already have at home. What tools or tips have you found useful in your work from home situation?

Disaster Response When Campus is Closed

Preservation Week and May Day both happen this week. It is a good time to update your disaster plan or do one other thing to better prepare your organization for disasters. This year disaster recovery includes trying to figure out disaster response when campus is largely vacant, and how you can maintain physical distancing if you need to respond to a collections emergency.

Last week a hot water pipe burst on the third floor of the History Department’s building sending water down to the first floor. Two faculty members reported having wet library books. We sent them information on caring for their personal collections, then went to campus to retrieve a handful of books from the building. We also met one faculty who drove his library books over to the library.

Our Response to a Small Collections Disaster

There are several apps that are useful in these situations. I used one to scan and send a list of barcodes to Circulation for the books that needed to be checked back in.

bar code scanning app screen shot
Bar codes ready for email.

I then set up the damp books in the fume hood to dry.

books drying in fume hood
Books drying in fume hood.

I prepared two wet books for freezing by wrapping them with butcher paper,  sandwiching them between buffered corrugated boards, and securing them with cotton tying tape. Writing the barcode and date on the package will help us easily identify them in the freezer.

Books prepped for the freezer
Ready for the freezer.
A Silver Lining

A silver lining in all of this is we discovered that our freezer is acting up again. Readers might recall  that we had a problem with the drain in this freezer almost a year ago. We are waiting for the parts to come in so a repair technician can be scheduled.

Freezer malfunction
The Iceman Floweth, again.
After the Initial Response

The books in the fume hood dried within a couple days. I went back to campus and put them into presses to flatten. We will evaluate these for repair or replacement once we are back on campus.

Books in the press
A good pressing should get these fairly flat.

This disaster was very small but it did raise questions about large numbers of library books housed in faculty offices, and what that means in terms of recovery efforts.

 

Duke University Libraries Preservation