It’s annual statistics time! As you can imagine Covid-19 struck a blow to our productivity in terms of conservation work. We have all been busy working from home improving documentation, learning new skills through online resources like the ICON Together At Home Webinar Series, and the Guild of Bookworkers generous online offerings during the spring, and of course we are all Zoom masters now.
FY2021 by the Numbers
609 Book repairs
671 Pamphlet bindings
8 Treatments: Other (objects, textiles, etc.)
154 Flat Paper repairs
4,956 Protective enclosures
419 Disaster recovery
4 Exhibit mounts
216.5 Hours in support of Exhibits (meetings, treatment, installation, etc.)
129 Digital preparation repairs
36.25 Hours in support of Digital Projects (meetings, consultations, handling, etc.)
43% of production was for Special Collections
57% of production was for Circulating Collections
80% of work was Level 1 [less than 15 minutes to complete; 4,298 items]
17% of work was Level 2 [15 minutes – 2 hours to complete; 925 items]
3% of work was Level 3 [2 – 5 hours to complete; 146 items]
0% of work was Level 4 [more than 5 hours; 31 items]
Our enclosure workflow is still the largest percentage of output. This trend will continue once the enabling work for the Lilly Renovation Project begins. We hope that will start this fiscal year, but budgetary constraints due to Covid-19 may see that work put on hold temporarily.
We had three awesome students this year: Selena, Leah, and Ally. Just before we were sent home our pre-program volunteer, Mackenzie, started working with us. Unfortunately, we are not able to bring any of them back this fall due to Covid-19 restrictions but we are looking forward to that possibility in the spring.
We surpassed a quarter million items coming through the lab this year. With FY2021 we are now at 268,696 items through the lab since 2002. It’s an amazing feat. I am so proud of our staff, students and volunteers that help make Conservation happen at DUL.
Like many other libraries we are pushing to get as much material digitized and online for fall term instruction as possible. Conservation, however, is not yet back on site but our services are still needed. I came in this week to work on some items that needed humidifying and flattening, and to do some quick repairs to get these camera ready.
There are several Western Union telegrams and other correspondence that were crumpled and torn that are too fragile for imaging. These had a variety of media that looked suspect including early mimeographs, stamp ink, copy pencil, and other writing inks. These were tested prior to humidification.
Even though the media was somewhat sensitive to water it felt OK to humidify these as long as I kept watch over them to make sure there was no media migration. I started with one telegram to see how it responded to humidification. When that went well the remaining items were put into the chamber for a few hours to relax. They were then dried under felts overnight.
Since these were very modern materials we decided to use our home-made heat set tissue for the repairs. These were stabilized and sent over to the Digital Production Center for imaging today.
It feels good to be working in the lab again, although a bit strange to be here with no one else around. Hopefully soon it will be safe enough to bring more of the Conservation staff back to the lab. Until then we will have to see each other in Zoom.
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
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.
Just before quarantine we got our new wall-mounted roll storage unit from the carpentry shop.
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.
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.
There were 261 wet books. These ranged from just damp to pretty wet. All were salvageable.
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.
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.
The damp books were set up on one of the lab tables with a fan.
Once the items were dry they were pressed for a few days to flatten them.
The books that were mostly flat but needed a bit of pressure were simply put under boards and bricks.
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.
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?
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.
I then set up the damp books in the fume hood to dry.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jovana Ivezic, our new Senior Conservation Technician, started work at the end of March just as we were settling into the Governor’s work from home order. Jovana comes to Duke from the Library of Congress where she was a library technician. There she performed a variety of repairs from new spines, paper repairs, and at least one very large post binding.
She housed over 2000 items from the LC Collections in the three years she was there. These skills will come in very handy once we are back onsite and we start making enclosures for our regular workflows and the Lilly Enabling project.
What is your favorite tool?
My favorite tool is a tie between a scalpel with a fresh blade and my small brass triangle.
What is your favorite treatment?
My favorite treatment is a new case, especially in a three-quarters style binding. Nothing more satisfying than giving a sad, beaten up book some new life.
What’s it like starting a new job during a worldwide pandemic?
I never thought I’d ever be starting a job in these kinds of circumstances, especially one that isn’t particularly conducive to teleworking. I will say I’ve enjoyed using the extra time in my apartment to get properly settled in, as well as catch up on readings and training videos I wouldn’t normally have the time to read/watch otherwise. I look forward to getting to work with my new coworkers and colleagues in person once we’re back on campus though, and to check out all the amazing food places I keep being told to try once the stay-at-home order is lifted.
Do you have a memorable treatment you can share?
Here you can see an oversized atlas from the Library of Congress’s Geography & Maps division.
Due to its extraordinary size, the acidic nature of its pages, and the fact that this atlas was a frequently handled item, I decided that a post binding was the best housing choice. A post binding allows for safer handling by patrons, while protecting the original material better than a regular clamshell or four-flap box ever could.
Every year we celebrate Equipment Day, the day the Schimanek board shear and book presses landed on our loading dock from Germany on April 9, 2003. Although the conservation unit was formed almost a year prior in July 2002, it’s April 9th that we celebrate becoming “a lab.” So depending on how you count, we are either 17 or 18 years old this year.
April 9th was a bit of a blur this year because we are all working from home. We were going to have a celebration that included a reception and an open house for the lab. Since we can’t do that together, we thought we would post our presentation here. The biggest piece of news this year is that we have surpassed the quarter-million mark for items coming through the lab since 2002.
And if you haven’t seen the lab, we have a video tour online.
Happy birthday to us. Stay safe. Be kind. Wash your hands.