All posts by Beth Doyle

Senior Conservation Technician Position Announced

Duke University Libraries seeks qualified applicants for the position of Senior Conservation Technician in the Verne and Tanya Roberts Conservation Lab. This position is an opportunity to work at a major ARL member library invested in the long-term care of and access to its collections. The successful candidate will demonstrate excellent hand skills, the capacity to learn new skills, customer focus, and creative problem solving. We seek candidates who will thrive in an open, engaging atmosphere that focuses on production, continuous learning, and sharing of knowledge among staff at all levels.

Major responsibilities include treating materials primarily from the circulating collections; creating custom enclosures for both circulating and special collections; overseeing the workflow of materials from circulation points in the Perkins-Bostock Library and the branch libraries; and training and oversight of student assistants. You can read the full position description and position requirements online. Candidates will be asked to submit examples of their work during the interview process.

Salary and Benefits: $18.77 per hour (minimum). Comprehensive benefits package upon eligibility includes vacation, 13 holidays, sick leave, health, dental, disability, life insurance, educational assistance, and tuition grants.

Duke University Libraries is actively committed to a culture of diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled.  Submit an electronic resume, cover letter, and list of references to: https://careers.duke.edu/.  Refer to requisition # 12878.

Spot the Difference

This letterpress book has been on our shelf for a very long time, too long admittedly. Mea Culpa. Letterpress books can be challenging. This one has paper as thin as Kleenex (TM) and as brittle as any mid-century newsprint. The iron gall ink has degraded and taken the substrate with it, leaving lots of tears, holes, and losses.

James Redpath was the Head of the Haitian Bureau of Emigration in Boston. I would tell you more about these letters but you literally cannot turn a page without breaking something. After a lot of consideration and consultation with Rubenstein Library we have decided the best thing to do with this item is digitize it so researchers can actually use it without destroying the original.

All the lovely brittle tissue paper you could ask for.
A little humidification can go a long way. More flattening is needed but taking this treatment slowly and in stages will yield a better result.

But before we can digitize it we need to flatten out some of the heavy creases to uncover the writing, and do some very minor stabilization so we can turn the pages without tearing off chunks of text. The goal is digitizing, not a full treatment. This book will still have page tears and losses when it leaves Conservation, but putting in hundreds of hours of conservation time to repair every tear, sinking letter, or loss isn’t practical or feasible. We want to get it ready for the camera, and help our camera operators handle it as safely as possible while they are turning the pages.

It feels good to have digitization in our toolbox as a way to increase access to this item. It will go from completely unusable to readable. What better outcome for a primary resource that is so fragile?

 

FY 2019: By the Numbers

It’s that time of year when we report our annual statistics to our administration. We thought we would share these with you, too.

839 Book Repairs (down 23% from last year)
1,439 Pamphlets (up 35%)
12 Treatments: Other (not reported last year)
2,434 Flat Paper (up 75%)
6,822 Protective Enclosures (up 14%)
13,966 Disaster recovery (up 21,067%)
34 Exhibit mounts (up 325%)
89.25 hours of time in support of exhibits (includes meetings, treatment, installation, etc.) (down 88%)
1,206 items repaired for digital projects (up 20%)
58 items repaired for exhibits (up 2%)
2 items repaired for multi-spectral imaging (not reported last year)

72% of total work was for Special Collections
28% of total work was for Circulating Collections

90% of work was Level 1 [less than 15 minutes to complete; 22,985 items]
9% of work was Level 2 [15 minutes – 2 hours to complete; 2,228 items]
1% of work was Level 3 [2 – 5 hours to complete; 280 items]
0% of work was Level 4 [more than 5 hours; 19 items]

Level 1 work was greatly skewed by the amount of mold removal we did for one Rubenstein project. For that project we removed mold from almost 13,000 sheets of paper. You can see that reflected in our 3-year trend.

The Lisa Unger Baskin Exhibit took a lot of our conservator’s time last year. The opening at Rubenstien Library was a huge success. We are preparing those materials for a loan to the Grolier Club later this year. We also did a significant number of Level 1 rehousings for two collections from Rubenstein Library. One was part of the mold-removal project, and the other was the boxing of the Curtis folio plates.

This year we also significantly changed our statistical reporting. We added a “Level 4” to the treatment levels. Until last year, Level 3 (over 2 hours) was as high as we parsed out complicated repairs. This year we decided that Level 3 would reflect 2-5 hour treatments, and Level 4 would reflect treatments over 5 hours. While statistically Level 4 treatments were zero, we did complete 19 of these repairs. We also started tracking the number of hours we spend doing administrative work such as meetings, curatorial reviews, training sessions, handling assistance, etc. This better demonstrates our cross-departmental work and shows how integrated we are in the larger library setting.

Other Things We Did Last Year

The most exciting thing about FY 2020 is that we will surpass the quarter-million mark for items sent to the lab. We are currently at 247,943 cumulative repairs/enclosures since FY 2003.

We hope you enjoy looking back at FY2019 as much as we did. We know FY 2020 holds a few interesting challenges including helping prepare the Lilly Library for renovation. We hope you will keep up with us through this blog and through our social media accounts. Happy FY 2020!

Intern Update: Getting It Done

It’s been a really busy two weeks for Garrette.  Her last day is next Friday, so we are trying to finish up projects and fit in any last minute training that we can.

Garrette has been working with the TRLN Disaster Interest Group team leads to research shared disaster recovery agreements, updated our training presentation, and has sent out a survey to TRLN libraries. The survey will help us understand our training needs and our readiness should disaster strike one of our consortium members.

Garrette attended the TRLN Annual Meeting last week. The meeting always starts with an inspiring speaker. This year the keynote was Dr. Louise Bernard, Director of the Museum of the Obama Presidential Center. Dr. Bernard discussed the thought processes behind designing the Obama Presidential Center and showed some preliminary site drawings. Her vision for this building and its programming is ambitious and on a scale not seen with other presidential libraries.

Garrette with Dr. Louise Bernard, Director of the Museum
of the Obama Presidential Center

We toured several conservation labs this week. We appreciate our colleague’s time and energy. It’s always fun to visit other labs and talk with conservators about their space and what they are working on. Not pictured is our visit to the N.C. Archives conservation lab. Emily Rainwater toured us through her space. We geeked out a little in their disaster supply room.

Garrette with Kesha Talbert, Associate Paper Conservator, Etherington Conservation Center (Browns Summit, NC).

 

Jennifer French, Objects Conservator, Garrette, and Paige Meyers, Textile Conservator, North Carolina Museum of History (Raleigh, NC).

Today we did a tabletop disaster recovery demo. Garrette and Kelli Stephenson, Coordinator in Access and Library Services, set up a recovery area for items that got wet in our imaginary pipe leak. They set up items for air drying, and prepped several for the freezer. We also learned how water soluble yellow highlighter can be.

Garrette and Kelli working on wet books and papers.

 

Garrette and Kelli get wet books into the freezer.

Garrette has also been spending a lot of time in the Lilly Locked Stacks identifying items that need enclosures. This building will be renovated soon, and we need to prepare the medium-rare materials for moving offsite during construction.

Flagging fragile items for enclosures.

Garrette is working on her final presentation that will cover what she did this summer. She is finishing up  work for digital imaging prep and the Ortiz posters. She is also learning how to make corrugated-clamshell boxes this week.

Garrette repairing posters from the Ortiz collection.

These seven weeks have flown by. One more to go. We are really impressed with how much work Garrette has accomplished so far.

Intern Update: Doing All The Things

As you recall, our intern’s first few days were a little hectic. Since our last post Garrette has learned how to repair manuscript materials for digitization, learned how to humidify and flatten architectural drawings, and continues to refine her boxing skills.

This week Garrette helped re-install the two Audubon double elephant folios in the exhibits suite. These were removed earlier in the year to make way for the “500 Hundred Years of Women’s Work” exhibit. It took four of us about an hour to reinstall these two volumes. The birds were greatly missed but they are back on display with new page openings.

Strapping a double elephant folio Audubon.

We toured the Library Service Center this week with colleagues from the University Archives and the Rubenstein Library. Earl Alston, LSC Access and Delivery Coordinator, gave us a behind the scenes tour of the stacks. Every time we visit LSC we are impressed with the amount of work the LSC staff do every day. It’s hard, physical labor that is mostly invisible to patrons.

Really big stacks at the LSC.

In the lab today we hosted a tour for our colleagues in the Digital Collections and Curation Services department. Garrette gave a terrific presentation on the humidification and flattening work that she is doing for the Duke Gardens collection. These are rolled drawings depicting the Garden’s hardscapes and greenscapes that show the evolution of Duke Gardens.

Garrette (R) showing colleague how to humidify and flatten architectural drawings.

Later this week we will tour the UNC-Chapel Hill conservation labs. We also have Garrette working on some disaster recovery projects for the Triangle Research Library Network as well. She is getting a good picture of what collections conservators do on a daily basis from treatment to disaster preparation to  meetings to surveys.

Welcome to Our New Intern: Garrette Lewis-Thomas

Our new intern, Garrette Lewis-Thomas, has arrived and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Garrette is our second HBCU Library Alliance conservation intern. Like last year, she will spend eight weeks with us learning everything from minor repairs to making heat set tissue to preparing materials for digitization.

Garrette is a student at Fisk University where she is studying psychology and sociology.  She works at the John Hope and Aurelia E. Franklin Library assisting the Access Services Desk. Her interest in John Hope Franklin fits in well with our collecting areas and we are excited to work with the Rubenstein John Hope Franklin Center to find some projects for her to work on.

Garrette folding boxes.

Day 1

The very first thing we did is take Garrette to a job talk by a candidate who applied for a library position. She got to see first hand what a job interview looks like in an academic library. The interview was at another location on campus, so she also got to learn how to get across campus during the summer on the bus. Day 1 was a little chaotic but it all worked out. She got a tour of a part of campus that we didn’t expect would happen on Day 1. It is a good reminder that not everything goes as planned.

Day 2

Day 2 brought another problem…something smelled terrible in the lab. It’s still unclear what the problem is or where it is coming from. Because we couldn’t be in the lab for any length of time we decamped to the Disaster Supply Room next door. We took the CoLibri machine in along with the newly-arrived shipment of vendor-supplied corrugated boxes. Garrette spent the day covering New & Noteworthy books and folding boxes. In the afternoon we hopped the bus to East Campus and toured through the Music Library and the Lilly Library. Lesson learned: there is always something to do to be productive even when you can’t get to your bench.

Day 3

It still smells in the lab, but it is getting better. Current theory: something dead is in the tunnels below the building and there isn’t anything we can do about it. We are airing out the lab and doing our best to ride this out. Garrette is  working on minor repairs and enclosures. We started the day in the Disaster Supply Room, but have moved back into the lab with all the fans running and doors open. Garrette has already proven to be very flexible, adaptable to change, and eager to learn. We can’t wait to see what the summer holds for her and for us.

Thanks to our supporters

These HBCU Library Alliance internships would not be possible without the help of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the University of Delaware College of Arts and Science, the Department of Art Conservation at the University of Delaware, and the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library (DE). Thanks also to Debbie Hess Norris and Melissa Tedone at the University of Delaware. A big thanks to We also wish to thank the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation for supporting this internship.

We will continue sharing more about this internship as it progresses, but for now: Welcome to Duke,  Garrette!

Turn It Up To Get It Flat

You remember we recently purchased a new suction table. Today we have the great honor of having Soyeon Choi, Head Conservator, Works of Art on Paper at the Yale Center for British Art here teaching us the tips and tricks to get the most from our new equipment.

Our colleagues Jan Paris and Rebecca Smyrl from UNC-Chapel Hill are here, as is Kesha Talbert form Etherington Conservation Center. We are all having fun and learning a lot from each other.

(L to R) Erin, Soyeon, Rachel, working out the kinks in vellum.
(L to R) Soyeon, Mary, and Jan flattening architectural drawings.
(L to R) Erin, Soyeon, Rachel, Mary, and Rebecca getting that paper flattened.

We have a bunch of discarded and found materials to work on. No actual collections are being tested today. This morning we are learning how to humidify and flatten vellum and paper. This afternoon we are talking about washing and stain reduction. It’s fun to have a day to learn new techniques and to share with our colleagues.

The Iceman Floweth

Last April we got our new freezer delivered. The first thing we did with it was to set up a table-top disaster situation* so our intern and new staff member could gain experience working with damp and wet books.

Sara (L) and Phebe (R) prepare items for the freezer.

 

Phebe (L) and Sara (R) recovering wet books.

That was back in July 2018. The books have been in the freezer since. This week I remembered them as I was working on this year’s internship schedule, so I went to get them out of the freezer. When I opened the door I saw this:

That is an official stalactite.

At some point a part broke, allowing the water drain to malfunction and create this frozen waterfall inside the freezer. The freezer was two weeks out of warranty (of course) but the awesome people at Fisher Scientific waived the repair fee, sent a repair person, and it is now fixed.

Lesson learned

If you don’t have a clear-glass door on your freezer, put a reminder on your calendar to look inside once in a while. We will now check inside the freezer once a month as part of our monthly staff meeting agenda.

 

*No actual library books were harmed during this experiment. 

May Day: Workers Unite to Update Your Disaster Plan

May Day 2019Happy May Day! Today is not just for dancing around the maypole and celebrating International Workers Day. May Day is also the traditional day to prepare for an emergency in your cultural institution. Are you ready?

Today we invite you to do one thing to prepare for an emergency. If you don’t know where to start, we have some ideas for you below and in previous posts. Put 15 minutes on your calendar and pick one thing to do today.

Do One Thing
  • Download the Heritage Preservation Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel iPhone app on your iPhone. It’s free!
  • If you don’t have a smart phone, buy a copy of the Field Guide to Emergency Response (Supplements here) and the Salvage Wheel (English) (Salvage Wheel in Spanish). Both the book and wheel are on sale. $25 buys you both.  These are excellent resources to help you get your disaster plan together and to respond to any emergency in your collections.
  • Check your disaster kit. Do you need to restock or replace anything? Do you have a pair of warm socks in there? Do your emergency clothes still fit? [trust me…you want to know this ahead of time]
  • Review your emergency phone tree. Are the correct people listed and the phone numbers still correct? If you don’t have a phone tree, make one today. List those critical people who need to be contacted first to get a recovery going. That might include the director, the communications director, the person who has the power to buy supplies on the spot, and a few people who can start the recovery process. It can be as simple as that. The Pocket Response Plan from the Council of State Archivists is a great customizable template and it fits in your pocket.
  • Review your disaster plan. What’s missing or needs updating? Are there people listed that don’t work there anymore? Have the phone numbers changed? You don’t have to make all of those changes today, but make an appointment on your calendar to do it…then DO it!
  • If you are not the one responsible for disaster planning or recovery in your institution, find out who is and ask for a copy of the disaster plan. And remember, if it is in electronic form, be sure to print out a copy and take it home. The internet doesn’t work when the power is out and cell phone towers are down.
  • Find local and state disaster resources. The Alliance for Response is a coordinated effort to provide training and information at the state level. Current networks include North Carolina. The American Institute for Conservation has several emergency planning guides and templates. 
  • And don’t forget you need a plan at home, too. The Red Cross has some good information on how to put a disaster kit together for your home and family and templates in English and Spanish to  help you create a family disaster plan.

It feels good to get that done, doesn’t it? Now, off to the maypole.