All posts by Beth Doyle

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.

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.

 

Welcome Jovana!

Jovana Ivezic, Senior Conservation Technician

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.

What Day is it? It’s Equipment Day!

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.

Last One Out Turn Off the Lights

Due to Covid-19, Duke University Libraries decided to close on March 20, 2020. We are working from home until further notice.

Before we left the lab, we made sure our collections disaster plan was up to date. We have several versions of this plan.

  • A traditional long-form plan that many of you have. If you don’t have one, here’s some help in writing one.
  • A one-page “get started” plan with critical phone numbers and first-steps to take during an emergency. We keep several copies of this in our disaster closet for grab-and-go.
  • A Pocket Plan with a complete phone tree on one side, and first-steps on the other. This is handy for when the power goes out, and when you just need to find a phone number fast.
image of Pocket Plan
DUL Pocket Collections Response Plan. Good to have when the power goes out.

We coordinated with Rubenstein Library to take the materials we were working on back to the secure stacks. This posed an excellent use of several sheets of delaminating corrugated board that we have squirreled away in our supply closet.

book trucks to return
Book trucks labeled and headed back to the secure stacks.

Before leaving we called the head of procurement for Duke Medical Center to ask if we could donate our PPE including N95 masks and nitrile gloves. They came over in about ten minutes to pick these up. I wish we had more to give.

N95 masks and gloves for donation
Not much, but every one counts.

With that, we were off to try this work-from-home thing. So far, it is going OK. Best part is that many of us finally have an offices with windows. It might be difficult to return to the basement.

Stay home if you can. Stay well. Be kind. Wash your hands often. See you soon.

Is This a Bookmark? Or Did You Forget Something?

Did you know there is a World Bookmark Day? Neither did we. But it’s never too late to celebrate with some of our favorite bookmarks.

The latest in the lab could serve a dual purpose:

What’s hiding in here?
It’s a pencil!

Some enterprising person raided the pantry for this entry:

Why not spaghetti?

At least this one you can read through:

Glass weight? I see what you did there.

Feeling lucky?

Four leaf clover. Lucky us!

And our all time favorite…The Banana Book!

Anyone hungry?

 

Working From Home Options for Conservation Labs

As the Covid-19 virus spreads, we have started planning for work that Conservation staff can do at home should we be told to stay off campus. As of this publication we have not been asked to stay home but preservation professionals prepare for the worst and hope for the best. This has been a thought provoking exercise and everyone has contributed to our brainstorming.

We wanted to share what we have drafted to date in case any other labs are in a similar situation. These discussions are also happening on the AIC Community discussion boards and on social media. If you have other ideas, please share in the comments. A big thank you to Kristen St.John at Stanford for the original idea and letting us run with it.

Professional Development

AIC Connecting to Collections webinars (free)

AIC Collections Care self-study options (from free to $89)

AIC self-study courses for Heritage Responders (free)

LinkdIn Learning (aka Lynda) (many academic libraries have free access)

ALCTS YouTube channel (free)

Rare Book School YouTube channel (free)

NEDCC Preservation 101 online self-study (free)

NEDCC Preservation Leaflets (free)

NASIG Youtube Channel (free)

Diversity and Equity in Conservation

AIC/FAIC Youtube Channel (a lot of C2C videos, plus more) (free)

UCLA History of the Book website (free)

Preservation of Plastic Artifacts conference

Syracuse Brodsky Series lectures (PDF transcripts are here) (free)

Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services Youtube page (free)

Image Permanence Institute webinars (free)

CCAHA webinars (free)

Guild of Book Workers Standards Seminars (free for one month!)

Departmental service

Market/vendor research

Technical research

Review/update documentation

Review/update shared workflows (collaborate with other units)

Draft blog posts

Clean out/organize your email and shared drive files

Create futons

Update your contact info in the disaster plan

Cross training with other departments

Professional service

Prepare presentations or work on research papers/posters

Book and Paper Group wiki contributions (Wiki main page)

Add entries of storage solutions to Stash-C

Contribute to Linked Data projects

Host a virtual “unconference” for a focused but informal online discussion on a certain topic. See “How To Run A Free Online Academic Conference: A Workbook (version 0.1)” [credit Sarah Reidell, Penn Libraries]  This could include a department wide virtual meeting to discuss a reading, video, etc.

Skills/Individual Development

Write end of year performance evaluations (it’s that time of year afterall)

Create a book model that you haven’t learned before, or explore sewing structures you haven’t learned before, etc.

Apply for AIC professional membership (Fellow)

Learn to Wash Your Hands

WHO hand washing guide
World Health Organization

 

Johns Hopkins video based on WHO recommendations:

 

Create your own Handwashing Meme.

baby shark washing hands poster
Wash your hands, doo doo do do to do

 

Did you know singing the refrain from the School House Rock Constitution Preamble episode takes just over 20 seconds (the recommended length of time to wash your hands with soap and water).

And the Preamble goes like this:

We the people,
In order to form a more perfect union,
Establish justice, insure domestic tranquility,
Provide for the common defense,
Promote the general welfare and
Secure the blessings of liberty
To ourselves and our posterity
Do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

For the United States of America…

We Call Them “Naked Bindings”

It’s #WorldBookDay today and we are highlighting some books that have come through recently from Technical Services.

There seems to be a new trend in publisher’s bindings: the exposed-spine binding. We call them “naked bindings” because they lack part of their cover. There’s even a subject heading for this kind of binding called “Backless Bindings (binding).”

Born naked…not ready for the shelf.
Similarities and Differences

There are a few things they have in common:

  • Folded signatures
  • Sewn-through-the-fold
  • Adhesive layer on spine
  • Very flexible spine, opens flat

Variations include:

  • Papers are either calendered or not
  • Thread color can be single color or multi-color
  • Adhesive layer can be very thin (almost invisible) to very thick; sometimes unevenly applied
  • Covers are commonly chip board or binders board, but some are a heavy paper much like a paperback.
  • Cover attachments seem to be either tipped onto the first and last flyleaf, or a doublure attachment. Occasionally you find one that has a doublure with a sewn-on binders-board cover (this must be the “Mercedes of Exposed Spine Bindings”)

One commonality: these are very weak bindings especially those with tipped-on covers, loose sewing, and unevenly applied adhesive.

The Best of the Bunch

It feels like publishers and/or authors simply choose this style of binding because it feels edgy.  But when this style of binding is chosen thoughtfully, it can really work. The best of this batch has to be “Hilos Libres: el textil y sus raíces prehispánicas, 1954-2017 = free threads : textile and its pre-Hispanic roots, 1954-2017” by Sheila Hicks. This books was, “Published on the occasion of the exhibition held at Museo Amparo, Puebla, from November 4th, 2017-April 2nd, 2018.”

Why does this binding work for this book? The book is about a textile exhibit. The exposed threads, multi-colored thread choice, and loose threads on the front cover all relate in some way to the textiles highlighted in the text block and textile artistry.

Nice thread choice.

 

Lovely loose ends on the front cover.

 

Happy little sewing in the middle of a section.

The covers are fully adhered to a doublure, and that section is sewn onto the textblock. This creates a very stable and secure cover attachment. Overall it is a solid binding whose design connects to the contents of the book.

Straight Out of Coptic

These are obviously machine-sewn edition bindings but they hark back in my head to Coptic bindings with a nod towards the Sewn Board Binding originally designed by Gary Frost (which itself gives nod to Coptic bindings).

Coptic binding models.

These exposed spine bindings lay really flat because they don’t have all those pesky spine linings to control the opening. They are very vulnerable to rough handling because the binding has no protection and the board attachment is really weak.

Everyone Gets an Enclosure

This group of “Backless bindings” will have custom four-flaps created to protect the bindings. If these were special collections items we might consider a “peekaboo” box that allows the spine to be seen on the shelf. But since these are in the circulating collections, we will give them a standard four-flap enclosure or corrugated clamshell box. These provide a bit more protection from handing and reduce light exposure.

Happy #worldbookday everybody!

Look it Up! The Encyclopedia Britannica 11th Edition

By Mary Yordy, Senior Conservation Technician

Encyclopedia Britannica Eleventh Edition adverstisement
1913 advertisement for the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition from Penny’s Poetry Pages.

Unlike millions of old reference works in declining bindings, the 11th Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, published in 1910, has a following. Veneration of this edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica spans beyond libraries and the antiquarian book trade into popular culture.  A. J. Jacobs writes about it in his book The Know-It-All, and Hans Koning, powerhouse of New Left thought, published an eloquent meditation on the world view reflected in its pages. It is discussed as THE GREAT 11th EDITION, listed alongside the works of Heidegger, Camus, and Fukuyama as one of the 100 most important non-fiction works of the 20th Century. Two websites are devoted to 11th Edition fandom. There is even a fingernail polish.

People who praise the 11th Edition Encyclopedia Britannica point to the illustriousness of the contributors, the profusion of beautifully written biographical entries with odd, sometimes questionable details (Pedro I of Portugal disinterred his dead mistress and placed her remains on the throne of the queen, Potemkin died “…in consequence of eating a whole goose in one sitting,” etc., etc…) or the detailed, illustrated accounts of manufactures, engineering, and natural history. But the veneration of this work is more diffuse and more adoring than these particularities account for. Hans Koning writes:

“The world of the Eleventh Edition was at the zenith of those ‘encyclopedic’ prerequisites, rationality and positivism. All of humanity appeared to be on the threshold of being totally understood, described, improved, and then perfected, through the logic of Anglo-American institutions and thought…it was the high point of the Enlightenment, doomed to end when the lamps went out all over Europe in the fatal summer of 1914.”

Page on bookbinding from Encyclopedia Bryitannica
Our favorite Encyclopedia Britannica chapter.

Kelly Lawton of Lilly Library had come across a single volume I repaired in the early 2000’s and asked Beth Doyle if it could be used as a model for repair of the remaining numbers in their original bindings. This repair had retained the section sewing and the boards but replaced the badly degraded leather spine and heavy, brittle end sheets. My goal had been to make it robust enough to be handled as part of the circulating collection without unduly sacrificing original components. Fortunately, the technician, the end sheet paper and the black book cloth involved in the process that produced that successful repair were still available to create a matched set.

Within the week a large bin arrived and the project began. I used a combination of poulticing and manual manipulation to remove the degraded leather on the spines and the pastedowns on the inside of the covers. This was perhaps the biggest mess I have ever made in the lab, and required a thorough cleaning of tools and work surfaces each night.  There were piles of degraded leather crumbles and dust, globs and slurries of poultice, all haunted by the distinctive odor of old animal hide adhesive. Poultices had to be watched closely because some of the remaining leather glued to the back still contained green pigment that jeopardized the section backs of sheer white ‘India paper.’

Books repaired and boxed, ready for quality control.
Repaired and new housings…ready for shelf.

 

repapaired Encyclopedia
Repaired and ready for its next reader.

Once all 14 volumes were clean, backed and fitted with new end sheets, I reused the original embossed covers in a case structure and filled my press with the newly cased Encyclopedia Britannica volumes.