Category Archives: 1091 Project

1091 Project: 5 Days of Preservation

1091 graphicKevin Driedger, author of Library Preservation 2, had a brilliant idea to ask institutions with preservation and conservation responsibilities to post at least one picture a day this week on the theme, “This is what preservation looks like.” Everyone tagged their posts with #5DaysOfPreservation. Search the hashtag on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and you will see hundreds of images from across the country. He’s also collected the entries on a Tumbler.

For our contributions we divided the post responsibilities between Conservation, Preservation and the Digital Production Center. On Monday, we visited Conservation as they made custom enclosures for some very old pin cushions.

On Tuesday we visited Winston Atkins, Preservation Officer, as he was working on reconciling the just-ended fiscal year budget. As he reminded us, “What we do is administration, after all.” That is one of the hidden secrets of library preservation, we do a lot of paperwork, research, writing, program administration and attend a lot of meetings to gather information to help form our vision for the preservation program’s future.

On Wednesday, we went over to the Digital Production Center to see Zeke digitizing the Duke Chronicle, our campus student newspaper. This digital collection has proved to be one of our most successful projects, and more issues will be available soon.

Thursday we were back in the conservation lab with our student, Wolfgang, who was putting CoLibri (TM) covers on books from our New & Noteworthy collection. These covers protect the publisher’s dust jacket, are non-adhesive and take just a couple minutes to complete.

On Thursday we got two more posts from the Digital Production Center. Mike was working on preparing digital files for transfer into the Duke Digital Repository.

And Alex was working on reformatting videotape to preservation standards.

Friday was a flurry of activity. We found Beth and Rachel changing out the board shear blades in the conservation lab.

And finally we visit the not-so-attractive but vitally necessary job of insect monitoring.

Overall I think Kevin’s idea was a huge hit, and we should all do this again. So often preservation and conservation are hidden in basements or offsite, and I sometimes thing that even our own colleague may not know what we do every day. #5DaysOfPreservation demonstrates the wide variety of services we provide for our institutions and how we contribute to the accessibility of our collections. Let’s go see what Parks Library Preservation’s contributions were this week. What did you do post? Put your links in the comments.


1091 Project: Secret Lives of Conservation Labs

1091 graphicThis month on the 1091 Project we are talking tours. I recorded eight official tours so far this fiscal year. These included tours for library donors and prospective donors; the Library Council, a group of faculty that meet with the library’s Executive Group during the school year; and most recently to the Alumni Association during the annual Alumni Weekend. That tour consisted of about 20 people, but we have had as much as twice that on large tours.

Henry Wilhelm (right) and John Baty (yellow shirt) tour DPC.
Henry Wilhelm (right) and John Baty (yellow shirt) tour DPC. Alex (left), Zeke (back to camera) from DPC, and Atlas from Internet Archives explain their work.

We also give a lot of informal, spur of the moment tours that don’t make it to the “official” record. These tours are generally for new staff and interns, faculty and visiting scholars, and other interested individuals. This year we gave a tour for artist Bea Nettles, and Henry Wilhelm, of Wilhelm Imaging Research, and John Baty, a conservation scientist. Wilhelm and Baty also toured LSC and DPC.

Tours are  an important development tool. They are also a chance to educate people about the work we do, why the work is important and how it relates to the mission of the Library. I love to see people’s faces light up when they realize that you can wash paper or resew a book and make it whole again. Of course the best part is showing off our highly skilled and talented staff.

Bea Nettles talks books with Erin (left) and Tedd (right).
Bea Nettles talks books with Erin (left) and Tedd (right).

I know some labs include tours in their yearly stats. I report our big tours in our fiscal year report, but I don’t record every tour we give. I would love to hear your experience with documenting tours and/or how you report tours to your administration in your year-end reports.

Let’s head to Parks Library Preservation to see what they do with tour groups.




1091 Project: The Mold Edition

1091 graphic Mold and mold removal is a complex issue. Covering everything you should know about mold would take much more than this blog post. There are good references out there if you are interested in learning more.

Our stacks are fairly well controlled for both temperature and humidity so we don’t find mold growing in the stacks unless there has been an undetected environmental problem. Most often mold is identified during archival processing or at circulation points.

Since 2003 we have removed mold from over 5,900 library items. That number will rise significantly this year as I recently finished drying and cleaning over 1,800 items from a large manuscript collection.

Removing mold

For rare and archival items we will do what we can to clean any mold from the collection. Mold must be dormant before attempting to remove it. Small amounts of materials can be dried quickly in the fume hood. Larger amounts of wet materials are put in the freezer until both the paper and the mold are dry.

Once the mold is dry and powdery, the spores can be carefully removed from the paper’s surface either with a dry cleaning sponge or HEPA vacuum. You must be careful with these techniques since you don’t want to drive spores deep into the paper or damage the already weak paper by being too rough with it. Even after treating the surface spores, there may still be spores imbedded deep in the paper fibers. Staining can also be left due to the “biological output” of the mold. These stains may be difficult or impossible to remove. If necessary, after dry cleaning we may wash the paper in an alcohol/deionized water solution.

When we are finished cleaning an item, we apply a label to the box alerting our patrons to the fact the collection was moldy. We believe it is best practice to alert patrons so that they may determine their own best course of action when handling these materials. The library is happy to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and a mask if anyone is concerned about handling these materials.

mold label
Label alerts patrons and staff to the mold removal.

We will clean circulating items that have mold only on a few pages, or send them to the commercial bindery if the mold is isolated on the covers. If the mold is extensive we will talk to Collection Development to determine if a replacement can be purchased. If it cannot be replaced, we will treat it the best we can, or we may decide collaboratively to remove it from the collection because the damage is too great.

Mold health and safety

You can build up an allergy to mold and some of those allergies can be severe. To avoid that, we make sure we are protected from mold exposure as much as possible.

We work with very moldy items in our fume hood to reduce the risk of spores getting into the lab. We wear protective nitrile gloves and we make sure our face is protected by the fume hood sash. When the project is over, we clean our tools and the fume hood with soap and water, followed by an Isopropyl alcohol wash. We then thoroughly wash our hands.

Removal with sponge 2
Using a dry cleaning sponge to remove mold.*

Removal with vacuum 5
Using a HEPA vacuum and micro tools to remove mold.

If we are working on site somewhere, we wear protective gloves, N-95 respirators, and long-sleeved shirts and pants that can be washed in warm, soapy water. For extra protection, goggles can be worn to protect your eyes. It is best practice to always wear PPE when handling moldy materials.

*I know I’m not wearing gloves in the picture above. Don’t be like me.

How to prevent mold

Mold can thrive in a variety of environments, even in the Antarctic. To reduce the risk of mold in your collections:

  • Keep your papers and books in a cool and dry environment. This means keeping collections out of the attic, basement or shed, and away from leaking pipes or other water sources. Best practice is to keep temperatures from fluctuating beyond 5 degrees of your temperature set point, and keeping humidity within 5% of your humidity set point. For example: if your set points are 65 degrees F and 40% humidity, your environment would be between 60-70 degrees F and 35-40% humidity. Not always practical or possible, but aim for as stable an environment as you can.
  • Control the humidity. If you keep the humidity levels around 30-45%, chances are mold will find it difficult to thrive. Mold can grow in cool temperatures as long as the humidity is high enough (e.g. the veggie drawer in your fridge), so if you have to choose one set point to keep stable, humidity is the one to focus on if you are worried about mold growth.
  • Check in on your collections regularly to see if anything is amiss. While you are looking for potential mold growth, also look for signs of insects and rodents (chewing, droppings, bodies, etc.). Pests like the same conditions as that mold does.
  • For more information, see the NEDCC Preservation Leaflets.

No post about mold would be complete without my favorite moldy item that has come to Conservation. I am talking, of course, about the banana book. Isn’t it something to behold?


Let’s head over to Parks Library Preservation to see what sort of moldy things they have encountered.

1091 Project: Clean All The Things!

1091 graphicThis month on the 1091 Project we are talking trash…and dust bunnies and overflowing scrap bins and dirty sinks.

Conservation work requires a clean space. If you have a lot of dust and lint floating around it can get into your paste and under your repair tissue; overflowing scrap bins can make it hard to find a good piece of board to use for a project; and dirty sinks and lab ware just makes everyone crazy. Keeping the lab clean is necessary, even more so when you are adjacent to a construction zone and have a lot of fans and air scrubbers running.

Every day, Leon from Housekeeping comes and picks up the trash and does routine cleaning for us and we are grateful for his help. Even with this daily maintenance the dust bunnies can multiply under taborets and in corners. Last month at our staff meeting we decided to implement a  quarterly Lab Cleaning Day. To keep the labor equitable and to not stick the same person with the worst job every quarter, we divided the lab into six zones each with a checklist to complete. Each zone is assigned to one person, and that assignment will rotate each quarter.

The zones include:

  • Dirty room and encapsulation area
  • Main sink area including the long counter top and drying rack
  • Board shears, floor presses, and vertical board storage areas
  • Store room, photo doc room and vault
  • Locker area and two computer stations
  • Copier and CoLibri area, shared benches and the flat files with oversized supplies
The sink area before and after.
The sink area before and after.

In your zone you are responsible for thoroughly cleaning under things, in things, and around things. If you need to get on your hands and knees to do it (e.g. the dorm sized fridge where we keep our paste) or put in an hour of elbow grease (I’m looking at you, Mr. Sink), then get in there and “get it done.”

In addition to an assigned zone each person is responsible for tidying up their bench, taboret and side table areas. It’s a good time to go through your taboret and get rid of scraps and bits of things, tidy up your press boards, scrub your bench top and generally organize things around you.

Lab Cleaning Day does take time away from repairing materials. However, having a clean lab allows you to find supplies and tools easier and reduces stray fibers and dirt in your past. A clutter-free lab also makes you feel better about coming to work.

Let’s head over to Parks Library Preservation and see their solutions for keeping their lab space clean and tidy.

Look at the shine on the sink!
Look at the shine on the sink! I should have taken a before picture. Trust me, it was black with PVA and paste, ick!





1091 Project: Looking Ahead To 2014

1091 graphicHappy New Year from the 1091 Project. This month we are looking at the year ahead and discussing what is looming on our horizons. Maybe we will make a resolution or two for good measure.

As many of you know the library is undergoing a renovation that is slated to be finished in 2015. Conservation is literally on the other side of the construction site’s wall. So far we have endured one major leak due to a severed water pipe and one minor leak due to a clogged drain. Right now we are listening to the dulcet tones of the hoe ram as it breaks up bedrock. My wish for this new year is that we get through the next 18 months with no more major incidents.

As part of the 2015 grand opening celebration we will be helping to install a major exhibit for the Rubenstein Library. Decisions are already being made about the materials that will go into the exhibit. We will be pulling these items soon to start the evaluation and treatment process. The exhibit spaces in the library will also be expanding as part of the renovation. As a result, we will see an increased demand in exhibit preparation services and we will need to make sure resources are in place to accommodate this workflow.

Pincers from the HOM instruments collection.

We have a couple of large boxing projects on the horizon. Similar to the re-boxing of the papyri, these will be long-term projects that we will do over the course of multiple Boxing Days. One such project is the continued boxing of items from the History of Medicine’s instruments and artifact collection. These are always fun to work with, if not a bit frightening.

We have a couple of in-house training sessions planned that focus on deacidification and washing techniques that staff have learned either through attending workshops or through their research. These techniques give us the opportunity to work on materials that we may not have treated in the past due to the lack of a sound treatment protocol.

The other rapidly expanding workflow on our horizon is digital project preparation. Erin is in charge of coordinating this workflow with the Digital Production Center and the library’s new Digital Projects Coordinator. We need to determine our capacity for evaluating and treating materials slated for digitization, and strategize ways to respond to an increase in this workflow as that program expands.

We have one very exciting top-secret project we are working on that I am not at liberty to make public quite yet. Stay tuned for an announcement later in the spring. Let’s see what 2014 holds for Parks Library Preservation.

1091 Project: Student Perspectives, pt. 2

1091 graphicThis month on the 1091 Project we hear from our student assistant, KellyNoel Waldorf, who started in Conservation as part of the enabling project. We were lucky enough to get her to stay on and continue working after that project was finished. She has been a great addition to our team and we love having her in the lab.

Written by KellyNoel Waldorf, Conservation Student Assistant

I dig my headphones from the recesses of my backpack, drop my bag into a locker, and press play on the new Mumford album. I let the music fill up my mind and my hands glide over the familiar tasks of collecting tools, snapping in a fresh scalpel blade, shaping boards and paper into folders, envelopes, binders, and boxes. For the next two hours I can relax.

As a senior at Duke University, a Linguistics and International Studies double major studying Spanish and German and working on a creative writing thesis, it seems that every minute of my day is scheduled.  At work I don’t have to think about homework or job searches, meetings or finances. I get to work with my hands and listen to music, audio books, or TV re-runs. By the end of two hours I’ve picked out my favorite songs from the album and I’ve got a nice stack of old books freshly housed in tuxedo boxes. It’s gratifying. Holding the tangible evidence of a finished job gives me a weird sense of accomplishment.

KellyNoel foldering brittle newspapers.

Three years ago I was looking through library positions and stumbled across the conservation posting. At first, I was hired to work on the Enabling Project (moving the Rubenstein Rare Books collection before impending renovations). I spent hours in the stacks sorting through books and discovering some of the hidden gems of the extensive collection. As the geek that I am, I felt cool about being one of the last people to ever work in the rare books rooms or to ride the creepy old elevator hidden among the Rubenstein stacks.

Eventually I moved down to the lab and started working on more hands-on projects. One of my favorites was a binder project housing old newspapers. When I started it was slow and I could only make a couple of binders in my shift. After about 200 hundred of them I was making stacks at a time. I would continue working with newspapers in a boxing project. For months there were endless carts of newspapers, I thought we would never see the end of them. Finally we boxed our last paper and I internally rejoiced. I had gone through several seasons of Buffy on that single project.

As a lover of languages, writing, poetry, and books, I am delighted by some of the pieces that my co-workers show me in the lab. My favorite discovery is Duke’s extensive Walt Whitman collection. My mild obsession with transcendentalist literature was intensified when I got to look at notes that were hand written by Whitman himself.

Let’s head over to Parks Library Preservation to hear from one of their student assistants

1091 Project: Student Perspectives (pt. 1)

1091 graphicThis month on the 1091 Project we are talking about one of our greatest assets, our student assistants. Like most academic departments, we hire students to help with the day-to-day operations of the lab. We usually have two students who work a total of twenty hours per week during the school year. Occasionally we hire extra students during the year if special projects come up. We have talked before about what we look for in student assistants and the work they do. This month we will discuss how we advertise openings, and the process of hiring and training students.

How We Find Students

Every institution’s hiring workflow is different. We use a campus-wide system to enter critical job details such as the position description, rate of pay, location, hours and supervisor. Once approved, the open position displays on the Library’s jobs website. I also post the positions to DukeList, a Duke-community-only bulletin board.

KellyNoel making special enclosures for large objects. KellyNoel started during the renovation project.

Getting hired in Conservation is not a first-come-first-hired endeavor. I invite students in for a 15-20 minute interview. I give them a tour of the lab and explain what we do, what our students do, and introduce them to the person who will train them and manage their work.

I then sit them down to ask questions as you would with any job applicant:

  • What skills and experience do you have that would be transferable to this position?
  • Do you have any job experience or hobbies that would demonstrate good eye-hand coordination and attention to detail?
  • Do you have experience in a job wherein the work is repetitive but you have to pay close attention?

I want to figure out if they will show up on time, quickly learn the ropes, and be able to work independently but be willing to ask questions if they are stuck. I also try to figure out if they will be a good personality fit. An open lab means you have to work side-by-side with a lot of different people and you need to be able to negotiate that dynamic.


I generally leave the training to Mary, one of our senior technicians. She  shows the students where to pick up materials, how to do the rough sort, and how to separate out the shelf-preparation work from the repairs and put them on the appropriate shelves. She also demonstrates how to make various enclosures and pockets, how to do the minor repairs, and what to do with completed work.

Aaron is our newest student. He’s learning how to make four-flap enclosures and sort materials into the workflow.

New students take a few weeks to learn the job, but once they have it we allow them to work fairly independently. We check in regularly to see how they are doing and ask if they have any questions. By the time they are with us for a couple semesters, the students come in, take the work from the shelves and complete it without much oversight other than to convey special project instructions or to follow up on quality control issues.

Training students takes time but it pays off. We rely on their expertise to get a lot of work done and trust them to do a good job. We also get to know them as people and get to cheer them on as they hit academic and personal milestones. Without our students we would get far less done for the library.

Let’s head over to Parks Library Preservation to see their perspective on student assistants.

1091 Project: Conservation By The Numbers

1091 graphicThis month on the 1091 Project we are talking statistics. We collect conservation statistics based on the ARL Preservation Statistics.* These are divided into three levels: Level 1 conservation projects take less than 15 minutes to complete; Level 2 projects take 15 minutes to 2 hours; and Level 3 projects take more than 2 hours to finish.

*ARL Preservation Statistics are no longer collected, but there is a new effort to revise and collect preservation statistics through ALA-PARS. This new system may change what kind of data we collect in the future.

Fiscal Year 2012-2013 Statistics

Last year 20,547 library items came through Conservation. The numbers break down in this way:

2,010 books repaired
2,186 pamphlets bound
638 flat paper repairs
13,383 protective enclosures (includes 2,971 CoLibri book jackets)
2,287 items recovered from mold/water
114 exhibit mounts (70 hours of installation support)

61% of the work came from special collections
39% of the work came from the circulating collections

51.9% were Level 1 projects
48% were Level 2 projects
A small number were Level 3 projects

Total production was about the same as last year, but we did additional work for the renovation project that is not reflected in the above numbers.

Renovation Statistics

Regular readers know we did a lot of work last year to help move our special collections to swing space in preparation for the renovation of the 1928 stacks where the Rubenstein Library is located. Most of this work centered around making enclosures for fragile materials.


64% of the enclosures were envelopes, 10% were four-flap boxes, and the remaining were a variety of enclosures with some mold removal thrown in for good measure.

We also provided training for Rubenstein Library staff and students who did a lot of enveloping; we conducted several collection condition surveys to determine enclosure needs and estimate supply budgets; we hired and trained several conservation student assistants to help make enclosures and envelope fragile materials; and we helped with the security shifts during the actual move of the collections.

Recognizing Trends

The most interesting thing to me about collecting statistics is tracking trends over time. You can easily see how big projects, changes in staffing and shifting priorities can effect your department.


I use these statistics to plan short and long term goals, develop new initiatives, and to make sure we have the right staff and skill sets to meet changing demands.

Let’s see what data Parks Library Preservation collects and how they use their data to inform departmental priorities.

1091 Project: Track All The Things!


1091 graphic

This month on the 1091 Project we look at how we track materials that come to the lab. It’s important to know what is here both for project management as well as for staff who may be looking for an item.

We track items from both general collections and special collections. We use different methods depending on where the materials are coming from.

General Collections

We use our integrated library system, ALEPH, to track materials from the general (circulating) collections. When books come to the lab we scan the bar code and change the “item process status” (IPS) to “PV.” A preservation status shows up in both the staff view as well as the online catalog. We have other IPS code for materials we send for commercial binding (BD), commercial boxing (PB), reformatting (PR) and disaster recovery (PX).

When the item process status is changed to PV, the item record displays as either “preservation” or “being repaired.”

Special Collections

We have an ALEPH-IPS for special collections (PS) as well. Now that we have implemented AEON in the Rubenstein Library reading room, we have been using the AEON workflow function to indicate when items come to the lab.

We still use an Excel-based lab log to keep track of special collections items as they come and go from the lab. Our database has more information than what we is in AEON including who is working on the project and how many treatment hours the project took.

lab log
The lab log is an Excel spreadsheet with a unique identification number, call number, bar code and other information.

It’s a belt-and-suspenders workflow but there is no perfect software/system yet that tracks everything we need to track. There are some products for the museum world that come close, and a couple others that are more library-based in the works, but nothing has yet risen to the top in terms of cost/benefit. If you are interested in a discussion of these systems, see the write up on the Conservators Converse from this year’s session at the AIC annual meeting.

Vault Inventory Day

At least twice a year we hold a vault inventory day where we compare our lab log and AEON with what is in our vault. Today happens to be that day!

Photo 1(6)
Checking the lab log against the physical objects in the vault.

We are working through our spreadsheet making sure that what the lab log says is here is actually physically here. Inventories always bring up something, whether it is an item that was returned but not noted in the lab log, or a project that has stalled and needs to get back on the front burner. We take this time to resolve discrepancies so that we know the lab log is correct.

If you work in a lab, what system do you have in place to track materials? Parks Library has their own system, be sure to check out their 1091 post.


1091 Project: Whither the Weather?

1091 graphicToday on the 1091 Project we bring you a weather reminder. Over the past several weeks we have had so much rain that we are out of a drought for the first time in three years. That’s a lot of rain. It didn’t come without a hitch.

You get to know your building pretty well and when it starts to rain you check the usual problem areas. During our recent downpours we had a few drips in the lab resulting, we think, from a clogged roof drain on the second floor. Of course, a few weeks ago a roof hatch was open when it rained, causing a leak on an upper floor.

Rain is just one element that we watch carefully. When the humidity levels are high in the summer or very low in winter, the air pulled into the HVAC system can affect the conditions in the stacks. We try to work with our Facilities department to mitigate the swings as much as possible within the system capabilities. Sun and wind are issues to keep an eye out for as well. We installed window shades in our exhibit space to reduce the sunlight entering the gallery. And this time of year we keep watch on hurricanes that come up the North Carolina coast that have the potential to drift inland bringing rain and damaging winds. The Duke Marine Lab Library on the eastern coast is especially vulnerable during hurricane season since it sits on a barrier island.

Bostock Library, Duke University
A beautiful early summer day on the patio between Perkins and Bostock libraries.

Of course, on a day as lovely as today you don’t think much about the problems the weather can cause for the library. Not that I’m complaining, but it is hard to return to the basement after your coffee break outside on such a glorious day.

Let’s travel west to see what the weather is like in Iowa at Parks Library Preservation.