Category Archives: 1091 Project

1091 Project: Training, Not Just For Athletes

Welcome to the 1091 Project, a collaborative blogging endeavor between the conservation labs at Duke University Libraries and Iowa State Libraries. Today we are highlighting the kinds of training we do that supports the long-term preservation of our materials.

Care and Handling Training

Conservation Services provides training in both informal and formal ways. We are often contacted by Technical Services for advice on proper handling or housing procedures for fragile materials. Sometimes we get a call from the reading room requesting our help to show a patron how to turn fragile pages or unfold brittle documents.

Care and Handling Training (2009)

Conservation offers annual Care and Handling sessions for staff and student assistants. We usually offer multiple sessions in multiple locations to catch as many people as possible. For those unable to attend we put PDF’s of the handouts and Power Point slides on our intranet site (Duke NetID required).

In these sessions participants learn how to identify damaged materials and what the process is to send them to Conservation. We also demonstrate proper handling techniques such as shelving spine down, how to safely remove books from the shelf, and packing book trucks and mail bins for transport. Because of the current renovation projects we may not be able to offer on-site training this year. To that end, I’ve updated our handouts and Power Point presentations and will make sure student supervisors know where to find them.

New Directions

We are investigating the use of short videos as a fresh and fast way to get information to our patrons, staff and students. This is our first video in the series. What do you think? What sorts of videos would you want to see or show to your patrons?

Other Training
We do a lot of other training, too:

  • We participate in the disaster preparedness and recovery training sessions offered by the Preservation Department.
  • We work with the staff in the Digital Production Center and the Internet Archives to make sure they are comfortable handling fragile materials during digitization. Sometimes we will actually help during imaging for particularly fragile or delicate items.
  • We train our Conservation student assistants and volunteers on how to repair materials and make enclosures.We couldn’t be successful without them!
  • We train ourselves, too. Each month before our staff meeting we hold a Tips Session. If we discover a neat tool, or come up with a creative solution to a problem, we demonstrate it to the entire lab staff. These session are fun, fast and foster a lot of conversation and brain storming.

Let’s go see what training Parks Library Preservation does. Please share your training regimen or ideas for videos in the comments.

1091 Project: AIC Annual Meeting And The 1091 Project

This month on the 1091 project we look back to last week’s American Institute of Conservation’s Annual Conference. Melissa Tedone from Iowa State University (and co-conspirator of the 1091 Project) and I were part of a panel discussion called Communicating Conservation. The panel was put together by Nancie Ravenel from the Shelburne Museum and included myself, Melissa, Heidi Sobol from the Royal Ontario Museum, and Rosa Lowinger, conservator in private practice. A brief synopsis of the panel can be found on Conservators Converse thanks to Rose Cull.

Our presentation covered what social media we use, why we use it, our audiences, what assessment tools we use, and what good ideas we have developed including the 1091 Project. I want to share some of my observations from the discussion.

Mission Matters

Questions were raised: Is blogging “education” or “outreach”? Should we highlight our own work or should we teach best practices to the public? Are we talking to clients or to colleagues? I think we do all of the above to various degrees depending on our mission.

Duke University’s main mission is education. The Library’s mission is to support faculty and student research. Our Department’s mission is to make our resources available both now and in the future. We use social media to demonstrate to our library, university and the public how we support both the Library’s and the University’s missions. We also use these platforms to educate the public, and to have conversations with colleagues so that we, too, can learn and improve our programs.

This may not be the same mission as a conservator in private practice or someone who works in a museum and their use of social media may differ because of that. I do think there are many similarities in our missions and certainly the communication between colleagues is made easier through social media. Knowing your mission and your audience is key to successful blogging.

Audience: Intended and Real

Because the lab is in the lower level of our building behind a secured door our work sometimes feels secretive and hidden. When we first started this blog we wanted to show our library colleagues what we do and how we connect to their work and the library as a whole. The analysis of our stats showed that while we were being read by a few people within our library (mostly other bloggers), we were mainly being read by our conservation colleagues and the public.

This analysis lead to questions:

  • How can we increase our readership within our library (beyond other bloggers)?
  • How can we collaborate more with our colleagues across the country?
  • What information should we be providing for the public?
  • How do we serve all these readers in an effective and engaging way?

The first bullet point I’m still trying to improve. We are successfully blogging collaboratively with Devil’s Tale. Our “What’s In The Lab” series has been popular and allows both Devil’s Tale and Preservation Underground to reach new audiences.

The 1091 Project is a successful example of how we can collaborate with colleagues dispersed across a wide geographical area. I would love to hear ideas on how we can expand this collaborative blogging effort even further.

We provide information on best practices for preserving personal collections especially during Preservation Week. Our posts generally highlight what it is conservators do and I think simply presenting our projects is interesting to a wide variety of audiences.


Still running through my mind is the issue of feedback. Melissa and I both receive a lot of great comments via email after each post. While we love to have these conversations privately, the point of social media is the online conversation between people. How can we encourage more feedback to our blogs? What kinds of posts would you like to see that would prompt more conversation?

There is much more to say and talk about and it was really fun to work with Melissa and the rest of the panel in person! Read Melissa’s post on Parks Library Preservation and for more conference coverage read updates on  Conservators Converse and Preservation and Conservation Administration News (full disclosure, I am co-editor and author of PCAN).


1091 Project: Digitization and Conservation

Welcome to this month’s 1091 Project wherein Parks Library Preservation and Preservation Underground talk about how we collaborate with our respective digitization programs.

Where Digitization Happens

At Duke Libraries digitization happens in three departments:

  1. Winston Atkins, head of the Preservation Department, advises on and coordinates preservation reformatting projects for both born digital collections and analog materials (especially non-print materials such as moving image).
  2. The staff in the Digital Production Center (DPC) is part of the Digital Scholarship and Production Services Department headed by Liz Milewicz. DPC digitizes print, manuscript and A/V materials for both library-driven projects and individual patron requests. They use a variety of imaging hardware in their workflow, choosing the appropriate one based on the size, condition and type of material they are imaging.
  3. Internet Archive has one operator and overhead-scanning equipment on site to digitize print materials from special collections.

Conservation Services works to some extent with all three of these workflows to be sure our materials are safe and in good condition for imaging.

Louisa Whitman letter, before treatment
Louisa Whitman letter before digitization and conservation treatment.

Project Evaluation Prior To Imaging

We review projects under consideration for digitization to be sure the materials are stable enough for reformatting. We meet with DPC and library staff to look at the collection (or a representational portion of it if it is very large) to determine what kind of materials they are, what their condition is, and what treatment may be needed prior to digitization.

Treatment Before And After Imaging

Our main concern is that damaged materials are stabilized prior to reformatting so they can be handled without further deterioration. The most common problems that we treat before imaging include:

  • page tears or losses
  • mis-folds or detached pieces of fold-outs
  • loose or detached pages
  • old repairs (if they obscure text)
  • uncut pages
  • old Mylar encapsulations sealed with tape

We don’t normally fix binding problems such as loose or missing spines or boards until after imaging if the book can be handled carefully as is. But if we feel a book should be repaired first, we will consult with the librarians and decide on a treatment plan prior to sending it to DPC.

After imaging we will do any repairs or put those items into our repair request database to do at a later date. We will also provide a custom enclosure for anything that is fragile or needs protection, just as we would for any other treatment in the lab.

Removing old, taped encapsulations.

An example of a pre-imaging workflow is the ongoing broadside project. Decades ago it was standard practice to tape the edges of the broadsides to protect them from tearing (we obviously don’t do that anymore). Over the years, the adhesive has made the paper very brittle, yet it is still sticky. DPC cannot image through Mylar so the old, double-stick tape encapsulations must be removed. Because of time and resource limitations we do not remove the old tape, but we do repair any heavily damaged broadsides with paste and Japanese tissue so that they are in one piece and readable. When DPC is finished with them, we re-encapsulate the taped broadsides with our ultrasonic welder so that they do not stick to other broadsides in the folder (no more tape!).

Collaboration During Imaging

The Internet Archive is scanning an incredible number of items every day. The most often requested repairs for this workflow is cutting pages that were never cut by the publisher, or reattaching a loose page. We try to turn these around quickly to keep this workflow moving, especially if it is a patron request.

Sometimes a page or fold-out will get torn or come loose during scanning or a book is discovered to have uncut pages. DPC will bring it next door and we will quickly turn these repairs around so we don’t hold up their workflow.

Imaging Ethiopic scrolls.

Sometimes the materials themselves pose a handling challenge and we will help physically handle the books or manuscripts during imaging. Digitizing the Ethiopic scrolls is a good example of this sort of collaboration. Because these vellum scrolls were so long they could not be imaged in one shot, and they were so tightly wound that they  would roll up on their own if not weighted down.We had to devise a method to hold sections of the scrolls open while also allowing us to unroll and re-roll as we digitized.


As you can imagine there is a huge volume of materials being imaged every day here in the basement of the library. Because there is so much going through DPC and Internet Archive, we simply cannot review every binding or manuscript page prior to imaging. We work very closely with the staff to be sure that they know what sort of damage to look for, how to handle fragile materials, and when to ask for assistance. We want them to feel that they have the information they need to safely handle materials, and in turn we trust their judgment to know when they should come next door to see us. I think we have a really good working relationship in this way.

Please visit Parks Library Preservation to see how they collaborate with digital projects.

1091 Project: Making Enclosures

This month the 1091 project is all about enclosures. Boxes. Wrappers. Tuxedos. Clams. You name it, we make it. In fact, last fiscal year we fitted or made over 8,500 enclosures. We love boxes so much we created Boxing Day, which has grown to two days a month.

I’ve written before about why we create enclosures for our materials. In short it is to protect books from abrasion, dust and light exposure. We also make boxes for artifacts from the collections so that they can safely be put onto a shelf. Most recently these have included a gravestone, death mask, and a teeny tiny Thai Village.

We choose the style of enclosure based on the condition, size, and weight of the object as well as how and how often it is used. Below are the common enclosures we make, listed from the minimum to maximum amount of protection they provide.


CoLibri Book Jacket CoLibri Book Jacket

We primarily use these polyethylene book jackets for our New & Noteworthy, Duke Authors and Lilly Current Literature books.  CoLibri covers make it possible to save publisher’s dust jackets, which often contain unique information such as author biographies and cover art . These take about 3-5 minutes to make.



EnvelopesEnvelope (buffered paper or Tyvek)

Envelopes provide a minimum of protection for fragile items such as pamphlets. They are inexpensive, easy and quick. For very thin items we will add a stiffener made of a piece of blue-corrugated board or blue-white board.

If the item is very brittle, we will add a folded piece of card stock (folded at the bottom edge) to act as a sling to help get the item out safely. An envelope only takes a couple of minutes to fit and label.


Four Flap BoxesFour flap (aka Tuxedo or Tux box)

These are made of 10 or 20 point buffered card stock and are best for small, lightweight items that are between 1/4″ and 1″ thick. They provide protection from light and abrasion and are good for brittle materials or for books with loose boards.

These take on average 10 minutes to make and these (as are the following boxes) are custom cut and folded to fit the book’s exact dimensions.


Mylar Spine BoxesMylar Spine Four Flap (aka “peekaboo box”)

Not knowing if an item is inside is a common complaint about boxing books. A good solution is this one, a variation on the traditional four flap but with a polyester spine. While they do tend to have a bit of a gap at the head and tail, they do allow you to see the contents. These boxes obviously do not provide protection from light  so they are best for locations that are kept dark except when in use. These take about 10-15 minutes to make.


Phase Box

Phase boxes, also called “button and string boxes” are perfect for items that need to be restrained to keep them flat. We put vellum-bound materials in these sorts of boxes to keep them from warping. These average 15 minutes to make.


Drop Spine BoxesDrop Spine Box (aka Clam Shell)

We make these from buffered corrugated board (also called blue clams or “pizza boxes”; bottom of photo) or we make them from binders board and cover them in book cloth (also called “cloth clam”; top of photo).

These provide the most protection for the books inside. They are good for larger, heavier items and for special bindings (e.g. metal clasps, embroidered bindings, etc.). The corrugated boxes take about 15 minutes to make. Depending on their size or complexity the cloth clams can take 90 minutes or more.

Notice the “Return to Conservation after use” sticker on the blue clam. We started putting these on items that we get from Technical Services prior to shelving. This has been a very successful workflow and allows us to provide a box for newly acquired, fragile items while deferring their treatment until they are used. So far we have gotten several back. It’s nice to see patrons using new books in the collection.


American Newspaper Repository bound volumesPre-made Boxes

We also use a lot of pre-made boxes especially for standard sized manuscript collections or brittle, bound newspapers. Sometimes we need to customize a standard box because the item inside may be a little too small to fit exactly and we don’t want it “swimming” around in the box. In this image, a standard box is given a custom-cut blue-corrugated board insert to keep the brittle newspaper from moving around in the box as it is transported. The papyri rehousing project is a good example of a hybrid project that combines commercially available boxes with custom inserts.


Creating enclosures is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Very often you find yourself having to bring all your skills and experience to a project in order to create something to fit the project’s unique needs.

You can see more interesting boxing projects on our Flickr page. Let’s go over to Parks Library Preservation to see what kind of enclosures they create for their collections.



1091 Project: North Carolina’s Preservation Community

The 1091 project is a collaborative blogging effort between us and our colleagues at Iowa State University. This month’s topic is our respective state’s preservation and conservation communities, and how we participate in those organizations and groups.

It’s an exciting time to be a conservator or preservation librarian in North Carolina. Many of the higher educational institutions have well established conservation and/or preservation departments including three large universities in the immediate area: North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has two departments, and of course Duke. We all work together in a variety of ways including helping each other solve problems or presenting disaster recovery training for the Triangle Research Libraries Network (UNC, NC State, Duke and North Carolina Central University). As TRLN members, we often present at the annual conference or other TRLN events. Recently we have presented on using social media (Beth Doyle) and the library as place (Meg Brown)

Winston Atkins, our Preservation Officer, is our digital preservation expert for the libraries. He helped initiate, and served as a panelist for, TRLN’s LOCKSS Information Exchange. He also serves on the CLOCKSS advisory board, which helps create open access journals. He also serves on the Center for Research Libraries, Certification Advisory Panel. The Panel ensures that the certification process addresses the interests of the entire CRL community, and includes leaders in collection development, preservation, and information technology.

The North Carolina Preservation Consortium (NCPC) is a state-wide volunteer organization that helps to promote preservation in cultural institutions. Beth currently sits on the board of directors and is the current NCPC Newsletter editor. We routinely attend the annual conferences as they  provide excellent programming and the opportunity to network with colleagues form near and far.

Teaching is a main priority for many of us. Meg Brown team-teaches the UNC Chapel Hill School of Information Science Preservation of Library and Archival Materials class with Jamie Bradway, Head of Preservation at NC State (PDF of syllabus) [Meg and Jamie took the class over from Beth who taught it for many years]. Winston Atkins teaches the preservation class in the Public History Program (Archival Studies) program at NC State University.

Disaster recovery and planning is, of course, a corner stone of preservation librarianship. As mentioned above, we do a lot of training within TRLN but Winston is also on the Heritage Preservation’s Alliance for Response Triangle Cultural Response Emergency Network Steering Committee. Part of that organization is the Triangle Area Cultural Resource Emergency Network (TACREN) whose mission is to provide disaster response assistance and/or support in times of emergencies and for disaster planning. TACREN includes preservation and conservation staff from the region’s libraries, museums, and historic sites in a network of cooperative disaster response and training.

Several of us are members of local bookbinding groups including the Guild of Bookworkers southeast chapter (Meg), and the Triangle Book Arts Group (Mary).

We are also very active on the national level. All of the conservators are members of American Institute for Conservation, and both Erin and Beth have had presentations accepted for this year’s AIC conference in May. Beth has done a lot of programming for AIC in the past as part of the Library Collections Conservation Discussion Group. Beth and Winston are also very active in the American Library Association Preservation Administration Interest Group, serving on committees and as discussion group chairs or presenters.

Parks Library Preservation has more on what they are doing around Iowa, let’s go over and see what they are up to.

1091 Project: A Day In The Life Of The Conservation Lab

Welcome to our first 1091 Project post, a new effort in collaborative blogging!

1,091 is the number of miles between Ames, Iowa and Durham, North Carolina. Ames is the home of Iowa State University and our colleagues who write Parks Library Preservation. On the third Friday of each month, we will pick a topic and write about that topic from our own perspectives to highlight the similarities and differences between our programs. Our hope is that we will learn from each other and spark conversation between us and between our readers. If there are topics you are interested in hearing about from us, please leave them in the comments box.

The Verne and Tanya Roberts Conservation Lab is located on the lower level of Perkins Library. We work on both general (circulating) and special (non-circulating) collections. Our program has one full time technician to work primarily on general collections, plus 0.5FTE student assistants and two volunteers to help her. Three conservators and one technician work primarily on special collections materials. And there is me, the head of the Conservation Services Department. That makes six full time staff, two volunteers and our student assistants all working diligently to maintain our collections. Last fiscal year we repaired over 2,800 items from the collections and made over 8,500 custom enclosures.

1091 Project: A Day In The Life Of The Conservation Lab

A typical day begins at 8am with the collection of the damaged books from Circulation, with a stop in Shipping & Receiving to pick up books sent over from the branches or from Perkins technical services. These are brought to the lab and each item’s bar code is scanned to change it’s process status to “in preservation.” The books are sorted by the type of repair or enclosure they need and put onto our shelves. This allows staff to  pull several books needing the same repair. By working in batches our repair procedures are more streamlined and efficient, and the work turns around faster.

When the Rubenstein Library opens at 9am, we will collect any damaged items that were used in the special collections reading room. We will also pick up any special collections items sent over from Rubenstein Library’s technical services department for enclosures or pre-shelving repair needs. We will transfer these items to the lab and enter them into our Lab Log, which is a list of all the special collections materials that are in Conservation. The conservators will write a condition report for each item, then they will meet with the curators to discuss treatment options and agree on what will be done. Once they sign off on a treatment, digital photographs will be taken before treatment begins, and again after treatment. These will be filed with the written treatment documents when the items are returned to the library.

If today is Boxing Day, everyone in the lab will work on making custom enclosures for special collections. Boxing Day is great for your statistics since you create several boxes in one day, but it can be challenging to remain productive while the board shear is occupied or someone else has the corner rounder. It’s a good exercise to figure out how to remain productive while waiting for equipment, and it’s amazing how much prep work you can do while you wait.

As department head, my time is spent planning, managing the budget and staff, and gathering information, or as I call it, “keeping the wheels on the Conservation bus.” Every now and then I get to work at the bench, but it’s never as much time as I would like. My day is usually spent meeting with colleagues to find out how we can improve our services, and developing new initiatives and strategies to ensure our services are aligned with the Library’s strategic plan and direction. I may attend a lot of meetings, but I find this “strategery” to be rather fun and challenging. We are on the verge of some new and exciting initiatives that I can’t wait to roll out.

Other things our staff may be doing on any given day include helping our Exhibits Coordinator install an exhibit, working with the Digital Production Center to repair materials before imaging, and working with the Head of Preservation to record insect activity or environmental conditions in the library. And if it is April 1st, we will be holding our annual Edible Book Festival. Many of us also contribute to the profession by publishing research, presenting at conferences, and actively participate on state- and national-level committees. You can find more images from the lab on our Flickr page and you can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

That’s our typical day, let’s see what is happening over in Ames at Parks Library Preservation. [link is now working 1/20/12 1:52pm]

The end of a productive day