About 10 years ago I visited Claire Van Vliet at her Janus Press studio space in Newark, Vermont with another conservation intern. Claire was incredibly kind, spending all afternoon showing us around and talking about her work. At the end of the visit she gave us each a copy of her book Woven and Interlocking Book Structures as a parting gift.
I rediscovered this book on my shelf a few weeks ago when I hit my limit on Zoom meetings and was desperate to return to doing some hands-on work. And what a sanity saver it has been! I’ve taken time every day to step away from my computer and work my way through each of the structures.
The book provides instructions for creating a sample of more than a dozen woven or interlocking book structures that are easy enough for anyone to do at home. The samples are small, only 4×5” and just a few pages long. Construction requires a few simple tools: a pencil, ruler, cutting blade, scissors, scoring tool/bone folder, awl/needle, glue, and a microspatula which was not required but “worth getting because you’ll wonder how you lived without it.” While nicer paper or a variety of papers would make more interesting finished samples, you really only need cover stock and text weight papers. Still, I had to make do with the paper I had on hand at home. Sometimes I had to use scraps of paper with the grain direction going the wrong way or that wasn’t quite the correct weight. But in the end I was able to successfully create a sample of every structure.
(Click each image to enlarge)
There are even instructions at the end of the book to create a lovely little slipcase to house your entire sample set of books.
If you would like to create your own sample set of woven and interlocking book structures you can access the entire book online for free through Internet Archive:
Campus is still closed but that doesn’t mean that things have been quiet for Conservation. Last week we responded to a call from Marvin Tillman, Manager of the Library Service Center (the offsite high density storage facility). He had come in to meet a repair crew from Facilities who were working on the sprinkler system pump. Marvin noticed water on the floor and quickly jumped in the picker and navigated to the top of the stacks. There he found a leaking sprinkler head and many trays of wet books underneath it. Marvin removed the trays, put the books in the freezer and called Conservation. After a thorough review of the stacks he found one more tray that needed to be removed.
I picked up a total of eight bins of books and took them back to the lab to air dry. First step was to record the bar codes so we could deal with them in the management system.
There were 261 wet books. These ranged from just damp to pretty wet. All were salvageable.
Mark Barker, Director of Security and Facilities Services set up a couple folding tables in the dirty room for me and brought all the fans from the disaster supply closet. I proceeded to divide the books by wettest, medium-wet, and damp. The wettest items went into the fume hood since that pulls a constant supply of steady air.
The medium-wet books got set up on tables with fans circulating air around them. Loyal readers will remember when we invented/discovered the “double-decker drying system.” It really works, and it means you can dry twice the number of books with the same footprint. The trick is airflow. You want to see “the disaster recovery wiggle.” Every book should be wiggling a bit as the air moves around the space.
The damp books were set up on one of the lab tables with a fan.
Once the items were dry they were pressed for a few days to flatten them.
The books that were mostly flat but needed a bit of pressure were simply put under boards and bricks.
The majority of the 261 items will be going back as-is to LSC. A small number will be rehoused before returning, and fewer still will be repaired. Thanks to quick identification and action all around we can say that this recovery effort was successful. It did bring up questions about recovery during a pandemic. Those questions will be on the next agenda for the Disaster and Environment Response Team (DERT) meeting.
We are beginning to think that our buildings and their ghosts might miss us. We got a call last weekend about a painting in one of the libraries that fell off the wall. This building is empty, of course, except for the ghosts of librarians past. are they trying to get our attention?
Each spring for the last couple of years, I’ve traveled up to the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library to teach a workshop on blind and gold tooling to students in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC). The workshop provides a very basic introduction to all the tools and materials that have historically been used to decorate bindings and allows the students to try some of the techniques for themselves. We also use the time to examine bindings from the library’s collection, looking closely at tool marks and other evidence, to determine how they were produced.
With in-person instruction suspended this semester, we decided to try a modified version of the workshop via the popular video conferencing platform Zoom.
I had to change a lot about how I would ordinarily approach this workshop, since I usually provide paper hand-outs and bring a number of physical samples for students to examine. I was able to get around some of this by using the screen-sharing feature to display images of specific tools and diagrams of important concepts during the lecture portion of the workshop. I also shared links to specific bindings in the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Bindings Image Collection, so that each student could zoom in or navigate around the image on their own. Resources like this were a helpful stand-in for bindings from the Winterthur Library’s collection.
But what if you have an item on-hand which you would like your participants to examine more closely? My laptop’s webcam is thankfully good enough to show a fair amount of detail, but it can be a little tricky to orient the object in front of the camera so that your room lighting shows the surface characteristics. It might also be impossible to hold the object upright enough to view in frame.
I’ve seen some enterprising examples of detachable webcams mounted to headbands or task lights to create document cameras, but my webcam is not detachable. It turns out there is a simple way to turn your smartphone into a secondary, hand-held camera! Unfortunately, I figured this trick out too late for my own workshop – but maybe it can be useful for other folks doing instruction remotely. This trick requires you to first install the Zoom mobile app.
I start by scheduling a Zoom meeting and then either add the invitation to my calendar or email it to myself for quick access later. The meeting is launched on the primary device (in my case, a laptop) and the video and sound are set up. Instruction proceeds as usual until the hand-held camera is needed. At this point, tap the meeting link on a mobile device to join. When the meeting has launched in the mobile app, select “Join with Video” and then tap “Cancel” when asked to join audio. I learned the hard way that you will get some rather unpleasant feedback and echoing if you have audio going on two devices at once.
At this point your meeting participants will be disoriented by your competing video feeds (and maybe by your disheveled quarantine hair), but these feelings will pass.
Tap the button at the top left of your mobile device’s screen to switch to the rear-facing camera. You should ask your audience to find and “pin” the video feed for your mobile device, so that it occupies the majority of the screen when they switch to the “speaker view”.
Now you can easily move your mobile device around the object during your instruction session. When you don’t need the second camera anymore, simply leave the meeting on that device. Obviously this setup will put some additional load on your home network and internet connection, but it has worked well enough in my experiments to get the job done. This method will probably also work on other video conferencing platforms, but I have not attempted it.
With so many people developing and participating in online instruction right now, I’m sure others are finding new and helpful ways to use the technology we might already have at home. What tools or tips have you found useful in your work from home situation?
Preservation Week and May Day both happen this week. It is a good time to update your disaster plan or do one other thing to better prepare your organization for disasters. This year disaster recovery includes trying to figure out disaster response when campus is largely vacant, and how you can maintain physical distancing if you need to respond to a collections emergency.
Last week a hot water pipe burst on the third floor of the History Department’s building sending water down to the first floor. Two faculty members reported having wet library books. We sent them information on caring for their personal collections, then went to campus to retrieve a handful of books from the building. We also met one faculty who drove his library books over to the library.
Our Response to a Small Collections Disaster
There are several apps that are useful in these situations. I used one to scan and send a list of barcodes to Circulation for the books that needed to be checked back in.
I then set up the damp books in the fume hood to dry.
I prepared two wet books for freezing by wrapping them with butcher paper, sandwiching them between buffered corrugated boards, and securing them with cotton tying tape. Writing the barcode and date on the package will help us easily identify them in the freezer.
A Silver Lining
A silver lining in all of this is we discovered that our freezer is acting up again. Readers might recall that we had a problem with the drain in this freezer almost a year ago. We are waiting for the parts to come in so a repair technician can be scheduled.
After the Initial Response
The books in the fume hood dried within a couple days. I went back to campus and put them into presses to flatten. We will evaluate these for repair or replacement once we are back on campus.
This disaster was very small but it did raise questions about large numbers of library books housed in faculty offices, and what that means in terms of recovery efforts.
Jovana Ivezic, our new Senior Conservation Technician, started work at the end of March just as we were settling into the Governor’s work from home order. Jovana comes to Duke from the Library of Congress where she was a library technician. There she performed a variety of repairs from new spines, paper repairs, and at least one very large post binding.
She housed over 2000 items from the LC Collections in the three years she was there. These skills will come in very handy once we are back onsite and we start making enclosures for our regular workflows and the Lilly Enabling project.
What is your favorite tool?
My favorite tool is a tie between a scalpel with a fresh blade and my small brass triangle.
What is your favorite treatment?
My favorite treatment is a new case, especially in a three-quarters style binding. Nothing more satisfying than giving a sad, beaten up book some new life.
What’s it like starting a new job during a worldwide pandemic?
I never thought I’d ever be starting a job in these kinds of circumstances, especially one that isn’t particularly conducive to teleworking. I will say I’ve enjoyed using the extra time in my apartment to get properly settled in, as well as catch up on readings and training videos I wouldn’t normally have the time to read/watch otherwise. I look forward to getting to work with my new coworkers and colleagues in person once we’re back on campus though, and to check out all the amazing food places I keep being told to try once the stay-at-home order is lifted.
Do you have a memorable treatment you can share?
Here you can see an oversized atlas from the Library of Congress’s Geography & Maps division.
Due to its extraordinary size, the acidic nature of its pages, and the fact that this atlas was a frequently handled item, I decided that a post binding was the best housing choice. A post binding allows for safer handling by patrons, while protecting the original material better than a regular clamshell or four-flap box ever could.
Every year we celebrate Equipment Day, the day the Schimanek board shear and book presses landed on our loading dock from Germany on April 9, 2003. Although the conservation unit was formed almost a year prior in July 2002, it’s April 9th that we celebrate becoming “a lab.” So depending on how you count, we are either 17 or 18 years old this year.
April 9th was a bit of a blur this year because we are all working from home. We were going to have a celebration that included a reception and an open house for the lab. Since we can’t do that together, we thought we would post our presentation here. The biggest piece of news this year is that we have surpassed the quarter-million mark for items coming through the lab since 2002.
And if you haven’t seen the lab, we have a video tour online.
Happy birthday to us. Stay safe. Be kind. Wash your hands.
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.
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.
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.
Here Rachel is showing a chart of the Triboelectric series (right before we all remembered we could just share screeens 🙂 ). It’s nice to be able to connect with colleagues so easily, despite everything that is going on.