Submitted by Patricia Turpening, Head,
Preservation and Archives, University of Cincinnati Law Library
I was asked to write this article after Sally
Holterhoff heard me speak at the ORALL Annual Meeting last October. I have been
an academic law librarian for many years and I am very pleased to have this opportunity
to write about a subject which is near and dear to my heart. As a brief introduction,
I have been involved in library preservation since the early 1980s. The subject
was never broached during my time in library school (I graduated in 1978), but
I gradually became aware of what was then the "hot topic" by attending
meetings in the Cincinnati area. What I learned was basically the product of self-education,
much as many of you have taught yourselves about various subjects. I asked our
library director at the time about setting up a book repair area, buying books
on preservation and buying the hundreds of bookends we needed in our new building.
I was given permission for all of it, and, later, a new position was created for
me, Head of Preservation and Archives, which I have held since 1988.
Over the years I have not only served on and chaired preservation committees
but I founded the first committee within AALL to address preservation issues.
That occurred in 1983, and it was the Preservation Committee in the Technical
Services Special Interest Section. That committee as well as the Special Committee
on Preservation Needs of Law Libraries conducted surveys of law librarians to
find out what was being done to preserve law books. The surveys were admirable
efforts, but limited in the effect they had, because of the lack of follow-up
with the librarians. In order to rectify that deficiency, I applied for, and
received, an academic leave from the University of Cincinnati. During 2000-2001,
I personally visited 30 law libraries in the Midwest, to conduct a survey of
the libraries, conduct workshops, and to make recommendations to them. I have
written about the sabbatical in the ORALL Newsletter and an article will appear
in the Spring or Summer 2002 Law Library Journal (this article does not duplicate
either of those). In addition, I will be speaking at a program next summer in
Orlando along with a librarian I met on my sabbatical. I went to all types of
law libraries, but the majority were academics. The reasons should be obvious
- the largest law libraries are academics and they have a reputation as the
libraries of last resort by librarians in other types of law libraries. By that
I mean that it is frequently assumed that academic law libraries will purchase,
retain, and preserve their volumes after others have found it necessary to dispose
of them because of a lack of space or for other reasons.
I cannot stress how important the personal visits were in learning about the
libraries' policies and habits regarding the care of their materials. There
is no substitute for walking through the stacks, observing whether sunlight
is shining directly on the books, whether the books are crowded or leaning,
have an abundance of sticky tape on their spines, are housed in acid-free boxes
or other types of housing, what types of bookends are used and whether or not
they are effective, if there are any oversize books shelved spine-up, if there
are enough stepstools for patrons and staff to reach the highest shelves, if
the books are generally well-cared for or if their spines are torn, and if the
books are close to the ceiling and light fixtures.
I was warmly welcomed at each of the libraries, with several even providing
breakfast or lunch buffets. In addition to talking to the director or designated
staff person to conduct the survey, I conducted workshops at eighteen of the
libraries, reaching a total of 133 people. In the workshops, I started by talking
about preservation in general, then I talked about the problems in some books
I had pulled from the libraries' own shelves. At a couple of libraries, I found
books with heavy layers of dust, and I also talked about books damaged by being
forced into too-small spaces or by leaning at an angle for long periods of time,
options to deal with torn headcaps and paper covers as well as the more problematic
older books with brittle paper and inadequate bindings which need to be retained
in hardcover. Some options for those are purchasing reprints, if available,
enclosing each book in a phase box, or moving them to offsite storage to limit
Following the visits, I sent a personal letter to each library, detailing areas
I had observed which needed improvement as well as areas they had identified
themselves as in need of attention. For instance, if a library did not have
a disaster plan, I gave them websites which contain forms to use in developing
such a plan. (By the way, the SOLINET website [www.solinet.net]
is especially useful for this.) Not only did I recommend that a library use
phase boxes, but I told them where the boxes can be purchased. Quite a few of
the libraries said they wanted to write a long-range preservation plan. For
those, I sent cites for two titles useful for that endeavor.
I also set up a listserv for the librarians to communicate with me and with
each other about preservation issues and concerns. Anyone reading this is invited
to join the list. At the website for the listserv, I have created an extensive
list of "bookmarks", which includes groups such as the Association
for Research Libraries, the Library Binding Institute, the Northeast Document
Conservation Center, University Products, and the Council for Library and Information
Resources. The individual websites for the groups can serve as a tremendous
resource in learning about or refreshing knowledge about preservation. Go to
and log in in order to view the "bookmarks" and be included in the
listserv. Please take a look, and send me your comments!
These are some low-cost or no-cost ways to preserve the newer and older volumes
in your own libraries:
Close all window blinds at least partway where sunlight shines on books, since
damage from light is cumulative and irreversible. I witnessed dramatic fading
of spines in a library where a large range was next to a 2-story window.
Designate one staff person to be in charge of stacks maintenance. Make sure
that person understands the importance of the charge. Poor shelving practices
can definitely contribute to the deterioration of volumes. In addition to points
already mentioned, care should be taken concerning loose-leaf binders. Because
of their odd sizes and their bulk, the books beside them can be damaged easily.
If possible, the binders should be isolated and the books should be placed behind
bookends. Especially vulnerable are pamphlets and paperbacks. Watch out for
binders on the highest shelves. Because they are the hardest to reach, they
lean over onto adjacent books and sometimes push bookends to the end of the
shelf, before anyone notices or finds a stepstool to rectify the situation.
Write or update a contract with your commercial binder, if that is not already
done regularly. Some libraries have informal agreements with their binders,
but it is very important that the types of materials and leaf attachment methods
used are within the latest standard (2000) from the Library Binding Institute/National
Institute of Standards Organization. The standard is downloadable at www.niso.org.
Remember that all book repair must be reversible, unless you know that the
books will definitely be superseded in a short period of time, less than 2 years.
If there is a possibility that they may be retained longer because of changes
in the collection development policy or faculty/attorney request, it's better
to use reversible methods. That means no Scotch tape or other regular sticky
tape. Only archival tapes should be used. One academic library I visited thought
they were improving the appearance of torn spines by using sticky tape. However,
those "improvements" were only temporary, since the tape has yellowed,
is brittle, and either cannot be removed or it falls off easily and leaves a
residue. Two companies which offer archival-quality supplies are University
and Gaylord (www.gaylord.com).
Take care with microforms. Fiche should be well supported but not squeezed
together tightly. Once the fiche becomes distorted, it can be difficult to use.
Dividers should be of acid-free materials.
Set up a schedule to dust all books and keep careful track of what was dusted
when. Use One-Wipe dust cloths or Dust Bunny cloths since they are specially
treated. Also dust empty shelves. Layers of dust form a water-absorbing blanket
around the books and accelerate deterioration. A goal may be to dust the entire
collection every five years.
In addition to the listserv and website already mentioned, I have copies of
the 4-page handout from my presentation at the ORALL Annual Meeting. It includes
27 print resources and several recommendations for starting or expanding an
in-house preservation program. I will mail it to anyone who requests a copy.
Determining policy, locating training workshops and incorporating book-friendly
methods throughout the library, though worthy endeavors, do take time. I encourage
librarians to take all of those actions, but, in the meantime, it is possible
to take some relatively minor steps which will have a positive effect to help
your print and non-print materials be useful as long as possible.