University of Minnesota
From guest columnist, Sally Wambold, University of Richmond (email@example.com).
Librarians will not be surprised by the necessity of patience, persistence, and planning for preservation. How could librarians complete the large projects they often undertake without them? These qualities are especially necessary for preservation, one of the key charges technical services librarians must fulfill. But where does practicality come into play in the world of preservation? I have personally heard many people reject or postpone preservation efforts because they are impractical; they cost too much, they take too much time, and there is no one available to do the work. It is my belief (and I suspect that of many of you as well) that there has to be an element of practicality involved in maintaining our collections. Certainly, projects such as deacidification require enormous resources; and these efforts are necessary. Certainly the restoration of rare volumes is time-consuming and labor-intensive. So, what can be practical about preservation?
I will share here some of the experiences of my AALL chapter, the Virginia Association of Law Libraries (VALL). Also, I will present some of the practices that fellow members of TS-SIS sent to me in response to an online query. Any gentle readers who have other techniques to share are encouraged to post and share them on the TS-SIS listserv (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Foremost among its efforts to promote preservation, VALL has presented several book repair workshops. The first one was presented at the Virginia Historical Society by the conservators under the direction of Paulette Schwarting, Head of Technical Services. The others have been presented by a VALL member, Chris Watson, who is a book repair volunteer at the Wahab Public Law Library in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The techniques presented at these workshops have been simple and inexpensive. Chris keeps the Wahab books usable with such techniques as double-stitch, which involves gluing with polyvinyl acetate a text block into a binder or book cover. Chris repairs broken books with glue and weighs them down until they are dry. CAVEAT: Before attempting such repairs yourself, attend a book repair workshop and feel confident that you know what you are doing! Even practical preservation requires planning and preparation. Chris Watson offers a prime example of practical preservation. He donates his time to Wahab, and he trains others. Volunteerism can help solve the problem of staffing. And Chris seems to derive enormous satisfaction from his work.
Another thing Chris does to promote preservation is to write, with his supervisor, Jill Burr, a column in the VALL newsletter. It is called "Preservation Junction," and it is very entertaining and useful. For example, in the latest newsletter, he makes some very important resolutions for the health of the library collection:
Another project embarked upon by VALL was the assembling of an archival set of the Virginia Reports, the official reporter of the Virginia Supreme Court. VALL libraries donated copies of the Virginia Reports which are housed at the Virginia Historical Society. The Internet was used to solicit the volumes. Efforts have also been made to ensure that Commonwealth of Virginia web sites maintain an archive of information for researchers.
Now, let's move on to the contributions made in answer to my query on the TS-SIS listserv. First was a very important reminder from Teddy Artz to look for the postings of Pat Turpening from the University of Cincinnati on preservation issues. Pat has a wealth of experience which she generously shares.
MJ Willow from Capital Law raised some important questions about preservation: the lack of money, the lack of training for preservation, and the high cost of saving crumbling books, including the cost of archival boxes. MJ went to a book repair workshop and felt more qualified to do repairs. She further emphasized the point that proper training is the key. And she mentioned the practical solution of pamphlet binders. Capital Law reinforces popular books at the corners and spine. They also bind soft cover books before circulating.
Brian Striman at University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law reported that they make simple repairs and send the books back into circulation.
Kent McKeever of Columbia recommended: Banks, Paul N. and Pilette, Roberta. Preservation: Issues and Planning. Chicago : American Library Association, 2000.
Mark Lambert at South Texas College of Law has a strategy for preventing water damage. He has asked the circulation staff to insure that all books shelved are at least one inch back from the front edge of the shelves and not pushed all the way to the back of each shelf. If this is followed, all books (except on the top shelf which is uncapped) are under the overhanging shelf above. That way, if water comes down from the ceiling, in whatever form (sprinkled or leaked), it only ruins the top shelf of books and the water then cascades down the rest of the shelving to the floor, usually barely touching the rest of the books on the way down.
Carolyn Simpson of Bricker & Eckler LLP in Columbus, Ohio, also speaks out for getting training in book repair. (As an aside, these workshops are not necessarily expensive and can be quite practical.)
Jim Mumm of Marquette shared his library's philosophy of book repair. At Marquette they replace anything that can be replaced. Their main library does most basic repairs for them, although the law library does a few repairs. Finally, they get their paperbacks bound with mylar binding. (I might add that Kapco has a product called Easy Cover II that can be applied inhouse directly onto the paperback cover, if the library is committed to inhouse repair (www.kapcolibrary.com) or 800-791-8965)
In summary, each library must determine what is practical for itself. Inhouse work will not be successful if space is limited and/or if there are not enough staff to do the repairs. However, recruiting a dedicated volunteer or student might be ideal for practical preservation. Finally, many thanks to all the people who contributed ideas for this column. Further ideas are always welcome on the TS-SIS listserv.
1 Burr, Jill and Watson, Chris. "Preservation Junction," 18 VALL Newsletter 10 (Winter 2002)