Ashley (l) and Hope (r) show off their newly constructed clamshell boxes.

Ashley (l) and Hope (r) show off their newly constructed clamshell boxes.

One project we let students do when learning how to make a cloth-covered Clamshell Box is to construct a box for one of their own personal books for practice. I myself was a little rusty in making one as it had been awhile. I have made other boxes recently, but not for books, so I needed a little practice myself especially when it came to measuring.

Hope created a cloth-covered divider with a ribbon tab for lifting to separate the two books in her clamshell box.

Hope created a cloth-covered divider with a ribbon tab for lifting to separate the two books in her clamshell box.

Hope Mitchell brought in the ever-popular Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban. Both of these books are very special to Hope, as they were given to her as a Christmas present by her late grandfather. This box would be a little different, as we planned to do a thin divider with a tab between the books to protect them.

Ashley's book had a narrow spine depth, so she inserted a platform to support the book and add depth.

Ashley’s book had a narrow spine depth, so she inserted a platform to support the book and add depth.

Ashley Arnold brought in a beautiful, blue felt covered book with decorative multicolor stitching of owls in a tree that was a gift from a dear friend from England. This book would need a little extra padding for protection.

I myself was working on two old volumes from Special Collections.

"Stackette" style trays made from faulty clamshell trays.

“Stackette” style trays made from faulty clamshell trays and held together with Velcro dots.

As we worked on making our boxes (as I said, it had been a while), we each made a miscalculation in our measurements and needed to start over. Hope loves green and was making a clamshell box of green book cloth and Preservation’s favorite Natural-Colored Canapetta. Her “oops” box turned into a box for special momentos. Ashley’s box started with the same green book cloth and her “oops” turned into a nice pencil tray for her desk. I was using the Natural-Colored Canapetta and my “oops” became two trays that can be attached by Velcro dot that can be used like a Stackette tray or as single trays. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t like to waste things, so we all three made good use of our errors.

In the end, Hope had her green and natural box, and Ashley had her green and gray box for their special books, and the knowledge of how to make a Clamshell Box.

1091map1 Throughout the year, we often welcome individuals or groups into the Conservation Lab for a first-hand tour of what we do and how we do it. Our staff, students, and volunteer all contribute to these tours and have become adept at explaining their work and role in the lab.  We certainly enjoy when others take an interest in our work, and we consider lab tours to be an important part of our preservation outreach efforts.

LabTourOver the past several years, the number of tours we give each year has held steady at around a dozen, but the total number of people who take the tours fluctuates significantly, from as few as twenty-five to over a hundred in a given year — not bad for a community of 50,000 (more than half of which are ISU students). Our guests have included visiting scholars and lecturers, administrators, academic dignitaries, new University hires, ISU classes and clubs, local Girl Scout troops, and colleagues from other cultural heritage institutions.  As part of our community outreach efforts, we’re willing to set up an educational tour for any individuals or group who have an interest in learning about what we do.  MicroscopicExamination

Our tours vary from a 10-minute walk-through which hits on the highlights to an hour-long, in-depth tour complete with interactive demonstrations of equipment such as the board shear, ultrasonic encapsulator, microscope, and document washing sink.  We try to tailor our tours to the educational objectives of our visitors, whether they are interested in the layout and design of our space, the general function of our Library unit, the particular work we do in our hybrid lab, or the field of library and archives conservation overall.

Lab tours aren’t just important to us at ISU Library. Many institutions showcase their conservation labs through tours, including the Duke University Libraries Conservation Lab. Be sure to head over to Preservation Underground to learn more from them.

Special Collections has asked us to work on the scrapbooks from the ISU Theatre Department. The scrapbooks suffer from all the common ills of scrapbooks.

The support pages in many of the volumes have become so brittle that they have started to break away from the bindings. In most cases I have been able to disbind the volume so that future viewers will not be horrified that they ripped a page from the scrapbook just by turning it gently.


There is massive adhesive failure. When possible I have re-attached things back where they belong, but some things are a mystery so they get encapsulated and left between the pages where I found them.


The adhesive failure is so serious that I know that more things will fall off the next time the books are opened. As a partial solution, I’m making a four-flap for each book to keep everything as contained as possible and to minimize abrasion since multiple scrapbooks are often stored together in a box.


I could spend weeks on each scrapbook, but there are many of them and just one of me. And quite frankly given the condition of the supporting pages and many of the contents, it is not worth the time or effort to do a full treatment on these. In the near future, they will need to be  taken apart and put in folders.

Here is the perplexing thing. I’ve come across several pages with what we are calling “googly eyes.” The markings are in blue editor’s pencil.


I’m pretty sure that the clippings came from a clipping service. Can anyone confirm that? And does anyone know what is it with the circles? They don’t appear to be around anything specific.






Through a generous grant from the Silos & Smokestacks Agricultural Heritage Internship Grant Program, the Special Collections and Preservation Departments of the Iowa State University Library are offering a summer internship. The Silos & Smokestacks Agricultural Heritage Internship is a full-time, 10-week project position to develop a digital collection on Iowa State’s early Extension movement and create content for an interpretive website.  We will be accepting applications through Friday, April 18th.  For more information, please visit the internship website:

After a few years of talking about purchasing some remote data loggers, I think this is the year we actually will. Currently, we are using Smart Reader2 data loggers, which I physically collect quarterly (or more frequently, if we notice a big change in data). We monitor temperature and relative humidity by collecting the information on each data logger using the TrendReader 2 software from ACR Systems, and then transferring the file into eClimate Notebook. Our data loggers are in various locations here in the library as well as our library storage building located across campus.

We see moving to remote data loggers as a way to save a little bit of time. I wouldn’t have to physically collect the data loggers from each location every time we want to download the data. I really don’t mind going to retrieve each data logger, but it would be nice when we just want to do a quick check to have the ability to check the data loggers from our work or home computers.

One of our main requirements is that whatever remote data logger type we choose will have to work with eClimatenotebook. I am looking for any input you all may have on what has worked well for you or what hasn’t. Is there a particular data logger you like? And why? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

1091map1This month’s 1091 Project addresses that bane of every library and archives conservator: mold. Whether the mold is black, white, green, magenta, or yellow, it is all treated the same way: with caution and immediate action. The mold that we deal with in the lab comes from three main sources:

  1. newly acquired items for Special Collections and Archives which are valued highly enough to make dealing with mold worth the trouble;
  2. items returning from circulation which were not cared for properly by the borrowing patrons;
  3. mold outbreaks in the collection, which could be caused by a leaky roof or water pipe, or extreme humidity in situations when the HVAC breaks down.

Asexual fruiting structure of Aspergillus.

The “sniff test” is a pretty reliable indicator of mold, but technician Mindy Moe rightly scolds me whenever she sees me lifting a suspect book to my nose. Mold spores, even if dormant, find the warm, moist environment of human nasal passages and lungs to be a cozy place to take up residence. Repeated exposure to mold can also lead to sensitivities and allergies which, in the most extreme cases, can induce life-threatening allergic reactions. So, we always take a little extra precaution when dealing with the fuzzy stuff. Mold can be identified by a visual inspection under magnification, especially under raking light. If a visual examination is inconclusive because the spores are in a dormant phase, or the spot is a residual stain, then the presence of mold can be confirmed by examining the item under UV light, which causes mold hyphae to fluoresce rather dramatically.


Mold hyphae fluorescing under UV light.

The minimum PPE (personal protective equipment) for dealing with mold includes glasses or goggles, a lab coat (and in general keeping as much skin covered as possible), latex or nitrile gloves, and a P95 or P100 disposable respirator.


PPE for mold mitigation.


Nilfisk HEPA vacuum for mold removal.

Once personal precautions have been taken, we act. In the case of situations 1 or 2 described above, we are usually dealing with just a few items at a time. The moldy items are first isolated from the rest of the collection, and then assessed for damage. In the case of circulating items which have been returned to the Library with significant mold damage, we usually discard the item entirely and charge the patron to replace it.

In the case of Special Collections and Archives materials, we keep the moldy items quarantined until they can be vacuumed under the fume hood with a special vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter. We try to minimize the amount of moldy items we accept because our staffing levels allow us only 1 to 2 hours per week on our “mold workflow.” Items which have been treated for mold are affixed with a small label saying so, along with the date. In part this is to inform patrons about a potential health risk, and in part this helps us keep track of which items might be making repeat visits to the lab.

Situation 3, a mold outbreak in the collection, is dealt with in a slightly different manner. In the case of an active mold outbreak, the first step is not only to isolate the affected materials as quickly as possible, but also, if possible, to make the active bloom go dormant. We wrap items loosely in waxed paper and put them in one of our conservation freezers. The low temperature and humidity in the freezer will cause the mold to go dormant within a few days. Once the infestation is dormant, the items can be removed from the freezer and vacuumed — and treated further, if necessary — in small, manageable batches.

Mold-infested collection materials in the freezer.

Mold-infested collection materials in the freezer.

Meanwhile, the environmental conditions which caused the mold outbreak in the first place must be dealt with swiftly to prevent it from spreading throughout the collection. Leaking or standing water must be stopped and mopped up, while humidity and temperature levels must be brought into a safe range, and the ventilation checked.  We also have a couple of portable HEPA vacuums for vacuuming mold on-site.

Portable 3M HEPA vacuum for mold.

Portable 3M HEPA vacuum for mold.

In the case of a large mold outbreak affecting thousands of items, we would be too understaffed and under-equipped to cope, so we have vendor contracts in place to work with a professional recovery company under those circumstances.

Let’s head over to Preservation Underground to see how they feel about mold in the Duke University Libraries Conservation Department.

Written by Cindy Wahl and Suzette Schmidt of the Preservation Services unit.

Student employees are an important staffing component of the Preservation Services section of the Preservation Department at Iowa State University Library.  The unit has 3 staff employees, and with the volume of work being sent to and from the vendors, the students help make the workflow smooth and consistent.


Sorting and organizing periodicals.

Students are responsible for the filing of periodicals when they are received from our Serials Acquisitions department.  They sort and organize the issues prior to taking them to our Periodical Room or the General Collection for filing with the rest of the unbound issues.  While filing the periodicals, they also check the titles to see if there are now enough older issues on the shelf to pull and return them to staff in Preservation Services to have them prepared for binding.  In addition to pulling periodicals for binding while filing, we now have in place an electronic system where we can search, sort, and print out a list of periodicals that are now ready to be bound.  The student uses that list to organize and forward periodicals to staff for binding.


Shelving issues in the Periodical Room.

There is a continual flow of work to be delivered and retrieved to other areas of the library and students are the legs for transporting these items.  With our Preservation Department being housed on two different floors and other departments spread throughout the five floors of the library, the students are valuable in moving work from floor to floor and department to department.

Boxing volumes to be shipped.

Boxing volumes to be shipped.

Preservation Services works with a variety of vendors for binding, reformatting, and mass deacidification, which all require packing and unpacking of volumes.  Students assist with this task while staff prepare the paperwork to be included with the shipments.  At times the volumes being shipped need a page-by-page review, and the students help with this process by noting any repairs, which are then handled by staff.  Upon receipt of the finished volumes, the new format is compared to the old volume by student employees to be sure the work is accurate and complete.


Reviewing a thesis.

Some volumes being added to the collection need to have marking done to them prior to being forwarded for shelving.  These pass through the Preservation Services section where the student is responsible for stamping the volumes with the Iowa State University Library possession stamp, moving the bar code to the appropriate placement on the volume, and, if necessary, adhering the title and call number labels to the spine.

As work flows and tasks change within the Preservation Services unit, it is always important for us to review the assignments and use our students in the most productive manner.  They have shorter scheduled blocks of time, and their assistance is used best to help move the work through the unit and to help make the volumes available to patrons in a timely manner.


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