One of the best things about working at in the conservation lab at ISU is that I come into contact with such a wide variety of books. When choosing items from the shelf I rarely pick them in the order they came in. I tend to take into account the size, condition, color, subject and even language of the book. Art books tend to be larger and usually have nicer end sheets that I like to save. Larger books can be more challenging when cleaning and putting the item back together. Thinner children’s books will sometimes require a board backing along the spine. Sometimes a book just brings to mind a fond memory.

This big book reminded me of something straight out of the 1994 film, Pagemaster. Printed in 1927, the cover was thick and plushy between the board and fabric. An eagle was depicted on the front amidst a decorative background. The end sheets were decorated with using a pale olive and tan along with the saying, “your story in pictures leaves nothing untold.” On the inside, the book was filled with beautiful imagery as it was about photo-engraving and letter-press printing. IMG_0763a

After opening the book, I spent a couple of minutes looking it over and eventually decided to ask Mindy (our technician) a couple of questions. I wanted to make sure that I was approaching the problem correctly. She told me that the spine used to have a special liner called an Oxford hollow and that I could recreate it when repairing the book. Oxford hollows were used to provide strong support to the spine, allowing heavier books to be opened fully. a

That sounds simple enough, right?

Cleaning this book was somewhat of a challenge because the glue had really gotten stuck between the threading. Once cleaned though, the Oxford hollow itself, was really easy to put together and apply. It is made from two sheets of a heavier paper, one cut to the exact height and width and the other cut to one time the height and three times the width.

IMG_0744a IMG_0745a 

After the text block is prepared, tissue and linen are in place, the smaller liner is glued onto the spine with PVA directly on the spine and Wheat Starch Paste (WSP) smoothed on the top. The larger cut piece of paper is folded at one end 2cm short of the width. From that fold, another fold is made the exact width away. This is then glued onto the spine directly with PVA (the center section is glued first, so a flap should be hanging from either end of the spine) and WSP on top. When this has dried, the smaller flap is folded in first and the longer flap is glued on top (note: the smaller flap is not glued onto the spine). When this has dried any excess material is cut from the side. The end result should look like a thinly pressed tube along the spine.



Creating the hollow was only one of three main repairs I encountered with this book. In my next blog post I will talk about preserving the end sheets and cleaning up/repairing damage to the outside of the book.


Pt. 2

– saving the end sheets

– tissue to the outside


So, remember back to May 19 of this year when I began talking about creating templates in Dreamweaver, and again on July 21, when I blogged part two of that series? And also remember how I drone on about technology always changing?

Well…. Throw those two blogs out the window and digest this: I am no longer using Dreamweaver to make our webpages. Our library has moved to Drupal for content-based webpages. And in doing so, I needed to learn it quick. Now, granted, I was given a great deal of leeway as to when to implement this for our pages. I could wait a year. But I had my own agenda. Not only did I need to move Digital Collection pages over, but also Special Collection pages. And I set my timeline to be the end of 2015. Well…why not?

Let me take this blog space to begin talking about Drupal, and my first impressions.

First, the benefit for the library is that more departments are allowed to contribute their own content, instead of having someone from IT doing it, thereby causing a delay in getting the information up to researchers. Because Digital Collections and Special Collections has been creating their own pages for several years now, we were made the testing team to see if we could get this done, and how long it would take. (We meaning: me. I have all but taken over maintaining the Special Collection pages. Brad Kuennen has taken on more responsibilities, leaving most of the fun work to me. Yea ME!)

But back to self-authoring. This is a good thing for a large portion of library departments. Allowing each department to design and implement their pages grants those departments to update their information on the fly and this pretty awesome too.

Plus, to have “templates” in place helps to maintain the overall layout theme of the university. In having a consistent design, every page of the university appears more uniform. Then there is the concept of responsive design. I myself have had issues with this very thing in the past. This is where Drupal comes in and does the heavy lifting. Once you’ve created a page, it automatically makes it responsive. In other words, whether displayed on desktop or mobile device, or tablet, the page will be displayed in the best possible manner. The image(s) will shrink down to the appropriate size and what is called a hamburger will appear (typically in the upper left or right hand corner of the page,) for the drop-down menu.


(This is what a “hamburger” looks like on a sized-down, (read: mobile) responsive page. It squishes a menu down into the three horizontal line icon; when you tap on it, it drops the menu down; again, it usually appears on mobile-designed pages.)

So, what does that mean for designing pages going forward then? Well, a lot of things. First of all, because our library has a great library-external, but on-campus, support from the ITUIS department, I don’t have to worry about consistency across web browsers as I had to in the past. The ITUIS department has worked those issues out with Drupal already. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel here; they follow ISU template guidelines and work from there. Thankfully, because Digital Collections and Special Collections are on a separate server, this allows us to maintain our sites separately, which in turn gives us even greater control over the design and layout of our pages. But what does that really mean? There are differences; let’s take a look.

Here’s our old page on desktop, created in Dreamweaver:


And here’s the new, created in Drupal:


The first obvious difference is the spacing in the vertical menu on the left. Drupal doesn’t allow close spacing (at least on the theme that ISU maintains.) The slider image is wider, but height is narrower; and the dark boxes are no longer as clearly separated (no white line between them.) These images are both pretty similar on tablets; the only difference being that for Drupal, the menu runs a little longer down the side, and the boxes on bottom are clearly separated:


BUT, take a look at the portrait view layout on a tablet.

Old Home (Dreamweaver) on mobile and tablet, portrait view:


(In portrait, you just get a piece of the image, as it is a fixed layout. This is a desktop view of mobile device. An actually mobile device would cut off the top of the second box; but the layout is identical.)

New Home (Drupal) on tablet, portrait view:


(A lot better separation here, plus no cut-off of images.

And New Home (Drupal) on mobile:


The point is Drupal makes designing responsive pages pretty easy. The most intensive part was copy and pasting the pages over from Dreamweaver, and constantly contacting the ITUIS department to get the styles displaying correctly. I’m glad I started with the smaller Digital Collection site however, because when we attempted to make the new pages go live, everything was defaulting to a wrong URL link. First, we thought we were going to need to manually re-mapped all the pages to the new pages, so that old URLs would bounce to the new page URL. Now, ITUIS has stepped in and indicated they will be able to solve this issue using another tool. We will have to monitor this unfolding drama and we will have to think it through for the larger Special Collection pages.

The time had come, our trusty ol’ guillotine could no longer be called trusty since a part had been recalled which made our machine not usable. This beast had been with the lab for quite sometime and had been used almost daily. We were a bit sad to see it go but it’s time had come.

Our old guillotine

Our old guillotine

Skip ahead 4+ months and we finally received our new Titan 265. We were all very excited at it’s arrival! It took 4 guys a full day to disassemble the old guillotine, haul it out and bring in and assemble the new one.

Disassembling the old guillotine.

Disassembling the old guillotine.


Assembling the new machine.

Assembling the new machine.

The new machine has a digital screen which is new to us. We have the option of turning the dial to set the gauge on where to cut or we can punch the number in on the screen. And it can do the math for us if needed – for example – if we are wanting to cut streamers from a stack of 8.5×11 paper we can type in 8.5/5 and it will cut 5 equal stacks for us! So neat! This one is also quite a bit quieter than our last one which our ears thank us for.


Training was really quite simple, with the new touch screen most of it is self explanatory. We were all anxious to give it a try!

Getting trained on the new machine.

Getting trained on the new machine.

Hilary giving it a try.

Hilary giving it a try.

We have only had it for a couple of weeks but we have already put it to good use chopping away – here’s hoping for many more years with Mr. Titan!



I’ve heard this phrase over and over during my lifetime and I have even tested it by getting braces at the age of 41.  Yes 41 and I don’t regret it at all.  Now for many years I have thought to myself almost weekly, “I should go back to school.”  I even convinced my daughter to stay in school and work towards her masters in Business.  Well this year in May I talked with my supervisor, Hilary Seo, and told her of my intentions.  I have not been in school for 33 years and I have classmates that are now starting to retire from their careers and yet I’m planning on returning to school.  I look at this as my new adventure towards retirement.  I will be taking classes towards a Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree from Iowa State University in the hopes of keeping my mind fresh and learning new things, experiencing new things in the Preservation Lab, hopefully a pay raise and job reclassification, and sticking away more money for retirement.  Women in my family tend to live a very long life.  My mother recently passed away in June at 91 and she was a very sharp lady reading newspapers, crossword puzzles, watching interesting TV shows, Bingo, daily Scrabble games to keep her sharp, and learning how to use a tablet at 91.  She was remembered for her great memory and didn’t forget a face.  I want that quality of life in my golden years.

Never Too Late

I’ve been employed in the Preservation Lab since October 1997 and have loved my job from the start learning many new things in the world of book repair and box making.  Now as I repair books I wonder if I will be using some of these books for my classes.  I work on a wide variety of books and find many subjects interesting and glad my classes will be a wide variety of subjects too.  My future plans are to stay with the Preservation Department and my “work family” for as long as I can working in a job I enjoy.

Future Cyclone and Anthropology 309 here I come!

Every library that participates in interlibrary lending has experienced some damage to collection materials at some point in time.  There are, of course, the usual signs of damage we expect in circulating collections like beverage stains, something sticky on the covers, and dog chew.  Then there is the damage caused during transit.  We have received books in their packaging that look as if they have been run over, others that were wet, and once we received a book soaked in meat juices.  But considering the amount that this library lends and borrows, the percentage of damaged materials is low.

Breaking news:  A USPS truck from Ames, Iowa headed to the Des Moines, Iowa USPS sorting facility caught  on fire on Interstate 35.  The good news is that the driver walked away uninjured.  The bad news is that ISU Library had twenty-four packages on the truck.  The packages contained books being interlibrary loaned to other libraries as well as books being returned to various libraries.

burnt books

Remains of library books damaged in the USPS truck fire.

When I heard the news, I was a little surprised since I had never heard of a mail truck catching on fire.  I wanted more details but could not find information on the USPS site or any local media so I simply used a third-party federated search engine (yes, I Googled it).  There were more mail trucks catching on fire across the country than I would have guessed, and these hits did not even include the Ames/Des Moines fire at the time of my search.
Total loss triptic3

The fire occurred on a Tuesday and the first few packages arrived back at the library on Friday.  The items were still in what was left of their packaging and wrapped in plastic.  Some were total losses including an old pocket guide to France and a book on Camp Dodge (local history), while a handful were just a little singed, sooty, and damp.  Interestingly, one book came back with severely burnt packaging but the book itself was only damp; the subject was witchcraft.  More books trickled in over time, some were actually delivered to the receiving library; some libraries immediately returned books to us and other were told to toss them and we would pay to replace them.  Through all of this, the books remained damp and tightly wrapped in plastic.  Surprisingly, nothing was moldy.  I am still perplexed since it is summer in the Midwest.  USPS response to the fire and water damage was to spread out all items on wire racks, with halogen lights on the materials (I’m assuming for heat and/or UV exposure) and fans blowing.  There was no mention of dehumidifiers running.  Then packages were hand sorted and wrapped in plastic.  Their quick response must have prevented the mold; although, I still do not understand how the damp books wrapped in plastic that we received a week later did not show signs of mold, not that I am complaining.

minor damage

For ISU materials, treatment decisions were easy, and books were air-dried and covers removed.  The trickier decisions were what to do with other library’s materials.  I thought about what my reaction would be if one of our books was returned rebound or repaired without my approval, and decided that 1) I might question their judgment and ability to properly treat materials, and 2) my level of acceptable damage that I can live with may be very different from theirs, so I tended toward recommending replacements if the books was relatively new and treatment if it was just a little stained and could be air-dried.  Our head of Resource Sharing communicated with all of the libraries affected by this fire, but none of them were very forthcoming on whether or not they wanted us to treat their materials or simply pay for replacements.  While waiting for responses, these books were also air-dried and flattened.

The lab started to smell like a bar-b-que because of the charred books.  The fumigation trashcan was set-up with Gonzo odor removal bags, the books were placed inside on grates, and the trashcan sealed tightly.  After a few days, the Gonzo was replaced and after several more days the books had a less strong smoky odor, but still noticeably smoky none-the-less.

Damaged books arranged in the fumigation trashcan.

Damaged books arranged in the fumigation trashcan.

This incident is really making me rethink interlibrary lending of any Special Collections and University Archives materials.  In general, we only lend reference materials and University Archives books that are replaceable, but books in the Archives are our faculty publications which are more valuable to us than they are be to other libraries that have them in their circulating collections.  Most, if not all, of these titles are available through other libraries, so I do not feel bad sending the request on to the next lending library.

This spring we noticed the bottom of the movable electronic shelving was dragging on the concrete in Bay 3 at the Library Storage Facility, the library’s remote storage building.  Close inspection revealed some concrete rose above the height of the floor tracks.  Old School Renovations, L.L.C. was brought in to level the concrete under the shelving.  They used a handheld concrete grinder to reduce the high spots along the second track.

red vacuum unit

Vacuum unit.

The equipment includes a vacuum unit with a long hose attached to the grinder.

Grinder with attached hose.

Grinder with attached hose.

The grinder has a circular disk that rotates to cut the concrete. The disk is made of aluminum & magnesium with diamonds.  The base is enclosed in a rubber sheath that captures the dust for the vacuum.

Grinder on its side.

Grinder on its side.

The unit is noisy, but it clears away the concrete and pulls all the dust and particles into the vacuum.  It allows grinding of a small area in close quarters.  We did not have to drape plastic or clean up after the work.  The job required very little participation by staff.  The entire bay took 5 hours to grind.  Mold spots on the ceiling were also removed and they cleaned the interior dock doors.



Old School Renovations, L.L.C. workers grinding concrete (left) and removing mold from the ceiling (right).


Gary, with Old School, told me the vacuum unit cost $3000 initially and a new filter costs $800.  He commented that dust containment will probably become more of a requirement in the future.  They have invested in training to use this equipment and to handle asbestos.  Old School Renovations, L.L.C. also restored the Tau Beta Pi marker outside Marston Hall this week, removing several layers of paint left by vandals.

Tau Beta Pi marker outside of Marston Hall.

Tau Beta Pi marker outside of Marston Hall.

While preparing serials to either be shelved or prepared for binding, I often discover or receive damaged issues from other Library employees.  These damaged issues are either repaired by our Conservation Lab staff or, if damage is deemed beyond repair, a request for a replacement issue is placed with our Serials Acquisitions unit.

There are three common types of journal repairs which can be performed in our Library Conservation Lab: fill, mend and sew.

A fill done when there is a hole or chunk missing from the issue and an alternate piece of paper is used to fill it in.


























A mend repair occurs when there is a rip or tear in the issue, but it is small and generally fixed with repair tape.











A sew repair happens when the cover or other pages are coming apart from the journal – a needle and thread is used or sometimes glue instead to alleviate this problem, so the issue can remain intact and be ready for use. 


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