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June 28-30, 2016 Iowa State University hosted the Iowa 4-H Youth conference titled “Dive to the Depths”. Students grades 8-12 from all over Iowa converged on the ISU campus to participate in group activities and workshops. Every year  almost 1000 kids attend! The workshops introduce the students to new professional environments and careers.  They also give participants an opportunity to develop practical life skills that they will use throughout their lives.

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I taught three  workshops about books at the Parks Library preservation lab. At the start of each workshop I did a short presentation about the history of books, into which I crammed as many interesting images as I could find. Then we made a fold-up book and sewed a pamphlet out of multi-colored papers. Most of the participants already had extensive sewing experience. Many had made a quilt or an outfit before, so it took them all of 3 minutes to sew a simple pamphlet! Oops, I will have to step it up with the difficulty level next year!

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At the end of the session I showed the 4-H-ers some conservation projects that I was working on. Many of them were really curious about the chemistry of the materials that they saw – both the artifacts and the conservation supplies. They answered my questions readily and were not too shy to ask their own, which I appreciated.

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I’ve reached a point where I realize I need some (technology) help.

An image showing a routing form versus project management software charts

Choices….

Balancing the needs of at least eight people, 5 units, and three divisions is hard! We all need to share a workflow for building digital projects from primarily paper-based archival materials. New projects entail, at a minimum, the digital collections team: the entire Digital Initiatives staff, and at least one person from Special Collections and University Archives, Preservation, Metadata and Cataloging, and the Research and Instruction Division, currently represented on the team by the Science & Technology department. Library IT and Central IT may also play a role, depending on the project.

In order to work efficiently and at capacity, we run more than one project at a time. Additionally, I manage the queue – there are always requests for new projects waiting in the wings or projects we’ve thought of that would provide new kinds of access to some of the Library’s collections. It’s my job to assess priorities and fit these into the existing work when I can.

Everyone has their own way of working that makes the most sense for them. My flavor of managing my work is very analytical and visual heavy. I love diagrams and charts, spreadsheets, and estimations. I am soothed by massive spreadsheets and complicated business process modeling!

Our needs are varied, as are our schedules. We’ve been managing the work through team communication and a routing sheet, but we need more. Our project scopes have expanded, we’ve added new people to the digital collections team, and the various units have new procedures that need to be incorporated into our shared work. So, I am on the hunt for a comfortable project management solution. If it’s not comfortable for all of us, it won’t get used and it won’t work. I want it to be something that eases my hunger for charts and analysis, while also being streamlined enough that someone could else just see the tasks they need to get done that week. We’re testing some options and will hopefully come up with something that eases burden rather than adding to it.

Do you also have project management challenges? If so, please share!

 

 

Our Digital Collections include a variety of different things.  The digital collection management system that we use is CONTENTdm hosted by OCLC.  We try to come up with the best way to present our various materials online so that they not only look good but are as useful as possible to people that want to access them.  Sometimes they are individual images but often they are large multipage items so we combine the digitized images together into a PDF.  One interesting difference between a single image and a PDF is that while an image will look the same to all the people who view our collections online, a PDF can look different depending on the web browser a person uses.

Different browsers include their own PDF plug-ins for viewing a PDF online.  Below are three images of the exact same item in our digital collections.

The first one is viewed in Internet Explorer
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The second one is viewed in Firefox
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And the third one is viewed in Google Chrome
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While the images look similar, all the tools or buttons for using the PDF look different and are located in different places along the top and sides of the image.  I’ve found out from first-hand experience that this can be a little confusing if two people are viewing the same thing but on different browsers and they’re conversing on the phone or through email about how to use the various tools.  While this isn’t really a big deal, it’s good to be aware that even though we strive for consistency in the look and usability of our digital items, we can’t control the differences that show up when using different web browsers.

 

Talking to design students about conservation of special collections

Talking to design students about conservation of special collections

A couple of months ago I hosted a tour for a College of Design class, which focused on binding and printing  design in the context of current publishing practices. Preparing for this tour prompted our technician Mindy and myself to seek out contemporary binding structures from our general collections that present preservation challenges for library professionals.

Most of these items ended up being art books. Because of innovations in the realm of  publishing, many coffee table books now feature all kinds of fancy bells and whistles, going for a unique look with an element of surprise. There is a tendency to deconstruct the traditional book form.  What that means for us here in the Preservation Department is: ENCLOSURES! These unconventional bindings and textblocks require an extra level of protection for a variety of reasons. Dear reader, behold the art book medley!

Colibri Jackets – why do we need them?
Colibri

1. The spine of a book needs all the protection it can get.
2. Fabrics and 3D elements can rub against other books on the shelf.
3. Loosely associated items: a sticky note serves as a title label.
4. Exposed board edges will delaminate extra quickly.

Boxes and pockets

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1. Some binding structures are inherently vulnerable to handling. A 4-flap made from a lightweight board, also called a tux box, will do just fine for this delicate binding.
2. & 3.  Security is important: enclosures can help keep small desirable items from walking off the shelf.
4. The artist print that comes included with this monograph is larger than the book.
This sturdy 4-flap, called a phase box, had to be retrofitted with a spacer to keep the two items from shifting around inside.

And sometimes…
Books come to us with their own boxes, and they need a little help. Here are three examples of that, clockwise from left to right:

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  1. A collection of vintage recipes in its original box packaging. The lid of the box got ripped off. It was later hinged back on with a strip of matching book cloth.
  2. Inside the Tide box there is a soft cover paperback book. The box was not as secure as we would have liked. In addition, the ingenious colorful box  presents a real temptation for a library user to take it home. So the book got an additional clamshell box (a nice boring gray).
  3. The multiple small books contained in the tan cloth box are all identified by the same bar code, pasted onto the side of the box. There are no volume numbers present. So, each individual book within the box got its own label, even though they all say the same thing. This way the books can be better tracked if one of them gets lost.

If you see me sitting at my bench in the Preservation Lab just staring off into space, I am not daydreaming but thinking about how to tackle a work related project. Sometimes I’m jotting down notes, drawing a sketch, or making a mock item but it all pertains to book repair and box making.  We sometimes receive unique items here in the Preservation Department and then must come up with creative ways to fix or house them in protective boxes.  Below shows three mini books titled Laozi Qi Shu Qi Ren along with a laminated picture card and they are to be housed in the Cage Miniature section of the Parks Library.

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I decided to use three layers of ¼” Ethafoam, 3M double stick tape, ½” gray linen tape, and grey-white barrier board to construct a phase box with foam support for the mini books and card. The reason for the three layers of Ethafoam is because one book was much thicker than the other two along with the think laminated card and the linen tape underneath helps to release the mini books from their foam protected pockets.  There was some skill on my part to get everything lined up just right when cutting the Ethafoam with a scalpel and a little fine trimming with a scissors but I am pleased with the end product-all four items housed together in a phase box.

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Last fall we were made aware of the University’s new “mixed stream” recycling program. This new system allows for all sorts of recyclable material to go into the blue bins – newspapers, pop cans, white paper – all together in the same bin! No having to search around for the proper bin for each item.

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This got us in the Lab thinking – what about our scraps that we throw out? Can we recycle what we use? We gathered up items we use frequently in the lab that we thought might possibly be recycled and had the person in charge of the recycling team come and talk to us about these items. We were pleased to hear that much of what we use can be recycled! One of the funny things discussed was Reemay – not really recyclable we are told. Even though we know what it is and what it is made from the people at the sorting facility would most likely think that it is a dryer sheet which is not recyclable. Ha!

Reemay

Reemay

 

Here are just a few of the items that we most frequently recycle.

Colibri covers, boards, book cloth

Colibri covers, boards, book cloth

In order to ensure that serial issues are bound or discarded in a timely, seamless manner we have developed a six-week color-coded streamer system. This system has helped us to streamline both the pulling of journal issues for binding and the tracking of items either missing or have never been received by the Library.

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There are six different colored streamers with each color representing a different week in the rotating six week cycle. As items are pulled from the shelves in the Periodical Room or the General Collection each title gets a streamer that coincides with that week’s color. The streamers allow the staff to clearly see how long an item has been in process between pulling & binding and serves as a reminder to keep these items moving. We have also found that the system helps if other staff members have to step in and help due to absences – it is easier to see what items are a higher priority.  So far this system seems to be working well and all who use it are pleased.streamers in place IMG_0864

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