Gone to Pieces

Brittle book pieces for tours and presentations.
Brittle book pieces for tours and presentations.

Decisions, decisions!  Who makes the decisions on what to do with our brittle books?  Here at Iowa State University Library, the process has evolved over time.  We have streamlined the process making it easier for all involved with the decisions.

Brittle books
Brittle books.

In the past, damaged books would be brought to the reformatting area, and staff would make the decision on whether to repair, reformat, or box the book.  Only if it was in very bad shape would we request input from the Bibliographers.  Over time, we determined that we wanted more input from them so we could be sure we were keeping and working on books that were still important to the collection.  The Library Assistant in Reformatting would search the title in our online catalog, OCLC, and Books in Print, and make paper copies of all of the records found for the book in-hand and for more recent editions.  The Bibliographer was then notified to come to the reformatting area to review the book.  However, this searching process was determined not to be a good use of time or paper, as it used up a lot of both.

GoneToPieces-03As staffing and reorganization brought about change, we decided it was time to look at the process and determine what changes needed to take place for working with the Bibliographers regarding brittle and damaged books.  The Circulation Department was asked to take the damaged books to the Conservation Laboratory, where the Conservator would first take a look at the books and determine if they could be fixed in the lab.  If so, they were added to the lab’s inventory and processed through their workflow.

If Conservation determined that the book needed to be reviewed by a Bibliographer, they would fill out a slip for Preservation Services and forward it with the book to our area.  This form (shown at left) helps us to track the processes that the book is going through.  The form is tucked into the publication by the staff in the Conservation Lab after they have filled out the basic information (Date Received, Call Number and/or Title), along with their recommendation to send for Bibliographic Review, Box, or Reformat.  Bibliographic Review is the most often chosen selection. The appropriate bibliographer’s name and the subject code are added to the form by staff in Preservation Services.  The next step is to search the title in our online catalog and print off the bibliographic information.

We now have another form which is filled out and printed to go along with the volume to the Bibliographers.  This is known as the “Referral to Bibliographer” form.  This form is tucked into the book along with the Preservation Services Processing Form and the Bibliographic record from our online catalog.


The books are then transferred to designated shelves for the Bibliographers to review.  An email is sent to each of the Bibliographers receiving books to notify them that there are books awaiting their review.  They are given a set amount of time to complete this task, usually a 2-week turnaround.  If at the end of that time a decision has not been made, the Collections Coordinator makes the decision and passes the book back to Preservation Services staff.

To assist the Bibliographers in making their decision, a computer is available for their use in the review area.  They are able to look up titles in World Cat, Books in Print, and other online resources.  Their response is noted on the Referral to Bibliographer form along with their initials and date.

Brittle books awaiting bibliographic review.
Brittle books awaiting bibliographic review.

When the book is returned to Preservation Services, the decision by the Bibliographer is noted on the Preservation Services Processing Form if it is to be boxed or reformatted.   At this point, any additional information about how to handle the book is made by Preservation Services staff in consultation with the Head of Preservation and/or the Conservator.  If the book is to be withdrawn, the necessary information is forwarded along with the book to the Cataloging Department to complete the process.

Brittle books.
Brittle books.

This current handling process has streamlined the workflow, helped us to process books in a more timely manner, and involved the various, knowledgeable staff members who should be making these decisions about our collection.

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