1091MapThis week’s 1091 Project looks at tracking workflows as items move through the ISU Library Conservation Lab.  We’re not going to get into the details of treatment documentation this time around, but we will be addressing that topic in a later post.

Our Conservation Lab is a smallish operation, with one conservator, two technicians, three to four students, one volunteer, and (at the moment) the Lennox Intern.  Since our operation is small, our combination of a homegrown tracking inventory (created in MS Access) and designated physical locations for items awaiting treatment and items which are completed and awaiting quality review/checkout works for us, but I’m the first to admit this system could use a lot of improvement.  We’re exploring some options that could help track workflows, such as Aeon management software, so I am looking forward to hearing how that system works for our 1091 partner, the Conservation Department at Duke University Libraries.

Sorting shelves, where general collections materials await designated repairs.

Sorting shelves, where general collections materials await designated repairs.

As a hybrid lab, we juggle several different workflows, which break down roughly as follows:

General Collections materials come to the Conservation Unit from two primary sources, Acquisitions/Cataloging (if it is a new acquisition) and Circulation (if the item has been flagged as in poor condition when returned by a patron).  These materials come to us for preservation assessment, and we direct these items either to Preservation Services (for commercial binding, reformatting, commercial boxing, or bibliographic review) or to the sorting shelves of the Conservation Lab to await treatment.  The location code of materials must be changed in Aleph, our library software system, receiving one code if the item will be rerouted to Preservation Services, and another if the item will stay in Conservation.

Master Conservation Tracking Inventory.  Ideally, every single item in the lab is entered into this list.

Master Conservation Tracking Inventory. Ideally, every single item in the lab is entered into this list.

Additionally, the materials are entered into our master Conservation Tracking Inventory, where we record barcode/call number, title, intake date, and home location, and assign a treatment code which corresponds to our sorting shelves.  So, for example, a book needing a reback is assigned the code “rbk” in the inventory, and is then placed in the Reback shelf in the sorting area to await treatment.  When items are checked out of the master inventory, we enter the initials of the person who completed the treatment, along with the checkout date.  The location code of materials in Aleph must also be changed to indicate that they are in transit and no longer in Conservation.

Treatment codes for the master Conservation Tracking Inventory.

Treatment codes for the master Conservation Tracking Inventory.

Special Collections and Archives materials come to us for a variety of reasons:

  1. new acquisitions needs assessment/treatment;
  2. collection maintenance;
  3. reformatting prep;
  4. exhibit prep;
  5. newly published materials needing shelf prep before going to Archives;
  6. transfers from the General Collections.

These items travel through the same electronic tracking channels that General Collections items do — change of location code in Aleph, addition to the master Conservation Tracking Inventory — but some of these items are also entered in an independent MS Access treatment database specifically for materials which require full treatment documentation: photographic documentation according to AIC guidelines, condition assessment, treatment proposal, and treatment report.  These materials receive the code “spcon #” in our master inventory, and the # corresponds to the treatment documentation number in the treatment documentation database.  Confusing, isn’t it?  Every few months, I comb through the treatment database, looking for inconsistencies with Aleph and the master inventory, and then I scurry around the lab poking into presses and drawers until I have accounted for every item.  There must be a better way, but for now, we make this work, and we haven’t lost anything yet!

My recent efforts to resolve inconsistencies between the master inventory and the conservation treatment documentation database.

My recent efforts to resolve inconsistencies between the master inventory and the conservation treatment documentation database.

Our other major workflow (I won’t even broach the topic of special projects in this post) is the Digital workflow.  At bimonthly meetings, Digital Initiatives, Special Collections, and Conservation work out the upcoming flow of materials between our various units.  Items come from Special Collections to Conservation for pre-digitization assessment and stabilization, and then, if necessary, are routed back through Conservation for post-digitization assessment, if needed, before returning to Special Collections.  For now, I track these materials in the master inventory and regular treatment database, but we are working with IT on a shared database that our three units could all access to better coordinate this workflow.

Now let’s head over to Preservation Underground to find out how Duke University Libraries’ Conservation Department keeps track of its workflows.

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