Hilary Seo

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.

Sometimes  things in life just seem to strangely intersect.  Earlier this summer, the chair of the Library Advisory Committee, Heidi Hohmann, asked me about treating large landscape architecture plans and happened to mention the fact that Iowa State University was starting the first historic preservation program in the state.  This set off some bells in my head since someone else had just mentioned looking for opportunities in historic preservation in the state.  Although it’s not my area of expertise, even though many confuse historic preservation with library and archives preservation, it is an exciting opportunity to have like-minded folks on campus; others who will not ask why we shouldn’t just make or build a new one and who understand that there is information and history in the object itself.

This new program may be coming to campus at just the right time since the university has a wonderful example of its own that showcases why historic preservation is so important.  With some intervention by a not-for-profit organization, ISU is saving a historical structure that was once used as a geology field studies station by ISU students and researchers outside of Shell, WY.  The building was slated for destruction when the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation found out about the plans.   The historical structure is an original barrack used at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center during World War II, located between the towns of Cody and Powell, WY.  ISU acquired it in the late 1940s after the town of Gryebull no longer needed it.

Many of these barracks were sold off by the federal government after the war for $1 each to homesteaders.  Because of this, some of the 450 barracks that were built at Heart Mountain continue to exist today as outbuildings, stores, and houses.  ISU is donating the structure so that it can be returned to the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center and used as part of the permanent exhibit.  The Foundation will be responsible for moving the 20 feet wide by 120 feet long barrack the 81 miles back to Heart Mountain.  In addition to being complete, the barrack is a good is candidate for historic preservation since it has had few modifications made to it over the past 70 years.  Another barrack from Heart Mountain was reassembled in Los Angeles next to the Japanese American National Museum in 1994.

Saichi, Suzuyo, and Eddie Seo in front of barrack at Heart Mountain Relocation Center.

Saichi, Suzuyo, and Eddie Seo in front of barrack at Heart Mountain Relocation Center.

For me, this effort is most significant because Heart Mountain is where my family (my grandparents, parents, aunt, and uncles) was incarcerated during the war.  The irony of the photograph above with my grandparents and my father is that my father, an American citizen along with my grandmother, is wearing a Superman sweatshirt.


My maternal grandfather, Umitaro Ibaraki harvesting tomatoes with Hearth Mountain in the distance. Photo from Northwest College Hinckley Library Special Collections, Ethel Ryan Collection.

My family discovered a photograph of my maternal grandfather working in the fields at Heart Mountain. The photo had been made available online without identifying the man, and my family member provided the name.  A good example of how invaluable it can be to have users identify events, places, and people in photographs.  The photograph is part of the Ethel Ryan Collection which has been made available through their Heart Mountain Digital Preservation Project, which happens to powered by CONTENTdm like ISU Library’s digital collections.  This collection includes documents and photographs focusing on Heart Mountain Relocation Center.


Happy National Preservation Week!

wanted poster

To kick things off, an little reminder that Iowa State University Library is searching for a permanent, full-time professional library and archives conservator who specializes in book and paper conservation.  We are looking for a conservator with training and experience in conservation of rare books. archival materials, and general collections.  A Master’s Degree in Conservation, Library Science or related field is required.  The opportunity for promotion exists for this position based on performance and external reputation developed through service to the profession such as committee work, and/or scholarship in the field.

The Conservator manages a hybrid conservation lab, supervises staff and students, trains the annual Lennox Foundation graduate intern, works with Special Collections staff to identify and prioritize treatment, performs conservation treatment on rare books and archival collections, stabilizes and prepares materials for exhibit and digitization, leads the library disaster response team, and participates in the Iowa-wide disaster response team (IMALERT).  Oversees the spending of dedicated supply/equipment and out-sourced conservation budgets.  Our well equipped lab is located on the fourth floor (not the basement) along with Special Collections and University Archives, and is over 3,400 square feet including office and storage space.


It is an exciting time in the library as we prepare to welcome our new Dean of the Library, Beth McNeil, who seems to get that sparkle in her eyes when we talk about our rare and unique materials.  A new strategic plan has been drafted that not only focuses on service to our users but also gives attention to our staff and a healthy workplace.  There has been an influx of new and energetic staff as hiring has increased not only in the library, but across campus.  Construction is happening on campus and throughout Ames as the university attracts more students, faculty, staff, and businesses.  And of course, it’s spring on one of the most beautiful campuses in the country.  (The campus was awarded the American Society of Landscape Architecture medallion award given to outstanding landscape sites).

ISU spring


Although this is not a faculty position, there is a lot of useful information about ISU and Ames provided by the Provost’s Office here: https://www-provost.sws.iastate.edu/isu-advance/faculty-searches/fac-cand and Professional & Scientific employee benefits from Human Resources: http://www.hrs.iastate.edu/hrs/node/579/attachment.

Click to see posting and to apply by May 10, 2015: https://www.iastatejobs.com/postings/11275

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the position:  Hilary

We said goodbye to Melissa, our conservator, last week.  She will be heading off to Delaware to serve as the Library Conservator at the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, and as Affiliated Faculty for the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation.  She will be shaping the minds, philosophical approaches, and conservation skills of our future library and archives conservators.  I know that she will do a great job not only teaching them book conservation techniques and the research that informs the approach to treating unique items and their problems, but also a sensitivity to the context and setting of these objects when making the treatment decision. She had a lot of exposure to this kind of decision-making while juggling the needs of our special collections materials and general collections, having to prioritize workflows for exhibits, digitization, disaster salvage, general book repair, and conservation treatment and housing for a wide variety of artifacts.


Photo by Mindy Moeller


After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin Kilgarlin Center for Preservation of the Cultural Record with her MLIS and specialization in conservation, and interning at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Melissa joined the ISU Preservation Department at the end of 2009.  In 2010 she was greeted with one of the snowiest winters in central Iowa from January to March and a flood in August that resulted in thousands of flood damaged architectural drawings requiring treatment.  We were certain she would leave after that, but she stuck around for four more years and we are grateful for everything she accomplished, and of course, her boot collection–turquoise cowboy boots, polka dot rain boots, snow boots, hiking boots, fashion boots, you name it.

Boots2 crop

Without launching into a litany of accomplishments, and there were many, I want to highlight something that Melissa managed to do that I thought would be impossible.  When Melissa started at ISU, she kept having to correct her colleagues as to which public university in Iowa she represented.  She took it upon herself to put the ISU Library Preservation Department “on the map.”  She started our social media presence and launched our Facebook page and this blog site which has received national recognition.  With a little help from her co-workers and the joint 1091 Project with Beth Doyle at Duke University, she was able to share the goings-on in the department with other conservators, preservation specialists, students, library staff, and the general public.  The blog now has 368 posts, 686 comments, 76 followers, and 136,420 all time views.  She did it!  She reached a lot of individuals who may or may not have known that the department existed or were uncertain as to what we do.  We are less often mistaken for that other Iowa university to the east of us.

We will miss Melissa and her many boots!


There’s still time to participate in the Preservation Statistics Survey. This is the third year this survey is being made available and we would like to increase participation to gather data that shows how preservation activities are expanding and still an essential function of research libraries and archives. Any library or archives in the United States conducting preservation activities is encouraged to participate in this survey, which is open through Friday, February 27, 2015.

For more information, visit the Preservation Statistics website:  http://www.ala.org/alcts/resources/preservation/presstats
FY2013-infographic-loFY2014 Survey questions focus on production-based preservation activities, documenting your institution’s conservation treatment, general preservation activities, preservation reformatting and digitization, and digital preservation and digital asset management activities.
The goal of the Preservation Statistics Survey, now in its third year, is to document the state of preservation activities in this digital era via quantitative data that facilitates peer comparison and tracking changes in the preservation and conservation fields over time. The Survey, a project of the Preservation and Reformatting Section (PARS) of the Association of Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS), is based on the Preservation Statistics survey program coordinated by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) from 1984 through 2008.

Why should your institution participate in the FY2014 Preservation Statistics Survey?

* The FY2014 Survey is significantly shorter than previous years, asking only for production data — information you already have for annual reporting or other internal planning and evaluation

* Preservation Statistics data helps you and the wider preservation community advocate for preservation programming and activities, demonstrating how programs compare to peers as well as areas of strength and need

* Your participation can help us achieve a representative body of preservation programs, which means better analysis and examination of trends in preservation programming.  To continue the Preservation Statistics Project, we need seventy-five institutions to respond to this FY14 survey

Participate today — count what you do and show preservation counts! #doyoucount

Please contact the Preservation Statistics Survey team with any questions or feedback: preservationstatistics@gmail.com

Follow us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/preservationstatistics



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