Julianna Biedenfeld


Sitting down in front of a computer and scanning pages one by one for hours at a time might not sound appealing, but I find it so interesting to be able to work on a project that allows these special materials to be viewed safely by many people. Recently, I have been working on a scanning project of materials from Hortense Butler Heywood. Heywood was an Iowa native who studied entomology and supported the women’s suffrage movement. A lot of the items I have seen from Heywood’s collection are personal letters, and quite a few of these letters that have small sketches on them. It’s a pretty cool aspect, because even though I will never meet Heywood, I can still see her personality come to life on paper.

It’s also fascinating to make connections with the authors of these historical items. Earlier this semester, I worked on a Pammel Court project, which happened to be where my grandparents lived while my grandpa was going to school at Iowa State. With this project, I found out that Heywood was a teacher for a couple years in Peterson, Iowa, which is where my dad grew up. Finding these little connections makes my work feel so much more personal and makes what can be mind-numbing work more enjoyable.

Student employee Julianna Biedenfeld straining wheat starch paste at the Preservation lab

Student employee Julianna Biedenfeld straining wheat starch paste at the Preservation lab

The repairs we do on books in the Preservation Department is something that many might think seems really complicated or something super scientific. However, the work we put into books up here on the 4th floor isn’t all as complex as it appears to be and can be related to hobbies done outside of the Preservation Lab. Personally, I really enjoy putting together puzzles. In some aspects I can relate this enjoyment to the work I do in Preservation at the library.

A slow and steady progress through a puzzle

A slow and steady progress through a puzzle

Most recently, I have been working on a book repair technique called a reback. A reback is done when the spine of the cover is damaged, but the rest of the book is intact. Books that need repairing like this are what I would consider a puzzle that’s put together, but not quite finished. A damaged book needs something more – a few more pieces – to make it look complete. When working on a puzzle, sometimes you take a few pieces out that had already put together to get a closer look and find which pieces match with it.

Books with damaged spines, re-backs in progress and a completed repair

Books with damaged spines, re-backs in progress and a completed repair

A similar approach goes with the books I have been repairing. You take off the damaged bookcloth and replace some of it with new bookcloth. Then you put the final “piece” back on – the title – and the book looks complete. Once all the parts are together the book is finished and can be put back on the shelf to be used. In a similar way, once the pieces of a puzzle are all together, you can see a full image and sit back to enjoy it.