Environment


 On August 8, Sonya and I attended a staff tour of the Library Storage Building (LSB) here at ISU. The offsite storage building holds mostly general collections, with a small number of lower use or larger size special collections items. The tour was a sort of “after” view of the building and storage area, although I was not here to see the “before” tour. The building had been having environmental control issues from leaks in the roof to non-functioning HVAC. “Before” pictures hanging on the wall showed how the staff had to deal with these problems with large tarps and hoses to catch and drain the water away from the collections materials and the electronics powering the compact shelving. After extensive work and repairs including a brand-new roof and HVAC system, the collections storage area now looks amazing!

It was so interesting to hear about the activities that go on behind the scenes at the LSB every day, including interlibrary loans, shelving and organizing newly arrived collections, and working to maintain order of the materials so they can be accessed easily for library users. One interesting thing that I came away with from the tour was just how much environmental control issues can affect workflows. As a conservator, my mind is always on the collections and the impact of inappropriate temperature and humidity on the physical materials. However, the leaks and other problems causes huge problems for the staff as well, who had to wear headlamps at one point just to do their jobs!

Another highlight of the tour was seeing some of the amazing collection materials on display, including trade catalogs with dyed fabric swatches, still vibrant because of the protection from light, as well as some beautiful atlases and architectural sketchbooks. So, go and explore the online catalog, because you never know what treasures are hiding in the LSB!

On June 1, 2017, I began my 32nd year at the ISU Library. In the early years, my job morphed from a documents librarian to a Reference Librarian with instruction and collection development duties. At the turn of the century, yes the 21st one, I added oversight for the library building including safety and security to my repertoire. Then in 2008, I dropped the reference/instruction aspects to concentrate on the library spaces. Over the past three years, I have been focused on the development of our library spaces feasibility plan and now the upcoming restroom renovations.

With nearly 20 years of experience with the building, I thought I knew the library physical spaces inside and out. But during last two architect tours of the building, I discovered new places and learned interesting tidbits about the building.

During tours of the mechanical/electrical rooms, I noticed that workers used walls for their scratch paper. Various calculations and notes were written presumably for the operations of the machinery located in these spaces as shown in photographs below

20170615_093231Measurements for panels

20170615_093129More measurements

20170615_093223Simplified schematic of the electrical circuitry for a water valve

Another one of my interesting finds in a mechanical room was a set of pipes that at first glance looked like plumbing pipes. But if you know plumbing, a “y” joint is never used for joining in two pipes coming in opposite directions. So what was this set of pipes? Well, the original building had a feature that many homeowners would love to have…centralized vacuum system. The second photo shows a  capped opening in the Periodical Room.

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“Y” joint for the centralized vacuum system

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Capped opening for centralized vacuum system

In many of the mechanical/electrical rooms, I discovered evidence of the original building which was concealed by the new construction needed for the 1960’s additions. The original building material was the large slabs of limestone in these photographs.

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Original building in a mechanical room

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Original building in an electrical room

During the next few years as the library undergoes a revitalization of its physical spaces, I wonder what else will be undercovered, revealed, or exposed. Stay tuned.

This spring we noticed the bottom of the movable electronic shelving was dragging on the concrete in Bay 3 at the Library Storage Facility, the library’s remote storage building.  Close inspection revealed some concrete rose above the height of the floor tracks.  Old School Renovations, L.L.C. was brought in to level the concrete under the shelving.  They used a handheld concrete grinder to reduce the high spots along the second track.

red vacuum unit

Vacuum unit.

The equipment includes a vacuum unit with a long hose attached to the grinder.

Grinder with attached hose.

Grinder with attached hose.

The grinder has a circular disk that rotates to cut the concrete. The disk is made of aluminum & magnesium with diamonds.  The base is enclosed in a rubber sheath that captures the dust for the vacuum.

Grinder on its side.

Grinder on its side.

The unit is noisy, but it clears away the concrete and pulls all the dust and particles into the vacuum.  It allows grinding of a small area in close quarters.  We did not have to drape plastic or clean up after the work.  The job required very little participation by staff.  The entire bay took 5 hours to grind.  Mold spots on the ceiling were also removed and they cleaned the interior dock doors.

 

workers

Old School Renovations, L.L.C. workers grinding concrete (left) and removing mold from the ceiling (right).

 

Gary, with Old School, told me the vacuum unit cost $3000 initially and a new filter costs $800.  He commented that dust containment will probably become more of a requirement in the future.  They have invested in training to use this equipment and to handle asbestos.  Old School Renovations, L.L.C. also restored the Tau Beta Pi marker outside Marston Hall this week, removing several layers of paint left by vandals.

Tau Beta Pi marker outside of Marston Hall.

Tau Beta Pi marker outside of Marston Hall.

I’m going to grinch about your holiday decorating. Pinterest is awash in images of “Christmas trees” made from stacked-up books. Fine. If they’re your own books, and you understand that you are causing both short-term and long-term damage to them, then fine — go for it. They’re your books. You can do what you want with them (although I would still advise against it).

BookTree-verybad

The worst offender: expect warped spines, warped pages, tears, and pages popping loose from adhesive bindings.

However, if you are a library professional, and you are using library materials to build a book tree as a display in your library, then I am calling you out.  There are a million and one ways to decorate and share your festive holiday spirit (have you looked at Pinterest lately?!) without sending your patrons the wrong message. “But we chose general collections, circulating materials!” you say. “We used that serial journal that no one ever even looks at!” you might add.  It doesn’t matter.  You’re showing everyone who walks into your library that it is o.k. not to handle borrowed library materials respectfully, because you as a library are not treating them respectfully.  You’re putting a strain on the bindings, and exposing them to acute light damage, dust and debris.  So, why shouldn’t your patrons fill those books with highlighter and pencil marks, use them as coasters, prop open their doors with them?

BookTree

At least this tree isn’t draped with string lights. However, the staggered stacking and weight distribution is still likely to warp the book boards.

Fellow book conservators and preservation professionals, we still have work to be done.  Then maybe my heart would grow three sizes, too.

As I reach the end of my internship, I would like to share a brief description of some of the projects I have worked on during the last three months as well as some personal observations.  Two of the film projects I addressed were the re-housing of the Alexander Lippisch Films Collection and the condition assessment of the general Film Collection located in the film vaults. For my first task involving the Lippisch Films, the goal and workflow were quite straightforward. The majority of the 306 films (in most cases roughly 100 ft.) were stored in their original metal cans or cardboard boxes. They were also in their original reels, which was often a Tenite reel that had decomposed, covering the film with a white powder. Finally, they were stored in groups of approximately 20 objects per box inside large, archival boxes.

A decomposed Tenite reel.

A decomposed Tenite reel.

My work with this collection consisted in transferring all films from their original plastic or metal reels into 3-inch plastic cores. This is the best way to keep film, because it avoids the potentially damaging pressure that a reel might produce, and it also prevents the extreme curling that is caused by 2-inch cores. In addition, protective head and tail leaders were added to all films and then stored in adequate 16mm archival plastic cans.

The Lippisch Films in their original reels.

The Lippisch Films in their original reels.

The Lippisch Films transferred into 3-inch cores and re-housed.

The Lippisch Films transferred into 3-inch cores and re-housed.

Even though I didn’t have the time to thoroughly inspect, clean and repair all films, I was able to provide them with minimal stabilization and remove as much non-archival tape as I could. The tape had damaged the adjacent areas, producing stains, silver mirroring and other chemical reactions.

Film had been secured with non archival tape

Film had been secured with non archival tape.

Tape being removed. The tape has damaged the emulsion.

Tape being removed. The tape has damaged the emulsion.

Finally, a selection of films was prepared for digitization. The digitization projects currently being carried out at Special Collections have access purposes only. This means that the image quality of the files produced is good enough for research and access but does not meet the standards of long-term digital preservation.

Another issue I addressed was testing the decomposition level of the acetate films. Since its inception, motion picture film has been manufactured with three different plastic bases. The first utilized base was cellulose nitrate, discontinued around 1951 due to its extremely high flammability. Nitrate was eventually replaced by cellulose acetate which is still being used today. The third, polyester, also continues to be used, particularly for theatrical release prints. Unfortunately, acetate has proven to be chemically unstable and is prone to chemical decay, especially when it is not stored in the appropriate conditions of temperature and relative humidity (40 Fº and 30-50% RH). This type of decomposition is known as vinegar syndrome, in reference to the strong odor produced by acidic gases liberated by the decaying films.
The Image Permanence Institute at the Rochester Institute of Technology developed an important tool, A-D Strips, which helps determine the extent of chemical decay in acetate-based collections. This is achieved through the use of indicator papers that measure the pH in films. During my internship, I tested the collection with the help of students and Special Collections staff. The results and the data collected will allow us to understand how the chemical condition of the collection evolved and decide what are the most urgent actions to be carried out within a thorough preservation plan.

A film without noticeable physical changes. Before re-housing.

A film without noticeable physical changes. Before re-housing.

Severely decayed film.

Severely decayed film.

In summation, I would like to share some thoughts about my experience as a film preservationist who learned some paper conservation techniques, and worked for three months in a paper-based environment. Most of the differences that I perceived derive most likely from the fact that audiovisual objects are machine-dependent, as opposed to books or paper documents. This means that in order to “read” a movie or sound record a machine is needed (i.e. projector, deck, computer, etc.). This main difference with paper is reflected in the conservation treatments that the materials need in order to be preserved. With books and paper, we work on the object to make it readable and agreeable for immediate contact with our eyes. With films, we work on preparing the object to be read or processed by a machine. Anyone who works in the field of conservation understands the importance of preserving our cultural heritage in its varying facets, from the intimate value of a family photograph to those works that are considered national patrimony, or even world heritage. I am pleased to have collaborated with Iowa State University in saving valuable audiovisual documents that are part of its identity as an institution and a community.

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