Preservation Week

Next week here at the ISU Library we will be celebrating Preservation Week! It’s a wonderful time that we can devote to reaching out to the community and educating them on what we (and they) can do to preserve our personal and shared collections.

This year we will be hosting another Preservation Clinic: Ask the Experts that is open to the public. We invite those that are local to bring in a family heirloom or collectable and we will provide you with information on how you can properly care for and handle your item. We will be joined by some guest experts from the State Historical Society of Iowa as well as the Textiles & Clothing Museum. We will also have a representative from Digital Initiatives available to discuss our digital collections and the new Bomb transcription project that you may remember from our previous post.

If you are in central Iowa next week we invite you to come and join us and if you aren’t local I encourage you to check out the Preservation Week website for a lot of quality information on protecting our treasures!

Tomorrow is the last official day of National Preservation Week! If you missed the preservation webinars hosted by ALA-ALCTS this week, no need to fret: you can view the archived webinars on the ALA-ALCTS YouTube Channel, along with many other  webinars from past years.  This is a wonderful, free preservation resource available to anyone with an internet connection.  Preservation Week may be drawing to a close, but the ISU Library Preservation Department’s outreach mission continues year-round.  Contact us if you are in need of a preservation consultation.


Preservation Week 2014: Free Webinars

Low-Cost Ways to Preserve Family Archives by Karen E. Brown

Preserving Historic Scrapbooks and Making New Ones That Last by Melissa Tedone

It’s National Preservation Week! While every week of the year is “preservation week” for cultural heritage professionals, National Preservation Week focuses on outreach to the general public and among allied professions such as archivists, librarians, museum curators, vendors of archival supplies, preservation administrators, and conservators.


Here at ISU Library, we’re focusing attention this week on what to do about WET BOOKS.  Too often, a library book accidentally gets wet, and by the time the borrower  has returned it to the library, it is so infested with mold that we end up having to discard the book and charge the borrower a hefty replacement fee.  Library users often don’t realize how expensive it is to replace a library book. Not only are they charged the cost of the book itself, but also processing fees for the book to be acquired, cataloged, and marked for the shelf.


T-Shirt Giveaway

We’ve designed Preservation Week t-shirts with the design above on the front, and advice about how to handle wet books on the back.  Access Services and Preservation staff will be wearing the t-shirts as well as “Ask Me About Book First Aid!” stickers.  This Wednesday, April 30, through Friday, May 2, we will be giving away free t-shirts to the first 40 library users who ask a t-shirt-wearing staff member about preservation or book first aid.


During the 2010 flood, we waived fees for replacing damaged books, because we recognized that the campus community was struggling to salvage a lot more than their library books. However, we would really like to save students and staff the cost of replacement fees whenever possible, so we’re campaigning to educate our users about what Preservation can do for them. 

Accidents happen! Sometimes, a drink spills onto a library book. Books get rained on, or dropped in puddles. Bringing a wet book back to the library immediately gives Preservation a chance to dry it properly before permanent damage (warping, cockling, mold) sets in.  Follow our simple tips to help us mitigate damage to our collections, and your reward will be avoiding a potentially costly replacement fee!

Damp Book?

  • Fan open pages
  • Stand book on end in well-ventilated area until dry.
  • Return book to Circulation Desk and tell staff.

Wet Book?

  • Return book immediately to Circulation Desk.
  • If Library is closed: Wrap book in wax paper or foil and freeze. Return the still-wrapped book to the Library as soon as it opens.
  • Do not put a wet book in a plastic bag!

Moldy Book?

  • Seal book in a plastic bag.
  • Return book to Circulation Desk as soon as possible.
  • Warn staff that book is moldy.

Thank you for helping us care for the library collections that we all share!

Currently, we don’t do much in the way of formal care and handling training for staff at Iowa State University Library, for two reasons: (1) Preservation enjoys a high profile in our institution, so there is a general awareness of preservation concerns across the Library, and (2) our Library does not have a lot of turnover; many key staff members have been in their positions for upwards of ten or twenty years, and they are very well-versed in care and handling concerns.  The Circulation staff and Stacks Management staff in particular know what to look for and when to call Preservation for assistance.  Likewise, Special Collections staff enjoy a close working relationship with our department, and they are sensitive to potential issues.  So, “training” really only happens on a case-by-case basis, as specific causes for concern arise.  For example, the University Archivist recently requested that I test some plastic sleeves housing new acquisitions, just in case they contained PVC.  Fortunately, the sleeves proved to be PVC-free, but I appreciated her diligence in contacting us to be sure.

We reach out to educate Library users in various ways.  Special Collections staff provide instruction to each user visiting the Special Collections Reading Room on how to handle the materials safely, when a book cradle is necessary, when to wear cotton gloves, etc.  The Preservation Department holds occasional events which are open to the public (particularly during Preservation Week each April), such as free webinars for specific care and handling of photographs, textiles, and other specialized materials.

The Conservation Unit also works closely with Circulation to educate users on care and handling issues, especially issues such as mold.  In some cases, circulating books have returned to the Library severely infested with mold.  If the book is beyond salvage and a new copy must be purchased for the collection, the user will be charged to replace the book.  On some occasions, users have wanted to keep the moldy item after paying the replacement cost.  Circulation and Conservation work together in such situations to educate the user on the dangers of mold, such as its potential health hazards, and the risk of the mold spreading to other books, drapery, rugs, and upholstered furniture if left unmitigated in the user’s home.

Contrasting with the more informal, small-scale approach to staff and user training which suits our institutional culture right now, Duke University Libraries has developed a more formal training program.  Let’s head over to Preservation Underground to learn more about it.

Yesterday was the first day of our week-long celebration of National Preservation Week 2012 at Iowa State University Library. If you missed yesterday’s events, be sure to check out our full Preservation Week schedule for more great events this week.

To promote awareness and good stewardship of artifacts representing cultural, historical, and family heritage, the Preservation Department is offering free preservation consultations to the public at a Preservation Clinic in the lobby of Parks Library.

At yesterday’s Preservation Clinic, we examined approximately 30 items, including books, photographs, gowns, framed portraits, cabinet cards, and more.  Hilary Seo, Melissa Tedone, Mindy Moeller, Mindy McCoy, volunteer Martha Lincoln, and undergraduate intern Alex Menard were all on hand from the ISU Library Preservation department.  We were further assisted by Sarah Raithel, a paper conservator in private practice in Pella, IA, and Pete Sixbey, the objects conservator at the State Historical Society of Iowa.  We spent an enjoyable afternoon examining and discussing some fascinating cultural and historical items, and meeting the people who are concerned with preserving these mementos.

Over half a dozen people attended the free webinar “Taking Care of Family Textiles” at Parks Library.  Our next free Preservation Week webinar, “Preserving Your Personal Digital Photographs,” will be this Thursday, April 26, from 1-2 pm in Rm. 192, Parks Library.

For more photos of Preservation Week events at ISU Library, visit our Flickr album, which we will be updating throughout the week.

How are you observing Preservation Week?

Preservation Week is just one month away!  We’re planning some fun and informative preservation-related events here at Iowa State University Library.

Educational Webinars

We’ll be offering a viewing of two webinars (details TBA, so keep an eye on our Events page):

  • April 24: Taking Care of Family Textiles
  • April 26: Preserving Digital Photographs

Preservation Clinic: “Ask the Experts”

We’ll be holding a Preservation Clinic throughout the week.  Members of the campus and local Ames community are encouraged to bring in treasured family books, photographs, documents, textiles, or artifacts to receive a free preservation consultation with ISU Library Preservation Department staff.  Resident experts from the Department of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management (AESHM) will join us to offer advice on preserving textiles.  Conservator in private practice Sarah Raithel will also be on hand to examine works of art on paper.  We’ll also provide literature about our department’s mission, and general advice for finding a reputable appraiser or conservator for private contract work.

The Preservation Clinic, which will be open to the public, will be held in the lobby of Parks Library (outside the Fireplace Reading Room) on Tuesday, April 24, 2pm-4pm; Wednesday, April 25, 11am-1pm; Thursday, April 26, 2pm-3pm and Friday, April 27, 8am-10am.

How will you be celebrating Preservation Week?  We’d love to hear about your events in the Comments section.

CHIPS, the Cultural Heritage Information Preservation Society at the School of Information, University of Texas at Austin, has been hosting an impressive line-up of events for National Preservation Week. (Click the link to see the full schedule.)

Karen Pavelka shows before and after treatment photos of a James Riely Gordon watercolor

Yesterday, I enjoyed attending a treatment demonstration by Karen Pavelka, paper conservator and iSchool lecturer.  Karen showed us a gorgeous James Reily Gordon watercolor which she had recently treated.  She had washed the watercolor (yes! you can wash watercolors!  Or, more accurately, trained professionals can sometimes wash watercolors, under the right circumstances) to reduce staining in the image area.  Karen had also removed fragments of acidic window mat that had been adhered to the front outer edges of the painting.

Karen Pavelka demonstrates the use of an elephant trunk for working with solvents

We also saw a demonstration of some of the tools of the paper conservation trade — an elephant trunk hood for working with solvents, a suction table, and various types of humidity chambers. Karen illustrated the Beilstein Flame Test for PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic, which involved holding a copper wire with a tiny sample of plastic on its end in an open flame.  A bright green flame indicates the presence of chlorine, a positive test result for PVC.

Karen Pavelka demonstrates washing on the suction table

Karen’s demonstration provided a fun peek into the conservation lab for iSchool students, and for a few of us conservators who were in attendance as well.

Props to Lorrie Dong, Katie Pierce and the rest of CHIPS for pulling together some great programming!

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