Hall of Shame


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“Peel and stick” are very bad words in the world of books.  We know these as adhesive labels or sheets to correct errors made by editors and publishers.  I haven’t seen one in a while, but this time I found two old sheets as replacement pages in the book Turbidite-Hosted Gold Deposits, GAC Special paper 32, 1986.  This book came to me after a recent mini-water disaster of roughly 1,000 books here in the Parks Library.  The book survived the water disaster very well; however, its old adhesive pages had not.

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There were two “replacement pages” in large sheets that had been inserted as corrective pages for errata, and over time the adhesive had stained other pages, come apart in some areas, and also was very sticky in other areas.  The old “Fasson Crack’n Peel Plus” was failing in several areas.

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To remedy this, I will remove the two adhesive sheets, photocopy the pages onto acid free paper, and tip them in.  I cannot remove the yellow stains on the other pages but can scrape and clean away any remaining sticky residue.  The peel and stick correction seems to be a good idea but in reality is not.

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).

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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.

For those of you who do any sort of preservation reformatting or digitizing you know how time consuming the quality control process can be. Our best practice would be to check completeness and initial quality of the original, especially if we are sending them to a vendor, and then to quality control page-by-page or frame-by-frame the facsimile or digital version. Maybe over time, as we become more confident in our process or the vendor’s, we may choose to do some spot checking or sampling if we are doing a large project. This is the step that is often overlooked when planning a project and budgeting staff time. It seems like such a waste of resources, especially when there are no mistakes to be found.

Well, let me tell you a little story and provide a warning. Like many academic institutions, our dissertations were sent to UMI for microfilming dating back to the 1930s. We did not receive copies because the student was required to submit two paper copies to the library (one for general collections and the other for University Archives). In 2006, we caught up with the times and moved to electronic submission of both MA theses and PhD dissertations through ProQuest’s ETD process. At that time, ProQuest made an offer to members of the Greater Western Library Alliance to digitize older theses and dissertations at a reduced cost so full-text versions could be accessed through ProQuest’s Dissertations & Theses database. Our administration decided to have all of our dissertations digitized. We sent nearly 2,000 print titles and ProQuest used an additional 12,000 microfilm titles from their holdings for the project. The majority of print titles were early dissertations that needed a little attention; graphs, charts, and photographs were re adhered, pages mended, and bindings were cut.

Because we did not receive digital copies, we never performed any post-production quality control, and also thought that since ProQuest was making these available for sale it would behoove them to be diligent and capture them accurately. Flash forward to the present. Our Digital Repository (DR) was established in 2012, giving us a place to provide open access to dissertations and theses. Administration purchased the digital dissertations from ProQuest and they are being added to the DR by our Metadata and Cataloging staff. Each title page is checked against the record to confirm that the PDF is what it claims to be. Well, so far our diligent MD and Cat staff have identified 15 ProQuest screw-ups.

Each dissertation usually begins with bibliographic information and a UMI statement indicating the text was filmed directly from the original and if anything is missing or of poor quality, it is because the author submitted it that way; although, missing pages would be noted. At first the Catalogers were finding minor problems such as no title page, the wrong title page, or missing front matter. Then they started finding parts of other dissertations added in, the wrong dissertation (sometimes from other institutions!), or, it gets better, portions of two different dissertations, neither of which were the correct dissertation, pieced together. So far it appears that all of the mistakes are coming from microfilm scans from the 1970s-90s, and since we do not hold microfilm copies, I cannot determine if the mistake is with the microfilm original or the scanning process. (ILL requests for two microfilm copies were not received by the time of this post). The incorrect digital versions we were sent are the same ones that ProQuest has made available.

Preservation is now scanning these mistakes in-house and adding them to our open access DR. In the near future, the OCLC MARC records for all ISU theses and dissertations will include the URL to the DR object without a URL to the ProQuest version. Researchers will be able to find complete and accurate representations in our DR for free.

I would suggest that if your institution has worked with ProQuest to convert microfilm versions, you may want to do some checking of your own. Maybe we should ask ProQuest if they would like to purchase correct digital files from us.

Quality control, quality control, quality control!

“Oh, what a beautiful book,” we thought when this General Collections item was given to us to work on. Oh wait! It’s not a book – it’s a box! Our excitement quickly turned into…despair? Those darn artists and publishers; don’t they think about how libraries are going to handle items like this? That’s a common thought around here – I am sure many of you have thought the same at some point.

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This item fooled us in more ways than one. Not only did we think that this item was a book, but based on the condition we thought that this was a new item as well. We soon learned that this item was actually from 1967!

Now, while the outside of the box looked to be in great shape for its age, the inside pieces were another story. While at first glance the 4 inner portfolios don’t seem to be in terrible condition, upon looking closer it was evident that there was in fact some damage. Due to the type of tape used, the adhesive has seeped through and stained the paper, failed entirely, or a combination of those on the various parts in this item. Unfortunately, there is not much we can do to correct this other than reattaching the detached items.  

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Have you seen items with similar inherent vice? Do you think the creator intended them to last longer than they did? Or maybe they were meant to have a short lifespan?

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We’ve all seen them.  Books returned to the library have been tasty treats for cats, dogs, rodents, and even rabbits.  The World of Wolves came into my hands with two corners chewed on by a dog.  You can usually tell a book has been chewed by an animal by the stiffness in the pages from the saliva, and the size of the tooth marks suggests what kind of animal.  This book needed both damaged corners replaced with new binder’s board and book cloth to closely match the original cover.  Luckily, the text block was barely chewed so no work was required there.

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I first removed the damaged end sheet and carefully peeled back the paper cover enough so I could get good access to the corners to remove the damaged board.  I cut small pieces of binder’s board to match the thickness of the original board and peeled back layers on each corner, so I could stagger the layers and glue the two new corners on.  Next, I cleaned up the existing cover and cut away chewed parts.  I then glued on the new book cloth, which I think matches pretty well.  I pressed the corners well for a good, tight fit and then added a new end sheet and ISU property stamp label.  I was pretty pleased with the outcome of this book.

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Today I received another big book in the Preservation Lab for repair that has split apart in the back, so that the case is detaching from the textblock.  Its treatment will be a recase, with textile hinges to reinforce the case-to-textblock attachment.  I see this kind of damage all too often in large books.  Publishers put everything they can into one large book instead of breaking the content down into two books of a more manageable size.  Thin, cheap, or slick paper, bulky size, too much weight, and too many pages all add to the structure of the book failing.

Hinge splitting at the back of the book.

Hinge splitting at the back of the book.

Next is a post-bound book that one of our student workers, Hannah Isabell, is going to be working on.  She will dismantle it and put sections into custom portfolios for easier use and shelving.  As you can see, this book measures a whopping 8.25”!

Post-bound book too large to use safely or easily.

Post-bound book too large to use safely or easily.

Our next example is Veterinary Medicine: A Textbook of the Diseases of Cattle, Horses, Sheep, Pigs, and Goats by Radostits, Gay, Hinchcliff, and Constable.

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This book measures 3.5” thick and suffers from a typical split in the back of the book and wrinkled pages in both the front and back.

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Veterinary Medicine: A Textbook of the Diseases of Cattle, Horses, Sheep, Pigs, and Goats by Radostits, Gay, Hinchcliff, and Constable.

Over 2100 pages of excellent veterinary information drew my eye and my hands to repair this book.  This book is so big that it must be sitting on my desk and not in my hands to look at, and would be much easier to use had it been made into two volumes.  The content could have been split up by species, such as cattle and horses in volume one, and sheep, pigs, and goats in volume two.

Veterinary Medicine: A Textbook of the Diseases of Cattle, Horses, Sheep, Pigs, and Goats by Radostits, Gay, Hinchcliff, and Constable.

Veterinary Medicine: A Textbook of the Diseases of Cattle, Horses, Sheep, Pigs, and Goats by Radostits, Gay, Hinchcliff, and Constable.

While we understand that publishers are trying to save on costs by cramming all of the information into a single volume, it actually ends up costing us more, because we have to spend time and resources repairing these volumes after they have circulated just once, if they even make it that far.

What do the four titles Marketing Research; Drinking Water; Herbs, Health and Cookery; and Tigers in the Emerald Forest all have in common?  These are four newly-purchased books coming to the Preservation Department this week for repair.  Two need minor mending repairs and the other two books will need to be recased entirely, as they have major damage.  The worst is Marketing Research — apparently there was no quality control at the publisher’s!  The last four pages had significant damage.  The picture below speaks for itself.

Marketing Research

Marketing Research

It is often too costly for the Library to send books back to the publisher for replacement, so instead they are sent to the Preservation Department for repair.   This used to be a rare occurrence but is now a much more common happening each month.   It is disheartening to see a new book damaged before a student has a chance to crack it open for the first time.  Many bindings such as Herbs, Health, and Cookery fail because of cheap glue and poor construction, which does not hold up to the processing of the book when received at the Library.  All I can say is that when I repair Herbs, Health, and Cookery, it won’t be falling apart later!

Herbs, Health, and Cookery

Herbs, Health, and Cookery

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