Hall of Shame

One Friday afternoon when the book truck of injured books from Circulation was delivered to the conservation lab, a book was brought to my attention.  Tim from Circ/Stacks told me that our copy of 1000 Solved Problems in Modern Physics published by Springer in 2010 had four duplicate leaves and 8 missing leaves.  Where there was a duplicate leaf like 409-410, the leaves on either side were missing, in this case 407-408 and 411-412.

Page on the left is 406. Pages on the right are 409, 409, 413, and 413.

We have encountered this before.  Normally, missing pages are requested via Interlibrary Loan.  A technician would scan them, clean them up, and print them front-to-back on permanent/durable paper.  These would be trimmed and tipped-in to the volume.  Did I mention it was late on a Friday afternoon?  Well, I needed something interesting to hold my attention.  I went to the Springer website and found their “contact” page.  I chose “Books and software: individual customers,” and entered my request for replacement pages.  I hit the submit button and received the pleasant response that my message had been received and was being processed.  I then waited excitedly for a response.  What would they say?  What would they do?  Would they even bother responding?

I did manage to refrain from mentioning that their binding was terrible; the text block is already splitting and the front cover is separating from the text block.  No point in making too many complaints at once.  Once I had someone on the hook I could mention it then.

Cover pulling away from text block and text block splitting.

Four weeks passed without a peep, even after a quick follow up email asking if someone would contact me.  I would have tried calling but they do not provide any phone numbers, just the email form.  One of our Acquisitions staff provided me with a contact who handles electronic databases.  I sent off an email and he quickly responded, connecting me with someone who deals with replacement copies.  In another couple of days, this individual contacted me to inform me that they could not send the missing pages but if I provided our invoice number the warehouse would send me a replacement copy.  I did decline this offer since it would not streamline our process.

Another two weeks went by (a total of eight weeks since the original message was sent), when customer service contacted me and said I needed to provide a phone number so a UPS pick-up could be arranged.  And then, “Once we receive the return, we will process a replacement copy  on our system.   If the book is available, you will receive it within 7-10 days; however, if the book is on hold due to corrections that need to be made to it; then your request will remain on backorder until it is ready to ship to you.”  They apparently can’t tell me if it’s available until they receive the defective copy–not sure how that database works.  Needless to say, even more hoops to jump through with no guarantee that we get a replacement copy in any timely manner, I declined but did tell them that their bindings are terrible and already splitting.  No response.

Mindy Moe thought this might be a cigarette burn caused by some hot ash or a cigarette itself falling into the book.  However it happened, the burn caused a loss of text and image, so we got ahold of another copy of this book via Interlibrary Loan and made a replacement page by scanning the unmarred page in the borrowed book.  We then cut out the damaged page in our copy of the book, leaving a stub, and tipped in the replacement page — a lot of work for one moment of carelessness.  Please don’t burn books!

We have had a rash of bad modern publisher’s bindings come through the lab lately.  Not because some publisher decided to get creative, but simply sloppy work and no quality control.  When do you all say enough is enough and have your acquisitions departments send books back for replacements?  Does this automatically happen?  Do they consult you first?  Or do they just send them through the workflow like nothing is wrong?

I realize that there is a tipping point between time and labor in repairing these books in-house and time and labor in shipping the book back to the publisher or vendor and then receiving and reprocessing a new volume, but what’s the tipping point?  This usually happens so infrequently that we normally just make the repair, but there have been four such items this week.  By sending them back, do the publishers get the message, or is this just business as usual?

Sometimes, we walk into the Library in the morning and see this:

I should probably feel grateful to find pizza boxes in the trash instead of left out on tables, but the sight still makes me cringe. As mentioned in a previous post, we do allow food in designated areas of the Library.  In fact, we have a cafe on the first floor which sells sandwiches, salads, baked goods, pre-packaged snacks, and hot and cold beverages.  The decision to offer only cold food in the Bookends Cafe was a deliberate choice on the part of Library administration, in an attempt to balance the comfort and needs of students with the protection of Library resources.  Hot, greasy food like burgers and pizza are not sold at Bookends because hot grease leaves a more serious mess on study tables, computers, and collection materials than a few pastry crumbs.


Bookends Cafe

It is not uncommon for students studying in the Library during the evening to order pizza, and the pizza shops deliver the pies right to the lobby of the Library.  The student circulation staff works without adult supervision in the evening, so they turn a blind eye.  However, the evidence is there to see (and smell) in the morning.

What are your feelings about pizza deliveries to the Library?  Does your institution have a food and drink policy?  Is it enforced?

Two items with pencil markings crossed my bench last week.  My response to each was very different.

First, I built a new case for a book entitled The Twenty Years’ Crisis 1919-1939.  While I was putting the finishing touches on it, I discovered that a section of pages had been both underlined and marked with what looks like a red pencil.  This did not make me happy.

The second book was A Workbook in United States History which needed to be housed in a pre-made portfolio.  As you can see, the outside cover had splotches of blue ink.  Inside is covered with the work of one Natalie H. from Central City, Iowa.

As you can see, Natalie was one smart cookie.

She was also learning how to use a fountain pen.

As a conservator, I should be scared by crayon and fountain pen ink, and yet I find this to be just wonderful.

Back when I taught environmental science to undergraduates, I used to tell my students that “where you stand is what you see.”  Standing at my bench last week, I saw two things.  On the one hand, a book that has been abused by a patron.  On the other, a wonderful peek  into the life of an Iowa school girl.

Why is it that as a preservation professional I do not always heed my own advice?  Spring Thaw Tips–great ideas.  Did I follow through on all of them?  Of course not, I thought I’d get around to them later.  Well, later kept getting postponed since it has been a rough summer.  July 18 we had a high wind and rain storm that uprooted huge trees because the ground was so saturated and brought down large limbs.  My neighbor’s tree fell in my yard taking out electricity, cable, the utility pole and three sides of my fence.  The tree was finally removed last week.  And, as you know, we experienced some flooding August 11, and my basement took on six inches of water around 1:30 am.  Thankfully, it was ground water that came in and receded very quickly (in about two hours).

There wasn’t much damage since it is an unfinished basement and things were not sitting in water long.  I kept the dehumidifier and fan running, which kept humidity down.  No mold.  I was feeling pretty stupid and sorry for myself until I looked out my window later that morning and realized that the Hilton Colosseum parking lot was a lake, and that other residents had it much worse.  I also recognize that using pallets would not have completely prevented damage since the water came up so high.  Things that were on bottom shelves did get wet.  From now on, I will use plastic bins on the bottom shelves and put all appliances on blocks.

There was a lot to haul out of the basement (apparently I like empty cardboard boxes).  Luckily, packed boxes were labeled so I knew the urgency level of unpacking and treating them.  I did find some manuals that had gotten wet and I put my salvage skills to work interleaving every page since the paper wanted to block instantly.  (Note to self, use this material for future salvage workshops).

My lessons learned:  weeding is a very important preservation activity since it allows you to respond quickly to the items that matter most; use pallets, shelves, or blocks to lift things off of the floor; have good inventory control or know what is where; and use plastic bins instead of cardboard boxes.  I am slowly putting the basement back together the right way.

Here’s another entry for the Preservation Hall of Shame.  While this may not be as dramatic as the damage caused by using a banana for a bookmark (found at Duke University Libraries), it’s still damage.  Marking up library books with doodles, marginalia, and underlining, as seen here, is disfiguring to the text, making it more difficult for the next user to read.  In the case of this volume, there are so many markings on every page that we are sending the book to the bibliographer to assess whether it is worth replacing the item.

This type of disfigurement is rarely flagged at circulation, which is understandable, since it is hidden within the textblock.  However, as the markings accumulate, they can result in the necessity of discarding an otherwise intact volume.  A little care and consideration for the library resources we share would ensure access to these materials for many years to come, and free up funding spent replacing items like this one so the library can increase its offerings and services instead.

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