Outreach


The above letters (SOS ICPC) may not mean much to most people, but for those in the Iowa library world of preservation and conservation, they mean an opportunity to listen, learn, tour, and mingle with other library colleagues.  The 2014 SOS ICPC (the annual “Save Our Stuff” conference of the Iowa Conservation & Preservation Consortium) was held at the University of Iowa’s Main Library on June 6th.

A couple of the topics and workshops piqued my interest, so I decided to attend this year along with my ISU Library colleagues, Hilary Seo, Head of Preservation, and Whitney Olthoff, Project Archivist.

Thinking Inside the Box with Kären Mason and Janet Weaver.

Thinking Inside the Box with Kären Mason and Janet Weaver.

The Keynote Speaker was John Doershuk, State Archaeologist and Director, Office of the State Archaeologist, who discussed recent archaeological finds on the University of Iowa campus.  The University of Iowa is still making adjustments to their campus after major flooding in June 2008 and recently unearthed beads, glassware, and other artifacts of interest. They are planning upcoming future digs as well.

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Thinking Inside the Box with Kären Mason (far right image, center) and Janet Weaver (far right image, left).

Afterwards I went to the Iowa Women’s Archives for Thinking Inside the Box with Kären Mason, Curator, and Janet Weaver, Assistant Curator.  They had several interesting items to look at for housing ideas, but I was really interested in the boxing of those special items crafted by the University of Iowa’s Conservation Lab and the interesting ways their boxes accommodated them.  Kären sounded very happy to have a great team working in the Conservation Lab to come up with and construct some creative boxing ideas.

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Taxidermy Care & Cleaning with Cindy Opitz.

Next I headed to the Special Collections Classroom for Taxidermy Care & Cleaning by Cindy Opitz, Collections Manager, UI Museum of Natural History.  Cindy explained how to be cost efficient and make your own Q-tips as you can go through so many of them when cleaning exhibits.  She demonstrated the proper cleaning and low speed vacuuming techniques using brushes and screens.  It was amazing how much dirt came off of our bird specimens with our Q-tips.

Taxidermy Care & Cleaning by Cindy Opitz. The birds at top are the piece I worked on.

Taxidermy Care & Cleaning by Cindy Opitz. The birds at top are the piece I worked on.

Lastly I attended Making Custom Exhibition Supports by Bill Voss, Conservation Technician, and Brenna Campbell, Assistant Conservator, UI Libraries.  Bill demonstrated making custom mounts using his bare hands using Vivak (an alternative to thin Plexiglas), and Brenna showed us the uses of polyethylene strapping and J-Lar tape in securely holding book pages open for exhibit.

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Making Custom Exhibition Supports with Bill Voss and Brenna Campbell.

I came away with many new ideas on boxing techniques, custom exhibit supports, and cleaning taxidermy if the need be.

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As the co-chair of the AIC Sustainability Committee, I was particularly looking forward to this year’s Annual Meeting theme, “Conscientious Conservation: Sustainable Choices in Collection Care,”  and the conference did not  disappoint.  The event took place in beautiful downtown San Francisco, with the opening reception at the magnificent de Young Museum.

Sunset view from the de Young Museum tower.

Sunset view from the de Young Museum tower.

Although I am a library and archives conservator, my favorite General Session talk was “Sustainable Collections Care on a Budget – A New Museum Store for Bolton, UK,”  by museum conservator Pierrette Squires, from the Bolton Museum in Lancashire, UK.  She spoke about moving the stored museum collection to a new storage space which would better protect the collection while simultaneously reducing energy use and saving money.  Her presentation emphasized the importance of speaking to stakeholders in the language that is meaningful to them, which is often the language of economic sustainability rather than environmental sustainability, even though the two often go hand-in-hand.

The general membership business meeting was surprisingly well-attended for 7 am on a Saturday, showing what committed professionals AIC members are.

The general membership business meeting was surprisingly well-attended for 7 am on a Saturday, showing what committed professionals AIC members are.

Everyone I spoke to from Book and Paper Group was as captivated as I was by “Treasure from the Bog: The Faddan More Psalter,” presented by John Gillis. The talk detailed the treatment of an early medieval manuscript unearthed in a peat bog in Co. Tipperary, Southern Ireland, in 2006.  As you may know from articles about bog mummies, peaty bogs can have a tanning effect on organic materials, and so partially preserved this vellum manuscript for centuries. I look forward to hearing more about this project as the research continues.

The Sustainability Committee hosted a Roundtable about generating momentum for positive change in institutional practice, a session you can read more about on the AIC Blog: Conservators Converse.

The BPG Specialty Session and the concurrent General Sessions I attended on Collections Care and HVAC were all excellent, and BPG made an especially strong showing in the Poster Session this year. However, my favorite two events from the conference were the ECPN Networking Luncheon and — of course — The Great Debate.

The Emerging Conservation Professionals Network (ECPN) put an enormous amount of work into organizing their first (but, I hope, not their last) networking luncheon. AIC members could sign up as mentors, mentees, or both. The ECPN paired each participant with three others for one-on-one “speed-dating” style sessions lasting 15 minutes.  I got to meet with a peer mentor who graduated from a conservation program the same year I did, and who currently works at an academic library as I do; a conservation graduate student interested in pursuing a career in academic libraries; and a former geologist turned  pre-program student in conservation science.  I appreciated being provided with a structured forum within which to meet some new colleagues, and look forward to continuing to stay in touch with them.

The Rookies (left) and The Veterans (right).

The Great Debate: Rookies (left) and Veterans (right).

The Great Debate enjoyed its third year at the AIC Annual Meeting, and organizer Richard McCoy pulled out all the stops.  The packed audience enjoyed a cash bar accompanied by popcorn and other crunchy, salty snacks, and Richard McCoy emceed wearing a dapper tux and bow-tie.  Two 3-person teams of “rookies” (first-year graduate students) debated the statement “The most important part of conservation practice is no longer the treatment of cultural property.” The debaters were well-prepared, and the negative team (disagreeing with the statement) ended up winning the day, although I remained personally unconvinced from the particular perspective of a library and archives conservator.  The second debate took place between two 3-person teams of — ahem — “veterans” of the conservation field.  A controversial ripple murmured through the crowd when their topic statement was revealed: “AIC is successfully promoting the advancement of recently-graduated conservators in today’s work force.” My audience neighbors and I feared that we would end the Annual Meeting on a sour note, but the affirmative team rallied against the negative team’s rambunctious antics and made a winning case for all that AIC does for its membership (with the strong reminder that we the membership are AIC).  Be sure to visit us (@ISUPreservation) on Twitter (archived date: May 31)  for the hilarious, blow-by-blow recap.

It was another fast-paced, exhausting, informative, and rewarding Annual Meeting, and I find myself returning to work reinvigorated and recommitted to my profession.

 

 

Our Digital Collections are made available to the public through CONTENTdm in the basic ways that the software allows, without us having added any outside applications.  Up to now we’ve had very limited access to any staff with the skills and time to implement additional features to enhance the display of our digital collections.

We’ve been looking at other digital collections to see what functionality they have that we don’t but would like to have.  Here are a couple of good examples that I’ve found that I think would be good to have.

East Carolina University Digital Collections has an interactive map of their campus.  When you click on a building or area on the map, it opens up photographs of that building or area.  Or if you hover your mouse over a photograph, a symbol shows up on the map showing you where that photograph was taken.

We have many photographs of buildings and landscapes from across our campus throughout its history.  I think it would improve the presentation and discoverability of these photographs if we could connect them to geographic locations on a campus map.

A pioneer letter from the U of I "DIY History" transcription project.

A pioneer letter from the U of I “DIY History” transcription project.

The University of Iowa uses a crowd-sourcing website, DIY History, in order to gain the assistance of the public.  The library staff digitizes handwritten items, puts them online, and then allows the public to transcribe them.

There is a large amount of unique, handwritten materials in our Library Special Collections and University Archives that would be great to have digitized and put into our Digital Collections online.  However, until those items are transcribed, they cannot be full text searchable, and therefore the items and the information they contain are not as easily found by people searching online.  Since there is never enough staff or time to do everything we want to do, crowd-sourcing the time-consuming transcription work is something that we’ve been wanting to have for a long time.  Hopefully we will be able to get a web site like this developed soon, and then we can benefit from the time that the public has to transcribe our materials for us.

digital html

One of the things nearest and dearest to my heart in the design of web pages/sites is ADA compliance. Anyone who knows me knows that I endeavor to create our pages in a way that makes them accessible to everyone, no matter the disability. This is not an easy task to do for a website with an emphasis on images. In fact, you could almost say our website is the ultimate challenge for a web designer. Therefore, I can’t say that our webpage is the most accessible it can or should be, but I will attempt to tell you some of the things I employ to make it more manageable. There are many websites on the internet that describe these ideas better than I can, but the gist of those boils down to: alt tags for everything, and describe, describe, describe. That means every media item and plug-in needs concise alt tags which, when utilizing an assistive device, allow the user to understand what is being displayed. Also, I avoid creating blinking websites or including images and videos that contain vibrating/strobe/rapid blinking colors and/or images. (Note: any blinking light, such as a fluorescent that is about to go out in the ceiling at your work site or at home, can cause epileptic seizures.) Wave.webaim.org is a website I frequent in creating and maintaining my web pages. Put your URL into the “Web page address…” space and hit the —> key. What happens next is:

digital_wave

In the new page, you find that it defaults to a summary of the page. It breaks down into: Errors, Alerts, Features, Structural Elements, HTML5 and ARIA, and Contrast Errors. Not all the items listed here are necessarily bad, and every item is listed whether it has the specific detail or not. Also, on the page, notice the detail is color-coded and is highlighted in the display window.

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For example, clicking on the yellow box with underlined u, tells you that this alert is an indication that an underline text is present. There are three other link buttons listed under the summary button on the left: Details, Documentation, and Outline. Just below the URL form line and above the enclosed Summary/Detail/etc. box are three buttons: Styles, No Styles, and Contrast.

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When you click on the No Style button, what you see displayed is what an assistive device is going to see and read to the user. This is very helpful for me.

Did you notice the summary items are color-coded? Red=bad; green=good; the other colors are impartial. The Contrast button pertains to colors and text and is nice to show where issues might be for some persons. Again, you can see that the color-coding on contrast detail is red/white.

There are discrepancies between ADA guidelines about whether certain elements are needed. Notice the menu/navigation text. On some ADA sites, this would constitute an error due to the text size [e.g. small] and contrast (on wave.webaim.org, it is neither.) Most sites default to the more info the better, and bigger text. Also, I have no skip navigation link, which many ADA sites list as necessary.

This is an ongoing process. Basically, what I try to do is imagine myself with a disability and work from there. The simpler you design your website,  the more effectively you create an easily accessible web site, which makes for a more enjoyable experience for all persons viewing the pages, including non-disabled users. Therefore, using wave.webaim.org is a “win-win” for me.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

CompGuideToWordpressInLibrariesToday, on our preservation blog’s fourth anniversary, it seems fitting to mention that “Parks Library Preservation” has been featured in Amanda L. Goodman’s The Comparative Guide to WordPress in Libraries (ALA TechSource, 2013) as an example of WordPress usage in an academic library (pp.91-95).  The first half of the book explains the basics of WordPress and offers a step-by-step planning guide to maximizing the effectiveness of the WordPress platform for your particular institution.  The second half of the book is composed of brief case studies of WordPress sites implemented by academic libraries, library associations, digital libraries and archives, government libraries, public libraries, and others.

Four years later, we find that our WordPress blog continues to function more or less as we hoped it would when we first started. The blog has increased our public profile, and allowed us to better serve the Iowa community, in keeping with the mission of ISU as a land grant institution.  With our preservation colleagues spread far and wide, the blog has also allowed us to connect and engage professionally with the field at large.

We’ve stumbled a bit along the way, but after some trial and error, we have settled into a workable blogging schedule. Towards the end of each calendar year, I draft the following year’s schedule, assigning a pre-determined number of posts to each member of the Preservation Department, and setting aside posting days for students and interns as well.  We’ve figured out that the right posting schedule for us is once per week, with an additional monthly post for the 1091 Collaborative Blogging Project with the Conservation Department at Duke University Libraries.

We’ve seen our readership blossom to an average of 3,000 views per month, and we’re bolstered by our small but dedicated following of approximately 500 subscribers through various channels.

Thanks for being part of our community. We look forward to your continuing comments and feedback in the coming year and beyond!

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