Written by Suzette Schmidt.

The Iowa State University Library’s Preservation Services unit is responsible for gathering, organizing, and preparing three newspaper publications to be shipped out of the Library to a microfilming company in order to be filmed and permanently added to our collection.  This allows people to research these publications starting from 1890 (in the case of the Iowa State Daily) to the present.  The biggest problem we have had in completing this task is making sure we had a copy of each issue published.  We solved this problem and no longer need to worry about having the copies we need.


  • Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman is a weekly publication of Iowa Farm Bureau providing important information regarding agriculture from all parts of the state.   We had been using the copy which we receive on subscription, but were finding that often issues were missing.  We would then need to borrow the publisher’s copy.  To avoid this problem, the publisher now sends us a copy to use only for microfilming.
  • Toons is a free weekly publication of Cartoons and Puzzles that is enjoyed by many from Iowa State, Ames, and the surrounding communities.  Once again, we were having problems with the papers disappearing from our shelves.  Toons is placed around campus and the community with one of these locations at the building next to the library.  One of our staff members picks up a copy each week which we use as the copy for microfilming.
  • Iowa State Daily is the daily student newspaper of Iowa State University providing information to students, faculty, staff, and community members about events and other subjects of interest in regards to this academic institution.   The library obtains 2 copies of the Daily.  One copy is mailed to us and a second copy is picked up by a staff member in Special Collections.  Having 2 copies available allows us to pick the cleanest copy to send to our vendor for filming.

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!

Written by Cindy Wahl and Suzette Schmidt of the Preservation Services unit.

Student employees are an important staffing component of the Preservation Services section of the Preservation Department at Iowa State University Library.  The unit has 3 staff employees, and with the volume of work being sent to and from the vendors, the students help make the workflow smooth and consistent.


Sorting and organizing periodicals.

Students are responsible for the filing of periodicals when they are received from our Serials Acquisitions department.  They sort and organize the issues prior to taking them to our Periodical Room or the General Collection for filing with the rest of the unbound issues.  While filing the periodicals, they also check the titles to see if there are now enough older issues on the shelf to pull and return them to staff in Preservation Services to have them prepared for binding.  In addition to pulling periodicals for binding while filing, we now have in place an electronic system where we can search, sort, and print out a list of periodicals that are now ready to be bound.  The student uses that list to organize and forward periodicals to staff for binding.


Shelving issues in the Periodical Room.

There is a continual flow of work to be delivered and retrieved to other areas of the library and students are the legs for transporting these items.  With our Preservation Department being housed on two different floors and other departments spread throughout the five floors of the library, the students are valuable in moving work from floor to floor and department to department.

Boxing volumes to be shipped.

Boxing volumes to be shipped.

Preservation Services works with a variety of vendors for binding, reformatting, and mass deacidification, which all require packing and unpacking of volumes.  Students assist with this task while staff prepare the paperwork to be included with the shipments.  At times the volumes being shipped need a page-by-page review, and the students help with this process by noting any repairs, which are then handled by staff.  Upon receipt of the finished volumes, the new format is compared to the old volume by student employees to be sure the work is accurate and complete.


Reviewing a thesis.

Some volumes being added to the collection need to have marking done to them prior to being forwarded for shelving.  These pass through the Preservation Services section where the student is responsible for stamping the volumes with the Iowa State University Library possession stamp, moving the bar code to the appropriate placement on the volume, and, if necessary, adhering the title and call number labels to the spine.

As work flows and tasks change within the Preservation Services unit, it is always important for us to review the assignments and use our students in the most productive manner.  They have shorter scheduled blocks of time, and their assistance is used best to help move the work through the unit and to help make the volumes available to patrons in a timely manner.

Here at Iowa State University Library, we reformat four newsprint publications from paper to microfilm.  Each publication has a connection to the university, which helped determine why it should be retained on microfilm.  The Iowa State Daily, the student run newspaper; Ames Tribune, the local newspaper; Toons, a publication published in the area by an ISU alum; and Spokesman, the Iowa Farm Bureau publication, are all sent to our vendor once a year for filming.


Staff here at the University Library prepare and ship the Iowa State Daily, Toons and Spokesman to the vendor.  The Ames Tribune follows a bit of a different path from the other three.  The local newspaper staff prepares and ships the paper to our vendor, who then films the paper according to our specifications.  We receive, pay for, and store the microfilm for all four publications.

The preparation of the papers begins with the collection of a complete volume.  The Iowa State Daily mails one copy to us and our University Library Special Collections department picks up one copy of each paper at a campus drop-off point.  This step allows us to have copies from two different areas of the printing run.  When it is time to prepare the papers for filming, we use the copy picked up by the Special Collections department unless it is torn, has pages with ink starvation, or has blurred type.  If the mailed copy is in better condition than the other, then we will use it instead.  For Toons, we use the only copy which has been mailed to us and shelved in a pam box in the general collection.  If a copy is missing or not in good shape for filming, we are able to contact the publisher and make arrangements to borrow the copy he has saved for his collection.  This procedure is also used for Spokesman;  The Iowa Farm Bureau publisher has been helpful in letting us borrow their copy when needed.

Once the papers are gathered, student workers go through them and note the beginning and ending volumes, numbers and dates.  They watch for discrepancies in the numbering and dates, which are noted for the preparation of targets.  They also note if there are any issues missing which we have not been able to replace.  If there are tears that can be repaired, this is done by competent student workers or staff, using paper mending tape and a bone folder.


Upon the completion of the review and necessary mending, targets are made for the paper.  We created and saved a set of targets in MS Word for each of the publications.  We can print and use these repeatedly by updating volumes, numbers, years, and reel numbers.  Once the targets are printed, they are inserted in the appropriate order and placed within the newsprint issues.  We used ALA Target Packet for use in Preservation Microfilming by Debra McKern and Sherry Byrne as our guide in creating our targets.


The papers are secured between two pieces of board and then packed into tubs.  Included in the tub is an envelope with specific instructions to the vendor and to the person doing the filming.  The tubs are then shipped to the vendor for processing.  We request that the original negative and the duplicating master for the film be stored at our vendor’s facility in a secure vault with controlled temperature and humidity.  They provide us with one positive service copy on silver-base film.

Upon completion and return of the microfilm and paper copies of the newspapers, a student or staff member scans through the microfilm to check for proper placement of targets, clear and legible film, and a complete run of the paper.  The film is then stored and made available to patrons in our Media Center.


Brittle book pieces for tours and presentations.

Brittle book pieces for tours and presentations.

Decisions, decisions!  Who makes the decisions on what to do with our brittle books?  Here at Iowa State University Library, the process has evolved over time.  We have streamlined the process making it easier for all involved with the decisions.

Brittle books

Brittle books.

In the past, damaged books would be brought to the reformatting area, and staff would make the decision on whether to repair, reformat, or box the book.  Only if it was in very bad shape would we request input from the Bibliographers.  Over time, we determined that we wanted more input from them so we could be sure we were keeping and working on books that were still important to the collection.  The Library Assistant in Reformatting would search the title in our online catalog, OCLC, and Books in Print, and make paper copies of all of the records found for the book in-hand and for more recent editions.  The Bibliographer was then notified to come to the reformatting area to review the book.  However, this searching process was determined not to be a good use of time or paper, as it used up a lot of both.

GoneToPieces-03As staffing and reorganization brought about change, we decided it was time to look at the process and determine what changes needed to take place for working with the Bibliographers regarding brittle and damaged books.  The Circulation Department was asked to take the damaged books to the Conservation Laboratory, where the Conservator would first take a look at the books and determine if they could be fixed in the lab.  If so, they were added to the lab’s inventory and processed through their workflow.

If Conservation determined that the book needed to be reviewed by a Bibliographer, they would fill out a slip for Preservation Services and forward it with the book to our area.  This form (shown at left) helps us to track the processes that the book is going through.  The form is tucked into the publication by the staff in the Conservation Lab after they have filled out the basic information (Date Received, Call Number and/or Title), along with their recommendation to send for Bibliographic Review, Box, or Reformat.  Bibliographic Review is the most often chosen selection. The appropriate bibliographer’s name and the subject code are added to the form by staff in Preservation Services.  The next step is to search the title in our online catalog and print off the bibliographic information.

We now have another form which is filled out and printed to go along with the volume to the Bibliographers.  This is known as the “Referral to Bibliographer” form.  This form is tucked into the book along with the Preservation Services Processing Form and the Bibliographic record from our online catalog.


The books are then transferred to designated shelves for the Bibliographers to review.  An email is sent to each of the Bibliographers receiving books to notify them that there are books awaiting their review.  They are given a set amount of time to complete this task, usually a 2-week turnaround.  If at the end of that time a decision has not been made, the Collections Coordinator makes the decision and passes the book back to Preservation Services staff.

To assist the Bibliographers in making their decision, a computer is available for their use in the review area.  They are able to look up titles in World Cat, Books in Print, and other online resources.  Their response is noted on the Referral to Bibliographer form along with their initials and date.

Brittle books awaiting bibliographic review.

Brittle books awaiting bibliographic review.

When the book is returned to Preservation Services, the decision by the Bibliographer is noted on the Preservation Services Processing Form if it is to be boxed or reformatted.   At this point, any additional information about how to handle the book is made by Preservation Services staff in consultation with the Head of Preservation and/or the Conservator.  If the book is to be withdrawn, the necessary information is forwarded along with the book to the Cataloging Department to complete the process.

Brittle books.

Brittle books.

This current handling process has streamlined the workflow, helped us to process books in a more timely manner, and involved the various, knowledgeable staff members who should be making these decisions about our collection.

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