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.

The process of reformatting brittle books and publications which we wish to retain long term has grown over the past several years.  When books are determined to be brittle, they are referred to our faculty selectors for decisions on which issues to reformat.  We have a form which is used to relay information to the selectors along with the publication.  This form is a way for us to give basic information to them and for them to respond with their decision.


Once we have been notified of the decision to reformat a publication, the volumes are  checked for pages to be repaired, cleaned or replaced.  Minor repairs are done in Preservation Services, while more complex repairs are sent to our Conservation Laboratory.

If replacement pages are needed, our Interlibrary Loan Department is asked to obtain another copy of the volume and, when it is received, the needed pages are scanned and printed by staff in the Conservation Lab.  Upon completion of the repairs, a price estimate is completed using the pricing list from our vendor.  The volumes are then packed and shipped to the vendor with the required paperwork for the vendor and copies of the necessary records for our files.  When the completed work is returned from the vendor, we do a page-by-page comparison of the old copy and the new copy.


To complete the reformatting process, both the reformatted and original paper copies are forwarded to our Cataloging Department to add the new volume to our holdings and withdraw the old copy.  If the reformatting was paper copy to CD, the CD is forwarded to Digital Initiatives to be processed and added to our web site.

Taking a brittle copy of a volume and reformatting it to an acid-free paper copy is a traditional way of reformatting here at Iowa State University.  We also have been reformatting a select number of newspaper-type publications to microfilm.  Once the process is started for a title, we have microfilmed all available back volumes and continued to convert to film on an annual basis.


More recently, we have been reformatting the paper copy of a publication to a digital copy, either by sending it to our vendors or by having the scanning done in-house.  Recently, there has been an upturn in the number of publications which sometimes publish a single serial issue in digital format.  If it is a title which we bind, we have the digital copy reformatted to a paper copy, allowing us to bind the complete volume.

Available processes and formats have continued to change over the years.  It is important to continue to be aware of the new processes and how the patrons prefer to use the publications.  Knowing your audience makes the decisions for reformatting an easier task.

With more than a million photographs in our Special Collections, how does one decide where to begin digitizing them?  We have a limited staff and budget and there are a variety of other projects to digitize, so we can’t spend all of our time trying to complete such a large collection.  It is often the occasion of a special event that causes us to choose certain photographs to digitize.  Instead of putting up random images online, we can showcase events as they happen here at Iowa State University.  For example, our annual VEISHEA celebration is a good time to add more VEISHEA images to our collection.

A float in the 1949 VEISHEA Parade.

We currently have hundreds of images already in our University Photographs collection online in our CYbrary: ISU Digital Archives.

Soon we will be adding hundreds of new images to our collection to help celebrate more campus events such as the 100th anniversary of Homecoming at Iowa State, the 100th anniversary of our Chemical Engineering department, the 125th anniversary of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, and an upcoming book about the history of the library at Iowa State.

The 1955 Homecoming football game

Please take a minute to look at the variety of collections we have online in our Digital Collections.

Original publications; click to enlarge image.

Iowa State University Library’s collection of the Iowa County Histories is a popular publication for persons researching the history of Iowa and especially for persons doing genealogy research.  Most of our collection was published in the late 1800s and the early 1900s.  These books were published on acidic paper and have received much use over the years.  This has brought about a slow deterioration to these important books.

Reformatted bound copies printed on permanent paper; click to enlarge image.

In May of 2001, we began the process of reformatting the volumes into bound volumes printed on permanent paper.  These new volumes were placed in the General Collection for use by our patrons.  The original copies were boxed to help hold them in their current condition and they were placed in our library storage building.

Boxed originals; click to enlarge image.

As we progressed with this project, the use of the internet for reading and doing research grew, and we realized that having the Iowa County Histories available online would be a valuable asset for our collection.  We returned to the boxed, original copies and sent them to our vendor to be scanned into TIFF files and converted to searchable PDFs.

Throughout these processes, we have used student workers to go through the volumes and check to be sure the publications are complete and in good condition.  Upon receipt of the CDs from our vendor, the student compares the CD with the paper copy.  Once it has been determined that the files are complete, the discs are passed on to our Digital Initiatives Unit to have the files added to our library’s Digital Collections.   Iowa county histories written by the Iowa Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration have also been recently added to the online Iowa County Histories collection.

Digital Collections of Iowa State University

Iowa Connections within Digital Collections of Iowa State University

Iowa County Histories within Iowa Connections

This has been a long and time-consuming project, but one which we feel will be a real benefit to the patrons wishing to use our Iowa County Histories, whether it is with the use of a good paper copy or the digital copy online.

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