The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 6, Number 5, Supplement
Current Trends: Notes From Two Recent Conferences
Nov 1982


2nd Annual PCLM Conference

A relatively small group of librarians and administrators (about 70) came to bear about various aspects of conservation administration on February 22-23 in Arlington, Virginia. This successor to the First Annual Preservation of Library Materials Conference, held last May in Philadelphia, was titled the Second Annual Preservation & Conservation of Library Materials Conference. Even for non-administrators it was enlightening, because the conference as a whole gave one an idea of the state of the art of conservation administration. Most of the nine speakers were working directly or indirectly in this field, even though some of them are generally thought of as conservators rather than administrators.

The conference was chaired by Nina Root, Director of the American Museum of Natural History. The proceedings may be published later on by Meckler Publishing, which organized the conference (520 Riverside Ave., Westport, CT 06880, the same address as Microform Review).

The parts most interesting to conservators are summarized below. The questions after each talk brought out replies from the floor and from other speakers as well. For convenience they are presented together, without attribution.

Robert Nikirk, Librarian, The Grolier Club: The Ethics of Restoration

Types of books that should get high priority for preservation are:

Books illustrated with original photographs
Earlier books in publisher's cloth
Gift books in gilt stamped leather bindings
Any books with printed tickets left in them by American binders
Printed paper bindings
Books about books, the price for which on the used and rare book market has risen rapidly recently

We can't keep all books from wearing out or deteriorating: "The poor are always with us.'

If a pre-1800 binding is ruined 1, make a new one, but don't imitate the old one. Recreations are offensive. The structure should be appropriate to the textblock; don't replicate a structure that has failed. The conservation binder shouldn't make all the decisions, but should confer with the curator.

Gay Walker, Curator of the Arts of the Book Collection at Yale University: The Anatomy of Books

(Most of her talk was a summary of the history of papermaking, printing and binding.)

Adhesive binding is the second best method, after sewing through the fold.

In order to get back nondestructive bindings that will last, the librarian must specify the type of binding desired for each individual volume. This might include such things as

No trim
Acid-free endsheets
New casing only (for books with intact sewing
Flush-bottom binding or Flush at tail (for heavy volumes)

The principles of conservation binding that relate to repair, whether done in-house or by arrangement with a library binder, are

Do nothing without consulting the appropriate curator
Provide a sound structure
Use high-quality, usually acid-free, materials
Do as little as possible
Carry out the repair in keeping with the style of the original binding

The discussion afterwards went at length into ownership marks in rare books, in view of the growing problem of theft. Some dealers may obliterate provenance marks, but there is nothing you can do about it. Ownership marks seem to be necessary, but should be esthetically and responsibly made: the mark should be small and carefully designed, it should go on the verse of the title page or the inside of the front cover, and the ink should be indelible and nondamaging. After all, we collect oriental scrolls with conspicuous ownership marks.

Carolyn Clark Morrow, Conservation Librarian, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale: Establishing a Repair Facility

This talk was a well-thought-out justification for in-house repair of books as a conservationally sound program, covering all aspects from the arrangement of precut materials through supervision to the place and function of a repair program in the administration of the library as a whole. It was detailed and comprehensive enough to enable an administrator at another library to use it as a guide in setting up their own program, preferably working with a binder or conservator who could do the supervising.

At the Morris Library where she is, the cost for time and materials alone for a new spine is $1.26, and for re- casing using the original cover, $1.67. The total cost for the average item, including overhead, was $3.54 in 1980-81. They use student workers and pay a minimum wage.

In reply to a question on the education of the library staff: You have to do it over and over again. Some people never learn. It has to come from the top; the administrator has to get involved. (Comment from the floor: I think threats go a long way sometimes.)

Peter Waters, Restoration Officer, Library of Congress: Phase Preservation

Because it is not possible to give every book the conservation treatment it needs, the most needy books can be given simple treatment to extend their lives until more resources are available. Phase preservation, "the art and science of buying time for collections," has been used at the Library of Congress for 9 years, always as a guiding philosophy and sometimes in a project within a specific collection, where a book-by-book survey is first made to note the conservation treatment needed, especially the treatment that should be done first to guarantee continued survival of each endangered item. Priority is given to much-used materials, because physical use and abuse are the worst factor in deterioration of library materials.

The form and rate of deterioration for each item are estimated, and protective measures chosen on the basis of condition, use, value and available options. After the survey is made, similar items can be selected and treated together for efficiency. Sometimes a whole collection will get the same treatment, as when all 8,000 books in the European Division of the Law Library were enclosed in phase boxes and shelved by size.

Phase boxing is a part of phase preservation, although it is generally suited only for low-use items. (Polyester encapsulation, which replaced mounting on cloth at LC in 1971 for large or brittle items and manuscripts, is for items in heavy use.) At the University of Texas' Humanities Research Center, every professional including the chief librarian makes phase boxes for a half hour at the beginning of each day, as a therapeutic exercise.

A project in the Broadside Collection involved tape removal and rehousing. A phased-preservation alternative to the complete conservation of scrapbooks and albums is now being sought because a single scrapbook can take hundreds of hours to do.

LC is now implementing a point system, which is a way of budgeting conservators' work time for a year among all the divisions and services of the library. Paper, rare books and phased preservation are budgeted separately.

Brian G. Hutton, Secretary, National Library of Scotland: The Conservation Program at the National Library of Scotland: The Administrator's Point of View

He has been Secretary of the NLS for five years (the "Secretary" really has a high administrative post with responsibilities for funding, recruiting, technical services and the building program). Since 1976 he has set in motion an extensive centralized preservation program, which now gets 20% of the library's budget. Not having a conservator on the staff, he went to NEDCC and LC to study conservation initiatives firsthand. His first step in 1978 was to commission a survey of existing needs and arrangements, a project that must be done with sensitivity and tact. On the basis of the survey, which by the way showed that only 20% of the collection was in serious condition, they put together a "Packet" or plan for conservation binding, trade binding, phased preservation, and furbishing, which they now spend one million dollars a year on. (Shelving, microfilming, environmental control and training are also done, but he did not go into them.) Without substantial spending, related to the scale of the problem, you make no progress at all--you're just tinkering.

Conservation binding is done by 29 HMSO (corresponds to our Government Printing Office) binders, who all came in as apprentices originally. Journeyman binders get about $250/week. This is the second biggest conservation bindery in Great Britain. They perform a wide range of operations; the average cost per book including overhead is $50, which he considers high. Trade binding goes out to two firms, and is given close quality control. With respect to phased preservation, he only discussed phase boxes, though they use acid-free envelopes too. They persuaded a manufacturer to make Chris Clarkson's Bodleian boxes to specs in 22 sizes, and now they are generally available. Furbishing is done on contract with an agency called Remploy which provides sheltered employment for disabled people, operating about 100 factories and seven trade binderies in the United Kingdom. The work at MLS is done in the stacks, and the average cost is $1.00 per volume. The contract gives detailed specifications, morale is high, and it is working out very well.

The next step is to appoint a conservation administrator at a salary of about $35,000; then to develop an outreach program.

John F. Dean, Collections Maintenance Officer, Milton Eisenhower Library, Johns Hopkins University: Collection Development and Book Preservation: A Guide for Managerial Decision Making

Lee M. Ash, Library Consultant: Reviewing Collections to Select Materials for Preservation

Both the Dean and the Ash talks were summarized in the August Supplement, because they dealt primarily with selection for preservation.

Mary Genett, Assistant Librarian for Reference Services in Conservation, American Museum of Natural History: A Preservation Survey Case Study

She described the survey and preservation program at AMNH, which began in 1973 with a five-year grant for preservation. The used Cunha's survey manual as a guide and considered everything: environment, physical condition and handling of materials and current in-house facilities. (Their survey report is available to interested persons.) Part of their program is underway now: lighting is controlled, volunteers are trained to clean and repair books, and processing operations have been improved. But their list of do's and don't's for handling is ignored, and the map, photo and pam collections need attention. Their plans for the future include development of a preservation information file, which will be continuously updated and made available to everyone; retraining of the bindery clerk and revision of binding policy (they have an excellent in-house bindery); intensified stack inspection to nip problems in the bud; and a disaster plan.

Mildred O'Connell, Field Service Director, Northeast Document Conservation Center: Preservation Survey Case Studies

She works with 25-30 conservators and other people at NEDCC, where the emphasis is on preventive conservation. She is there on an NEH grant, and does site surveys. For $150 plus travel funds she visits for one day and turns in a report afterwards, which covers the building structure, environmental conditions, storage conditions, handling procedure and general conditions of the collections. It takes her two or three days to write the report afterwards, in which she outlines present conditions and makes recommendations for improvements. She helps set priorities and distinguish treatment that can be done in-house from treatment that must be sent out. The reports are often used to persuade boards of directors of the need for certain budget items.

She covered all aspects of preservation in her talk. Some of her remarks are given below.

Water problems are sometimes built into the building; air filtration systems are often bought, then not used or maintained. Often a small portable air conditioner and dehumidifier will do the trick if you gather the special materials into a small room and use the equipment for these. Conditions should be monitored once or twice daily, because you need the hard data for getting plant people to cooperate with you.

Clutter and spilled food invite insects and rodents. One rare book librarian collected 35 species of insects within the library, in a campaign against eating in areas where books are stored or used.

Not all libraries, not even all big libraries, have fire detection systems. Halon is best, judging by the discussion after her talk. The fire department should be invited in for consultation before a fire; they can help in many ways, including demonstrating the use of portable fire extinguishers and planning ways to minimize water damage if they are called in to fight a fire.

The Halon fire control system was discussed afterwards. There is a blast of gas when the system discharges, so small or light materials need to be moved or protected with baffles or a diffuser. A time delay fuse was recommended to prevent dumping due to a power surge or triggering by cigarettes. Halon systems have been used since the Second World War, and so far there have been no deaths from exposure to Halon, but people should not tempt fate by sticking around to see how it affects them.

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