The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 17, Number 2
Sep 1993


Update on LC's Deacidification Program

Last summer Congress approved the Library's action plan to perfect the diethyl zinc (DEZ) process and to assist as well in the development of other deacidification processes. The Library placed a notice in the Commerce Business Daily on June 18, 1992, to notify interested parties of the Library's intention to enter into a sole source contract with Akzo Chemicals for a one-year research and development effort to perfect the DEZ deacidification process and to eliminate remaining problems identified during the Library's 1990 procurement effort.

At the close of the notification period, the Library opened negotiations with Akzo Chemicals, and a contract for 12 test runs at the Akzo Book Preservation Facility in Deer Park, Texas, was signed on December 2, 1992.

The Library has assembled a team of technical specialists from the chemical, scientific, and library fields to help design and evaluate the research. In addition, the Swiss Federal Archives is cooperating with the Library in this effort and is participating on the technical management team. The Library is also contracting with the University of Houston and the University of Delaware to support the effort by conducting laboratory scale tests with DEZ.

In the first two tests conducted at the Akzo plant in January and February, the Library deacidified homogeneous sets of books made for the tests. The books were paperbound, cotton-sewn, alum-sized, offset paper. The first test provided baseline operating conditions for a homogeneous set of books. Data shows full, homogeneous treatment results throughout the vacuum chamber, and confirms odor in virgin, acid-paper books. The second test run confirmed the first test results and provided data showing no correlation of artificially aged paper with odor in processed books.

The third test run is focused on the chemical engineering and operation of the deacidification process. The Library is evaluating how shortening the treatment time impacts treated books. Library conservators selected and characterized representative sets of books for the test. The Library will design the next tests based on analysis of the extensive information gathered from the before and after evaluations of these test books.

The Library is also conducting laboratory-scale research on the chemistry of odor production in DEZ processed books. Chemists at the University of Houston and the University of Delaware are deacidifying book samples to gather data on the effects on books of chemical and process changes. The samples include both cellulosic and noncellulosic papers.

With an announcement in the Commerce Business Daily on August 11, 1992, the Library initiated a two-year program to encourage and facilitate the development of other deacidification processes. The Library is providing testing and evaluation opportunities and technical information to interested firms that offer deacidification services. A number of firms have shown interest, but only one firm, Preservation Technologies, Inc. (PTI), of Glenshaw, Pennsylvania, has formally requested evaluation of their deacidification process (Bookkeeper). In April, the Library signed a contract with Preservation Technologies, Inc., for the evaluation effort.

Sally A. Buchanan from the University of Pittsburgh has agreed to chair the Library of Congress's technical evaluation team for the evaluation of the Bookkeeper process. She is being assisted by a panel of five experts from the local Pittsburgh area. The evaluation, which started on May 6, 1993, will be completed by the end of this year. The final report will be made available to the public.

(From a Library of Congress news release of June 3.)

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