I have recently discovered a sure-fire way to keep things interesting in my job: endeavor to repair books about photography. As a result of the recent closure of the Fine Arts Library, we have seen a high volume of materials from that collection. We wanted to see these things. The move of the collection presents an opportunity for us to sweep in and gather up materials that need attention. Add to that the fact that we spent a good deal of the summer working on a project to give some love to the Science collections. Where do Science and Art collide? Well, a heck of a lot of places, actually. For example:
Another way in which Art and Science come together is in books about photography. And what does any self-respecting photography book include? Pictures of naked ladies. Actually, it often doesn’t include pictures of naked ladies any longer, because they have all been stolen. It’s like an epidemic. Except that the illness occurred decades ago and we are only now discovering the casualties.
It’s almost exclusively naked ladies. Either people don’t want to steal photos of naked men, or the photos of naked men weren’t there in the first place, or the books with photos of naked men have been more closely guarded over the decades. There is probably a whole course in gender studies waiting to be taught on just this topic. (Photos of Michelangelo’s David don’t count. And they don’t go missing.)
Also, I’m not going to be including pictures of any naked humans in this blogpost, so don’t get all excited.
I recently took over the lab task of tracking down missing pages. Pages go missing from books for a whole host of reasons. Here are just a few, off the top of my head:
- Someone really needed that article for their research paper and the book could not be checked out.
- Someone really disagreed with that article and didn’t want anyone else in the world to read it.
- The book is old. The adhesive on the spine dried up. Some pages just fell out.
- Pet chinchilla ate the pages.
- Someone forgot to bring money for the photocopier.
- Photocopiers hadn’t been invented yet.
- Someone had a really bad cold and forgot their pocket handkerchief.
- That chart/map/table is just very useful to have on hand.
- That picture is really pretty and someone wanted to put it on the wall in their dorm room.
- That picture is of a naked lady .
Ok – let’s be clear here. Some of these things still happen, but many of these problems occurred in the past and are just coming to light now. When you have the font of all human knowledge AND a camera on the device in your pocket, you don’t really need to steal knowledge or images from the library any more. But sometimes pets do get out of hand. Books are continuing to age. Pages still legitimately fall out and get lost. Sometimes. But thefts perpetrated in decades past seem to be the most common reason for missing pages.
Tracking down missing pages is a bit like traveling into the past. You start to question the motivations of the person who took the pages. In most cases, you feel that someone just thought a picture was so lovely that they wanted to frame it and hang it on a wall. So they got a pair of scissors and hacked that sucker right out of the book and went on their merry way. I expect this does still happen occasionally. But it is now more likely that you would just Google image search that thing and then print your own copy. Or make it the wallpaper on your phone. We won’t even go into how weird if feels for me to talk about phones having wallpaper.
Let us take just a moment to think of the images that are on the other side of the picture of the naked lady. These baby goats, for example.
Think about all of the people who have been unable to appreciate this cuteness because someone just had to have the naked lady on the other side of the page.
Or, possibly, there is actually important text on the reverse and someone might now be missing a critical piece of information.
In some cases, the loss is too devastating for us to do anything about it. If the book is still in print, or readily available digitally, we might suggest to the subject librarian that the whole book be replaced. Sometimes, it simply isn’t worth our time to replace pages. But in many cases, the books are not so easy to come by, or would be perfectly all right if that one missing page were replaced. In these cases, I will go page hunting.
Here is a quick overview of the steps that might go into tracking down missing pages:
STEP 1: Figure out that there are pages missing from a book. This can happen when we do our first review of an item as it comes into the lab. Often, library staff or patrons discover that pages are missing and send the book on to us. This is most often noticed when someone sees sad stubs of pages that have been torn out.
Technically, people don’t discover the missing pages. They are missing, thus undiscoverable. What is discovered is the empty space:
STEP 2: Go through the rest of the volume to make sure that there are no other, previously unnoticed empty spaces. There very often are. Especially in books of photography. Extra especially in books of photography that include photographs of naked ladies.
STEP 3: Once you know exactly what is missing, look the book up on IUCAT to see if IU owns other copies of the book.
Nope, not that IU Cat.
If you are very lucky, then the book is out of copyright and available on Hathi Trust.
If you are very unlucky, the book is a bound copy of a popular periodical (Life magazine for example) with poor page numbering and no clear article breaks. It is difficult to place an interlibrary loan request (see Step 4) when you can’t specify which pages you need. Sadly, people love to take old magazine advertisements. I get it. Sometimes they are hilarious. And don’t have numbered pages.
STEP 4: Based on the availability of other copies of the book, make a determination of the best way to get a hold of another copy of the same edition of the book, and request that a copy be sent to you.
This is my chance to point out that I am not the only staff member involved in this endeavor. I have to work very closely with the staff in Document Delivery Services to solve these problems.
Below is a list of the most likely missing page situations and a quick description of how to proceed in each case:
Another copy is owned by a library at IU Bloomington
-Either go to the library to find the book on the shelf, or request delivery through campus mail.
A copy is owned by a library at another IU campus.
-Put in a delivery request through IUCAT to have the book sent through inter-campus mail.
A copy is owned by another library somewhere else in the world
-Put in an interlibrary loan request through Document Delivery Services.
There is a scanned copy available online in Hathi Trust
-Hope very hard that the pages you need are not also missing from the online copy. If they are there, celebrate, and download the relevant pages. Skip to Step 8.
The book is a periodical.
-Document Delivery Services to the rescue again. In many cases, one can request electronic copies of specific pages. This is a lifesaver when it works. It is heartbreaking when the library at the other end sends the wrong thing and you have to bother the DDS people again.
There are no other copies available anywhere.
-You are out of luck and there are no options left, because drawing your own replacement pictures or writing your own replacement text is not an appropriate option.
STEP 5: WAIT. The folks at Document Delivery Services will work all of the magic that they can to get you what you need. They are amazing and fabulous and friendly and helpful and deserve all of the superlatives.
STEP 6: Receive the other copy of the book you need. Compare the copies to make sure that the editions are the same, and to see if the pages you need are in this copy. Understand that if you are looking for missing naked lady pictures, 80% of the time the same pages will be missing from the copy from the lending library. If this is the case, contact the DDS folks and start the whole request process over again. Repeat as necessary. Sometimes this can go on for long time, getting one page from the University of Michigan copy and another page from the Purdue copy, etc.
STEP 7: If the pages you need are in the other library’s copy, then you may rejoice. Scan the pages from the replacement copy. Due to fabulous advances in technology over the last 20 – 30 years, we have a high- resolution flatbed scanner, which is an important piece of lab equipment. (Nominations are being accepted for the name-the-scanner contest. The winner will receive absolutely nothing except the satisfaction of knowing that they are very clever.)
STEP 8: Clean up the scanned pages in Photoshop and print out nice clean copies of the pages on acid free paper
STEP 9: Attach the copies into the original book. Additional repairs will often be needed at this point, so take care of those as well.
STEP 10: Send the book back out into the world with beautiful new pages and hope to goodness that they don’t just get ripped back out again.
Ok – After laying that all out, I guess my point is that this process is not quick. As with all of the other books that we handle, books with missing pages present a unique set of problems, and must be evaluated and dealt with individually. Books with missing pages take a lot more thought and care and work than many other books that we care for.
We love all of our books and will do our best for each of them. But for goodness sake, if you really, really need that picture, take a trip over to the digitization lab and scan yourself a copy. Or just take a photo of it with your phone. The folks at Document Delivery Services will thank you. And so will I. I’m tired of looking at naked ladies.