The Preservation Department and the Auxiliary Library Facility (ALF) hosted a group of local students this week for a tour.
The students are taking art classes taught by Sandra Tokarski at Bell Trace, a senior living community just down the road from the lab. The art classes cover a wide range of media, and most recently they did book arts. So I guess their visit was kind of their capstone experience!
They were especially interested in some of our big equipment, such as board shears, book presses, and hydraulic guillotine, since their book making was done using only hand tools.
Above Lara Tokarski demonstrates the guillotine, which cuts cleanly through thick stacks of paper and can be used to trim the edges of text blocks.
Here is Vaughn Nuest dazzling the group with facts and figures about the ALF. They also were treated to a peek inside the vault where millions of the Library’s books, archival collections, and AV media are housed.
One brave soul, Sandra Tokarski, was treated by Brian Johnson to a ride on the lift truck!
In April, we had a lovely visit from the Guild of Book Workers / Midwest Chapter, while they were in Bloomington for their annual meeting.
In General Collections Conservation, aka the Book Repair Lab, we discussed the many changes in academic libraries that have led to an evolution in book repair practices, and showed the group some of the newer treatment techniques we are using today. Here I reprise some of that discussion, and then describe one of the board reattachment methods we demonstrated for them, called “thread staples.”
Changing Practices to Meet Evolving Needs
Preservation practices must be able to respond to new patterns of use, and to collecting strategies that are constantly evolving. In the earliest days of library preservation programs, for example, a new type of use — the photocopy machine — helped lead to improved methods in commercial library binding. Double-fan adhesive binding, which has for the most part replaced oversewing since the mid-1980s, allows volumes to lay flat for good capture without causing damage.
And so much has changed in academic libraries over the last two decades. Libraries have adjusted their collection management strategies for print collections in light of the wide availability of digital content, lower use of print, and demand for the space that print collections have occupied in library buildings.
Information resources lead long lives (if they survive) and their value may change over time, so preservation efforts must be able to meet the needs of current users while keeping the long view in mind. Today, selection for preservation and treatment decision-making both take into account these changing values and uses of the print collections. Envisioning the future value collections may hold, and factoring that into the actions taken today, is a challenging but fascinating part of the work of preservation.
Likewise, the approach to the repair and conservation of research book collections has evolved to support these changing strategies and needs. Advances in techniques have come via cross-fertilization among practices in different conservation specializations.
Traditionally, there was a “partitioning” of responsibilities for the remedial care of books in academic libraries1. Repair of circulating, or “general” collections adhered largely to standardized treatment protocols, or “treatment to specification” as described by Glen Ruzicka2. With this approach, the treatment for an item is selected from a set menu. This provides both consistency and efficiency. By contrast, rare book conservation treatment is customized for each item. Typically, different staff in separately equipped labs applied these two distinct approaches, using different materials and methods.
Also in the past, the high-use, circulating books for which standardized treatments were designed often consumed all the available resources for book repair. At the same time, rare book conservation focused on special collections. Older materials in the general collection sometimes fell between the cracks. This was partly due to their lower priority. But it was also because the procedures and skill sets of general collections conservation labs were designed for modern, case-bound books with strong, flexible texts, not for older binding structures or the kinds of deterioration from which they suffer. Options for older materials may have included deferring action by boxing, or reformatting to preserve intellectual content.
Today, new approaches to book repair, which began percolating in the 1990s, have led to greater integration of general and special collections conservation approaches3. Techniques appropriate for older or “medium-rare” books have become part of the repertoire of general collections conservation today. These methods tend to be more reversible, less invasive, and are often less time-consuming. And some practices from the world of general collections that lend efficiency have been adopted in the work of special collections conservation. So with more tools in the proverbial kit bag, we now have the capacity to address the preservation needs of our collections more holistically.
New Tool in Our Kit Bag — Thread Staples
During the MWGBW tour, we showed a variety of techniques used in our lab to solve a common problem of 18th and 19th-century books – detached boards. The attachment fails due to deterioration of the materials, structural design, use, or a combination.
Our repertoire of board re-attachment methods includes Japanese paper hinges, linen tabs, full cloth hinges, cutaway cloth hinges, Ramieband, and one called thread staples.
It is useful especially when you don’t have access to the text block spine, such as in a tight-back binding. It is stronger than Japanese paper hinges, so it can be used on books that are a bit heavier or larger. The first and last signatures need to be well attached.
The thread-staples repair has some things in common with another board re-attachment method called “new slips.” A description may be found in “Binding Repairs for Special Collections at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center,” by Olivia Primanis, published in the Book and Paper Annual, v. 19 (2000). http://cool.conservation-us.org/coolaic/sg/bpg/annual/v19/bp19-30.html
The basic idea for thread staples is that linen thread is sewn through the folds of the first and last signatures of the text block, and the thread tails are used to attach the boards.
Here is a diagram showing how the threads should end up after the sewing is done: one thread tail at the top and bottom, and two thread tails at every other sewing station:
Sewing can begin from the inside of the signature and come out at the point of the shoulder, or from the point of the shoulder on the outside to the inside of the fold, whichever is easiest. It depends somewhat on the depth of the shoulder. If starting inside, you un-thread the needle after the first pass, put the needle back on the thread inside, and then sew through the next sewing station from the inside.
I sometimes rub some thick paste into the threads right at the shoulder and press the tails toward the text block. This helps get the thread to lean in the right direction, but also protects against accidentally pulling the threads out during subsequent steps.
Next the thread tails are trimmed to the length that will fit under the lifted cover material (or paste-down), and then they are frayed out by untwisting the 3 plies first with your fingers, and then using a needle or awl to separate them further.
You should have something that looks like this:
Then the board is positioned on the text block
and the thread tails are adhered under the lifted cover material. The threads are splayed out, and made tight and flat using first a brush and then rubbing down/pushing inward with a spatula.
We enjoyed the visit from the Guild of Book Workers Midwest Chapter, and it was fun sharing some of our work!
“Integrated Book Repair,” by Gary Frost, Archival Products News, v.7, no. 3, Fall/Winter 1999-2000.
Occasionally unbound items come into the Paper Lab that are too thin to warrant a corrugated box, but they usually require a more substantial enclosure than a folder. The middle ground between those two enclosures is a four-flap portfolio made out of 20 pt. stock or, in some instances, corrugated board.
After the portfolio is constructed, the way to secure it closed is by simply tying a length of twill tape around it like a Christmas present. Then the tape is glued in place or threaded through the back of the portfolio. The result is neither very attractive nor very efficient. When setting flat on a table, the portfolio flaps often pull away from the rest of the enclosure, no matter how tight the ties are. When open on a table, the ties easily get lost underneath the rest of the portfolio.
Lately I have been making more of these portfolios than usual, and I wanted to come up with a less wasteful, more effective way to secure them. A technique used in the General Conservation Lab for fastening binder’s tape to board looked promising, so I tried it a couple of months ago with a portfolio made out of B-flute corrugated board. The result was very satisfying, and took care of all my complaints about the former method.
I wanted to be able to use the ties with portfolios made of thinner materials like 20 pt. stock, but I knew they would not hold up for long, if at all. A backing would be required.
Then I remembered Tyvek, which is easy to cut and almost impossible to tear. It also works well with PVA.
I put together some sample ties with and without Tyvek backing. The ties backed with Tyvek wouldn’t tear, no matter how hard I pulled. The ties glued directly to the surface of the board tore after the first big yank. I used the new method on an oversize portfolio that required two sets of ties, and the finished product looked as great as it is secure.
The advantages to this method are that there is less twill tape used per portfolio and the completed enclosure is stronger, more effective, neater in appearance, and more manageable for patrons and staff.
What could a ticket to a Cincinnati Buckeyes baseball game in 1869 have in common with a book of Sophocles’ works in Latin and Greek?
The ticket was signed by B.O.M. DeBeck, third-baseman for the Cincinnati Buckeyes. Here is the text of the advertisement of this rare bit of early baseball memorabilia:
“1869 pass issued by the first baseball team in American history, the Buckeye Base Ball Club of Cincinnati. Partially printed pass instructs: ”Admit Harry Heys and Lady to all games of the BBC” within a printed oval-shaped line. Verso is labeled ”No. 138” and is signed in black by the team’s former third baseman ”B.O.M. DeBeck” as Treasurer. The Buckeyes were the Cincinnati Red Stockings’ original rival, and were eventually absorbed into the Red Stockings. … A scarce baseball collectible.”
The connection is that B.O. M. DeBeck is the former owner of said book, now in the collection of the Indiana University Bloomington Libraries.
And from the number 2221 on the bookplate, it seems that DeBeck had quite a substantial library. A little more poking around on the old Internets reveals that besides playing baseball, B.O.M. DeBeck was a teacher in the Cincinnati public schools.
And he wrote this arithmetic book —
The sad state of DeBeck’s Sophocles is all too common. In the distant past, book repair in libraries meant the creative and copious application of tape. Now we spend our time removing it.
Here are all the pieces of bookcloth tape I removed from DeBeck’s book:
Fortunately, I have an effective method to reduce / remove the dry, crust of adhesive that this type of book cloth tape leaves behind. Klucel G in isopropanol is applied, and then “scrubbed” with a soft brush.
The crud softens, and can be wiped away. It usually take a few applications. I have used this technique with success on cloth and paper too, although it does nothing about the dark brown stains that penetrate the paper, as seen on the left edge of the title page below.
While working on this very damaged book, some words of advice from long ago kept ringing in my ears –
“DON’T PULL, JUST CUT!”
Some of our work is repetitive, tedious, perhaps meditative. For the hour I spent taking this book apart, stitch by stitch, I remembered this advice from long ago. That was way before I became a librarian, or even gave a thought to the idea that you could repair books.
I had a job working in the vast, dark, back room of a downtown retail furrier shop. My job was to repair all the coats brought in for cold storage and cleaning in the summer — all the holes in the fur’s skin, loose linings, fallen-off buttons, snaps, and hooks.
I worked with Bogdan, the furrier, who made new coats, and Stephania, who did alterations. The very first thing Stephania taught me was what to do if I saw a loose thread sticking out of the coat.
“Don’t pull, just cut. If you pull, you could pull apart whole coat!”
Said in the wonderful Polish accent with which she also told about her childhood experiences in a forced labor camp during WWII, and traditional recipes she liked to make, such as plum tarts and brains. I only tried the plum tarts.
The book, Welcome to Cincinnati, was brittle and oversewn. Many pages were broken off, leaving some text on the stubs still attached to the binding with gobs of thread and stitches, otherwise known as oversewing. The result of oversewing is much the same as when you rip pages out of a spiral-bound notebook.
Oversewing is a method of binding a text block that consists of individual sheets of paper, rather sections of folded pages. It is very strong, but also very difficult to repair. Oversewing has been replaced, for the most part, with double-fan adhesive binding — a durable, yet more easily reversible binding.
Oversewing combined with brittle paper is a recipe for disaster. Pulling on the thread would result in more damage and I didn’t want to make even more jigsaw puzzle pieces that I would have to put back together.
So, with tweezers, fine scissors, and a microspatula, I snipped and snipped and snipped until each each stub was free of the snarl of stitches. Then I rejoined the remnants of each page so they could be scanned. There are only a few copies of this book in libraries across the US, and our copy has circulated sort of a lot, which seems natural since it is about one of the big cities in a neighboring state.
I like to believe that no experience, however humble, is a waste of time. Little do we know how things we learn along the way may turn out to be valuable later on.
As a Paper Conservator, most of my time at work is spent on performing conservation treatments on the vast and varied collections within Indiana University Libraries. When not actively treating items, I coordinate with collection managers, curators, librarians and archivists to generate incoming work and establish priorities for the future. In the lab we also have responsibilities towards supervision of staff, disaster recovery across campus, establishing access protocols, environmental monitoring, and other minor roles that crop up here and there.
However, one task that brings me a great deal of satisfaction, though not strictly a job responsibility, is teaching. Each academic term I guest-lecture for a number of courses within our Department of Information and Library Science and the Department of Art History. These sessions provide me with a welcome break from the Lab and hopefully give the students a new perspective on topics being covered in classrooms. The greatest pleasure I get from being employed within a university is the exchange of knowledge across disciplines- and the fact that I’m able to add to that is a reward. To be a Conservator often means having knowledge in a number of associated fields beyond our strict job skills; knowledge that can supplement teaching in a way that may be difficult for an instructor to cover by themselves. Some classes are more theoretical: I teach library students preservation theory, the role of the conservator in special collection libraries and treatments conservators perform on library collections. Some provide supplemental knowledge to future catalogers: print and photograph identification, paper and parchment terminology. Others are more hands-on: materials and techniques classes or instruction in minor repair of paper-based collections. On top of this, we conservators get requests for a number of adult-education/public library sorts of lectures on preserving home collections, scrapbooking, etc. to which we’re always happy to consent.
Preaching to the choir is one thing, but I think a greater reward comes from sharing our enthusiasm with others. Establishing a positive image of the conservation profession early in a student’s career training goes a long way towards developing effective preservation efforts into the future.
I have a fondness for old textbooks, so it was nice to have a chance to help this one out. It was a pretty straightforward repair. Some hinging of pages and a reback with a Japanese tissue/linen laminate. But here’s the thing that really grabbed me about the book. It smelled of wood smoke. Not that familiar, musty, foxed, sat-in-the-stacks for 100 years smell. Fireplace smell.
I realize that the smell is probably because this little book survived the IU Library fires in 1969. You can read a nice history of those two fires, as well as other significant IU campus fires in a recent blog post from the IU archive. At the lab, we often see books with their top page edges blackened, and we generally assume that they are survivors from the 1969 fires. But this nicely smelling book didn’t make me think of destruction and student unrest. I grew up in a house that was heated with a wood stove. It smelled like home. Or like the house of a friend where sometimes we sit by the fireplace and read poetry. And I imagined young people in the late 1800s sitting at a table by the fireplace working studiously on their arithmetic lessons.
There are so many ways that books connect and transport us. Mostly, we think of being transported by the stories they tell. But with a bit of imagination, books can also bring us into contact with the craftspeople who made them, the people who owned and handled them, and sometimes, the rodents who chewed them up.
Sigh. I probably still have mouse DNA on my hands from that one….
In the General Collections Conservation unit, we don’t come across many very old books, but every now and then one will stumble into the lab. In the last months, we’ve had a couple of these that were just hanging out in the stacks waiting for someone to care about them. One is dated 1592. The other is from 1638.
I’m a Bloomington native, so every now and then someone in my family will stop by the lab to drop off homemade bread or pick up a bag of potholders or something. Elise is always happy to show off the amazing things she is working on and my Mom happened to come by on the day she was working on the book shown above. My mother was duly and volubly impressed and that evening I got a call from my Dad. Might he please come in and see the very old book as well? Of course! We love to share the coolness.
Dad showed up the next day. He took a lot of pictures and asked a lot of questions. We even let him hold the book, although like many lab guests, he was a little afraid to do so. I felt like I could see right through his skull into his brain where all of the tumblers and gears were whirring and clicking along. We went out to lunch and talked about how old items connect us to the past. What can we learn about artists and craftspeople by holding their work in our hands? Someone spent hours upon hours of time setting the elaborate type for the book. And who was it that stitched it together? Treated the leather for the cover? How many young people sat at a table by the fireplace studying it? How many fires has it survived?
At about the same time that my father and I were thinking about peoples’ relations to very old books, it seems that my favorite web cartoonist, Randall Munroe, creator of xkcd.com had also been thinking about peoples’ relations to more modern inanimate objects:
How often do we really think about the design of our water glass? How often did the child studying that arithmetic book think about its binding? Probably, not often at all. Perhaps never. Yet, now, we here in the Preservation Lab are fascinated with the old arithmetic book, and of course the older, and therefore more precious books as well. In 172 years, someone will probably be fascinated with our water glasses. And our e-readers.
I was pretty certain that my poet father was going to end up writing something about very old books. And he is far more eloquent than I am, so I waited to see what would come of my dad meeting that book and by extension all of the people who, step by step, brought it to us here.
Libri XIII Londini . 1638
Wood and leather cover
brown and brittle,
the scrolled details
faded and blurred,
burnished by the years.
Stiff, when I opened it.
Though I could not read
the Latin text,
pressed with movable type
nearly 400 years before,
are clear and elegant,
speaking of a god
of another time.
A palpable spirit emanates
from its enduring lines–
thoughts and beliefs
from ambitious minds,
the faith of someone
who reached me
with ethereal touch
from the small book
that rested on my hand.
Remnants of those ancient lives,
but neglected on a secluded shelf,
travelled slowly, unsteady…
still waiting to be found
by some curious stranger
who can read
the relic words.
Though the bodies of the writers
the lives of their thoughts
in that old book…
informal – make one’s own cigarettes from loose tobacco
noun – a cigarette that one has rolled oneself
And the Urban Dictionary provides this usage –
“A situation where someone needs to perform a task but the method to complete the task doesn’t exist so she has to create the solution herself. It derives from “rolling your own” cigarettes versus buying pre-made cigarettes.
Computer programmer #1: Is there a built-in function to filter the database?
Computer programmer #2: Sorry, man, you’re going to have to roll your own.”
How is this relevant to our work in Preservation?
We decided to take a do-it-yourself approach recently when an issue of the luxury art and fashion journal, Visionaire, presented us with something of a challenge.
This journal issue was too large to be stored flat. And although rolling is not ideal, as it may introduce a permanent curl, an object can be rolled onto the outside of a large-diameter tube to minimize this problem. This also avoids the damage that can occur when the object is put inside the tube. So we decided we would buy a 10” diameter tube, roll the journal issue (consisting of just a few pages) around the tube, and make a box to put the tube in. Easy. Oh, just one problem – one tube costs $100!
Being thrifty, and not shying away from a challenge, we decided to try to make our own darn tube. We were not sure it would work! But we took a large sheet of 40-point acid-free board, rolled it up so it was about 8 inches in diameter, and held it together with many rubber bands. Then we just let it sit there like that for few months.
Every so often, we do a group project on a Friday. We like to call these “Fun Fridays.” Sometimes we tackle a project that needs many hands; other times we learn and practice a new technique. Previous Fun Fridays have included making pre-coated repair tissues and forming an assembly line to construct a large batch of Kasemake boxes for delaminating lacquer disk recordings.
So, after a few months passed, we decided to set the roll free one Friday. We took off the restraints. It looked good!
We got the ends of the roll aligned and positioned so it was 10 inches in diameter. We debated how best to affix the inner and outer long edges of the board, both to maintain the diameter and keep the outer end of the board from forming a ridge. After considering PVA, packaging tape, sewing, and 3M 415 double-sided tape, we decided on the double-sided tape. Some of us were more confident about the efficacy of this choice than others, which created some suspense! We applied it to both the inner and outer edges of the board. It took three pairs of hands, but it held!
Then we cut a sheet of Volara, an inert foam, to cover the roll, so the two long edges would meet exactly. We stuck that on with double-sided tape too.
Then we cut a piece of Hollytex the length of the tube, and about 8 inches wider than the object. We laid the object on top of the Hollytex and rolled the two onto the tube together, so that the extra 8-inch tail of Hollytex fully covered the object. We tied it with woven cloth ties.
Finally, we made a box with a lid out of acid-free corrugated board on our Kasemake machine. The 40 x 60-inch board stock was not long enough to make the bottom out of one piece, so we cut separate rectangles with 3 flaps to cover each end and glued them in place.
So, no, we didn’t have to “roll our own” , we could have just bought the $100 tube. But we learned it was possible to make one using materials already on hand in our lab, and had a great Fun Friday working together to solve a problem.
Hi all! I am Chelsea Liddell, the new Binding and Preservation Review Coordinator here at the Preservation Lab.
Erin McAvoy has moved onwards and upwards, and though we miss her dearly here at the Lab, we are so happy for her and excited for all the new opportunities she will have! I worked for Erin as a student employee for two years before taking this position, and you may have seen me around here a few times before. Today I wanted to talk about what exactly those of us working with commercial binderies do these days and how the position is growing and evolving.
As we are no doubt all aware, more and more information is becoming available exclusively in electronic form. This is a positive thing for many reasons, more convenient and accessible for users, less to store and maintain for universities, but it presents a problem for those of us who are in the business of binding. So what’s a girl in charge of a commercial binding unit to do when there are fewer and fewer serials to be bound? Well, that’s the question that we have been endeavoring to answer here at the Preservation Lab and we feel that we’ve come up with some great solutions.
The key to innovation in libraries is to expand our definition of them. They aren’t (and never were) simple book repositories, but rather community centers, technological trendsetters, purveyors of global knowledge, and protectors of history. In the future, we will no doubt find even more hats to wear! To move forward, it is important to understand how all these roles interconnect and what new roles it makes sense for us to take on. This is the key to redefining the role of commercial binding in libraries.
If we expand our definition of binding, then all of a sudden a lot more opportunities open up. The other wonderful staff here at the Lab have been teaching me how to bind items by hand, which helps me understand to a much greater degree exactly what is being done to our books at the commercial bindery. After all, commercial binding is just a mechanized version of many of these hand-binding techniques.
Another area that we have been able to expand my role to encompass is evaluation and boxing of items moving to the ALF (Auxiliary Library Facility). We recently began moving materials out to the ALF at the rate of 10,000 per week in preparation for our Fine Arts Library’s move to the Wells Library. The materials being moved are low use, and there is a high rate of brittle paper and damaged bindings. My role in this project is to evaluate the damaged items and determine what type of enclosure would suit them best, so that they can be placed in the ALF without undergoing further injury. The emphasis is on choosing the most efficient, cost-effective solution that will do the job, including tying with cotton tie, sandwiching items between boards in a Tyvek envelope, and Kasemake boxes. This sort of work is a natural extension of a binder’s job; evaluating what type of enclosure would preserve the item best, while ensuring that no undue damage is caused.
By taking part in the everyday workflow of the Preservation Lab, while also taking on new projects, I am able to help out my colleagues, learn new things, and ensure that I am always busy! Although I have only been in this position for a short time, I have already expanded my skill set so much and learned so many wonderful new things. It is my hope that I can continue to find new arenas to expand into and that the commercial binding unit will continue to become more integrated into the rest of the work done here at the lab.