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Conservation & Book Repair

Conservation & Book Repair
The work of the Conservation & Book Repair Unit focuses on two areas: the stabilization, repair, and housing of individual paper-based items--books, pamphlets, manuscripts, maps, photographs, etc.--from the libraries' special and general collections and preventive preservation measures that prolong the life of entire collections of library materials. Item stabilization, repair, and housing is custom work, executed by hand in the unit. Preventive collection preservation activities are global in nature, involve the collaboration of facilities and other library staff, and transpire on location in the libraries.

The Conservation & Book Repair Unit is comprised of six full-time equivalent employees, two book conservators, a paper conservator, and five technicians. Lab facilities include: traditional hand bookbinding tools and equipment; analytic equipment, such as a binocular microscope, a 35mm photographic system, and pH meter; and specialized treatment equipment, such as a vacuum suction table, fume hood, and ultrasonic welding machines.

Repair of General Collections Materials
Repair of general collections materials complements the Department's commercial binding efforts. Many books cannot be rebound commercially because of physical limitations, for example, the paper is brittle, or the margins are too narrow. In other instances, commercial rebinding is undesirable because it will result in a loss of historical information, for example, books with maps and charts printed on endsheets and paste downs; or historically significant 19th century Publishers' Bindings. These books are repaired in the Book Repair unit. An additional advantage to having an in-house repair unit is that on those occasions when there is an urgent need to repair a book for a patron, technicians can do the job, on request, in one to three days time. Typical repairs performed by technicians include: mending torn pages, damaged endcaps, broken hinges, and missing spines. For more information on repair and treatment options and procedures, please see Treatment and Repair Services.

The Book Repair Lab operates on a quota system, though staff time and resources can be allotted to accommodate special repair projects as they arise. For more information about the Book Repair Lab, contact Carolee Gilligan Wheeler ( or 723-9304).

Repair of Special Collections Materials
Paper-based materials and realia from SULAIR's Special Collections and University Archives, such as rare books, manuscripts, photographs, and maps are treated in the Conservation Treatment Lab. Conservation treatment is labor intensive. Identification and selection of work for treatment requires thoughtful consideration and collaboration between conservators and Special Collections staff as well as curators and bibliographers. Conservators spend 90 percent of their time "at the bench" treating materials. This combination of sound selection policies and a staff dedicated to treatment is the guiding principle behind the productivity of the Conservation Treatment Lab.

Collections Housing
In many cases, providing appropriate housings or protective enclosures for library materials is the most effective means to prolong their life as research resources. Housing lends protection to fragile items both on the shelf and in transit. For this reason, the Conservation & Book Repair Unit maintains a strong collections housing program.

A wide variety of protective enclosures are available, either custom built or off-the-shelf. Pamphlets and similar items are routinely inserted in pamphlet bindings for support and protection while brittle materials are housed in phase boxes. Due to their unusual nature, every Artist Book from Special Collections receives a custom-designed protective enclosure prior to cataloging. "Earthquake-proof" housings were designed to protect the large collection of fragile glass-plate negatives in the University Archives. Currently conservation staff members are creating custom housing for Stanford's Derge Edition of the Tripitaka, a Tibetan translation of the Buddhist scriptures in 300 volumes.

Preventive Preservation
Treatment, stabilization, and housing of individual items is complemented by preservation actions and policies taken to protect entire collections or groups of library materials. These measures, collectively known as preventive preservation, include: the preparation and maintenance of an emergency preparedness manual, the development of environmental guidelines for collection storage areas, the collaboration with Special Collections staff on the exhibition of materials here at SULAIR and abroad, and the collaboration with Facilities staff on collection moves, building design, and building renovation. To learn more about these activities, please see Preventive Preservation Services.

Last modified: November 3, 2006
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