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Collections conservation treatments for book and paper are essential to providing research and use access for UCLA materials. Simply put, Collections Conservation makes it possible for all sizes and shapes of distinctive collections and general collections materials to circulate safely. The Collections Conservator works closely with colleagues throughout the library to coordinate everything from rush services to routine work. In-house treatments can be anything from re-sewing a textblock that is too fragile or has too narrow a gutter to be sent to the University of California Bindery, to making specialized boxes for artists books in the Arts Library, to re-attaching a detached hardback case. Increasingly, Collections Conservation handles widely varied projects, as opposed to a steady flow of “standard” work.
Both serials and monographs that require binding for secure use or storage go to the University of California Bindery. Library binderies meet specialized needs, where every item to be bound is a different size, and requires a different title. Collection Care staff make sure all the journals from all the different UCLA libraries go to the bindery on schedule, with no issues missing. They take care of shipping logistics for monographs sent for rebinding. They also make sure all the bound materials show up in the online catalog so library patrons can know what is available and where books and journals are stored. Our UC library bindery also makes custom acid-free corrugated board boxes for the library whenever needed. Even with growing digital only content, library binderies continue to meet specialized library demands.
Special Collections Treatment
Special Collections conservation treatments are similar to circulating collections conservation treatments in many ways, but the context of creation and use is different. Most special collections items are one of a kind, primary source materials that hold artifactual value, as well as intellectual/artistic content. Some conservation activities are minimal--examination with UV light to reveal erased text, the creation of specialized housings, and minimal stabilization with a reversible adhesive. Some are major – disbanding, washing, using chemicals to reduce stains, and complete rebinding. Condition assessment and condition reporting for exhibition loans and in-house exhibits are significant workflows in this area of the department. Paid pre-program, third-year graduate conservation students, and post-graduate fellows are all essential to meeting the needs of special collections conservation at UCLA.
Enclosures and Housing
“Put it in a box” may not sound like a sophisticated response to a library preservation and conservation problem, but enclosures and new housings are an essential part of keeping library materials safe while in storage, and allowing patrons and staff to safely handle unusually shaped or fragile materials. Most storage systems, and especially library book stacks, are set up for square items. Many books are not square, and must be put in a box that makes them square so they can be shelved. Housings also help mitigate variations in temperature and relative humidity for whatever is inside. We always choose stable materials that will not off-gas or deform over time. Fortunately, library supply companies make a wide variety of ready-made high quality enclosures in different sizes, so we do not have to make all our enclosures by hand. However, there will always be specialized and high value materials that will require custom made boxes done in-house.
Most of us in Preservation & Conservation are involved in digitization projects in various ways. We might hand hold a fragile book that does not open well while the camera operator shoots images. We might clean and splice film or magnetic tape before reformatting AV for digital access. We might remove labels, creases or folds that obscure the text, image, or AV info before digitization. At the broadest level, we understand the mechanical actions of digitization machinery in use at the imaging facility or in-house, and we make sure every effort is made to keep library materials safe while the best possible information is captured. Digitization will likely happen again in the future, as digital capture standards change. Keeping materials safe from harm as they are digitized is crucial.