Contents - Previous - Next

6 Preparing a survey report

6.1 Analysis of the collected data and determination of the preservation needs
6.2 The building.


The observations made and the subsequent conclusions and recommendations in regard to a library or archives conservation needs will be most useful if they are presented as a written "survey report" to the director and trustees of the establishment for final decisions. Following are suggestions for one way to do that.

6.1 Analysis of the collected data and determination of the preservation needs

Up until this point in the survey, an examination of the building and its contents has been completed. Information in regard to the effect on the collections of the location and environment, interior climate control, lighting, housekeeping and storage, security, and fire protection has been assembled on Survey Forms A and B. More information in regard to the physical condition of the material in the stacks is recorded on Survey Forms C. The next step is to analyze that data and make some conclusions in regard to the preservation needs of the establishment. That will include (a) opinions in regard to the overall suitability of the building for the safekeeping of books and documents, and identification of its inadequacies, (b) a description of the general condition of the various categories of materials on the shelves, and (c) a summary of the individual items (or categories of materials) that are in need of treatment. Then, after taking into consideration the resources available (staff skills, money, and commercial and professional services), make recommendations for necessary improvements to the building, housekeeping and storage, climate control, lighting, security, and fire protection. The recommendations should also include proposals, with suggested priorities, for in-house and professional treatment of books and records needing repair and restoration. Good guidance in that respect is available in Atkinson (2) and Buchanan (4).

This is also an appropriate time to make decisions, from the viewpoint of overall economy as well as collection development requirements, in regard to which materials should be retained in the collections and which can be discarded. See Atkinson (2), Bansa (3), Child (7), and McCrady (14).

6.2 The building.

6.2.1 Its location

Although the geographic location of a library or archive plays a large part in the fate of the books and documents in it, little can be done about the location other than to be knowledgeable about how the regional and local conditions affect the climate inside throughout the year. High rainfall areas require extra flood precautions. Drought conditions increase the fire hazards. Buildings in hurricane and tornado prone areas require extra emphasis on structural maintenance.

An important consideration in regard to the location of a library or archive is whether it is subject to flooding by a river overflowing its banks or great coastal storms. If that is a possibility then the frequency of flooding in the past, and the greatest height reached by the flood water must be known. Only then will it be possible to make recommendations, if that is considered necessary, for redesigning the storage arrangements in order to have the most important (if not all of the) collections permanently shelved above the high water mark.

6.2.2 The structure

If during the examination of the building it was revealed that the roof leaks, the exterior walls need repair, the windows and doors are not watertight, the basement is wet, or the drains are repeatedly clogged, all of which are potential threats to the safety of the collections, that information should be included in the report with suggested remedial action and the estimated costs. Input from the building maintenance staff is necessary in regard to work required. Cost estimates can be obtained from commercial contractors.

6.2.3 The climate inside

Some of the comments in the following paragraphs on climate refer to high technologies that may not be available in some countries. However it is important for all librarians and archivists to be informed in those aspects of conservation management and use them as guidance in planning their long range objectives.

The degree of control of the climate in buildings depends on the machinery installed for that purpose and how it is used Control may range from none, in buildings in which there are no provisions whatsoever for heating and cooling, to excellent in places in which there are elaborate systems for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). Regardless of what machinery and equipment is available, often there is much that can be done to improve the climate in a building, even though it may not be possible to maintain the close, positive, day and night, year round, control of the temperature (at 19 21C) and humidity (at 45 - 55% RH) that is so necessary for the preservation of books and paper records.

6.2.4 Heating and cooling.

In this section the survey report should include a brief description of the machinery and equipment in the building for heating and cooling the spaces. Comment should also be made in regard to (a) the age and condition of that equipment, (b) if it is being properly serviced, and (c) whether the equipment is being used effectively for book and records care as well as for the comfort of individuals. Turning the equipment off when the building is unoccupied is false economy. The cost, over the years, for the repair of books and records damaged by constantly fluctuating temperature and humidity, caused by that misguided economy effort, will far exceed the costs of the energy saved. If there is a HVAC system in place, and the equipment is not in operation day and night, throughout the year, the first recommendation in this section of the report should be to change that situation.

Practically all library and archives buildings in temperate zones are heated, but all too often they are not cooled during the summer months. When there are no provisions for cooling it should be recommended. The ideal situation is when the cooling machinery is part of a central HVAC system. When there is only a circulating hot air heating system, cooling can be "added on" by putting cooling machinery on-line in the existing duct work. When the heating is by steam (or hot water) radiators and there is no ducting, centralized cooling can be provided by the installation of duct work, throughout the building, with the associated chillers, condensers and fans. If a network of dusting is not feasible, cooling can be done by (a) putting "heat exchange units" on the ceilings of the stack areas, with water piping connecting them to chillers and compressors in a central location, or by (b) using self contained cooling units (window mounted air conditioners) in the various spaces. Maintenance staff input is absolutely necessary here in selecting alternatives prior to getting cost estimates from contractors.

If the heating and cooling is by forced air circulation, comment on the effectiveness of the provisions for air filtration. Are the interior spaces reasonably free of accumulations of dust and surface dirt? What kind of filters are in use (solid particle removal, noxious gases, or both)? How frequently are the filters changed? If they should be changed more frequently, say so. If the building is in an industrial city with a high pollution factor, and there are no provisions for the removal of noxious gases, should the system be upgraded to include activated carbon filters for that purpose?

6.2.5 Humidity control.

Close, positive humidity control is particularly important for research libraries and special collections. Very few HVAC systems designed for year-round heating and cooling provide satisfactory moisture control - the capability for close, positive control of the relative humidity at 45-55% day and night year round. That is because it is expensive to install, troublesome to service and keep in operation, and very costly to operate during the summer months. Steam and hot water radiator heating systems have no provisions at all for humidity control other than by the use of portable humidifiers in various spaces in the building.

One must accept the fact with HVAC systems it will always be difficult to maintain close positive control of relative humidity during the summertime and the Spring and Fall transition periods. Good humidity control during the heating season is less difficult. When it fails in the wintertime it is usually because the nozzles for the water (or steam) jets that spray moisture into the circulating air are clogged, or the jets may even have been inactivated. In either case it is a simple matter to clean or reactivate them and that should be a recommendation.

In buildings where there are no automatic provisions for close, positive humidity control, self contained portable humidifiers and dehumidifiers in selected areas (stacks, exhibition rooms, etc.) work quite well. The need for one or the other will be obvious from the climate data collected earlier in the survey (see page 18). The portable units are not expensive, there are no installation costs, and the operating costs are insignificant.

6.2.6 Security and fire protection

Provisions for security from theft and vandalism must be considered in determining preservation needs. A conservation survey report should include a description of the intruder alarm system (if there is one), its effectiveness and any shortcomings, and how and where it is monitored. If the existing security is not considered to be appropriate for the establishment that should be mentioned, with suggestions for upgrading it. Municipal police are usually cooperative in this matter and vendors will welcome opportunities to demonstrate their systems.

Lack of, or inadequate, provisions for fire detection and suppression are certainly preservation needs. The report, therefore should include a description, with emphasis on its shortcoming, of the fire detection system (if there is one); the number, type and location of the sensing devices; their effectiveness, how and where they are monitored; the type of extinguisher (water, carbon dioxide, foam, Freon, etc.), if the system is automatic; the number and location of portable fire extinguishers, and whether or not the staff knows how to use them. Advice and guidance from the local fire authorities will be most helpful here in identifying deficiencies. Vendors can provide cost estimates for correcting them.

6.2.7 General Comments

At this point in the survey report it would be appropriate to list the in-house conservation resources. They would include the staff's conservation skills and experience based on courses of instruction at the academic level, participation in seminars and workshops, and practical experience in the field. Another resource would be an in-place conservation facility which could be anything from a worktable, with a few tools and some paper and a paste pot, in a corner of the technical services area, to a complete bookbindery. When there is no facility at all, the report should emphasize the need for at least a modest workspace, with a table or bench, and some tools and equipment. See Milevski (16) and (17), and Morrow (18).

Contents - Previous - Next