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8 Recommendations for the treatment needed by books and documents

8.1 Soiled and stained books and documents
8.2 Worn and torn books and documents
8.3 Acid damage
8.4 Mould damage
8.5 Insect damage
8.6 Rodent damage
8.7 Water damage
8.8 Photochemical damage

 

The treatment needed by individual items, or by the various categories of materials in general, will range from cleaning and simple repairs, that can be done in-house by staff and volunteers, to sophisticated repair and restoration of books and documents than can only be done by professional bookbinders and conservators. In the beginning, until some experience is acquired, it is best to have professional assistance in deciding what items can be treated in-house and what should be sent out for professional care. However, it will soon be learned that eighty percent of the conservation treatment, other than commercial binding, required by the collections can and should be done in-house. That eighty percent would not include hand bookbinding or binding restoration; sophisticated repair of precious documents; the salvage of badly damaged parchment or vellum; or the repair and restoration of hand colored maps, water color paintings, colored prints and drawings, and other works of art on paper. That work should only be done by skilled professionals.

The materials that can be treated in-house include moderately damaged case-bound books; soiled and slightly damaged printed and written documents; some uncolored maps; soiled photographic material; soiled and moderately damaged uncolored prints and lithographs. The appropriate in-house treatments for those materials include simple repairs on book pages and covers; removal of pressure sensitive tape; erasing surface soil, spray deacidification, simple mending, and encapsulation of single sheet items; making protective wrappers and book boxes; and cleaning and repackaging photographic materials.

Workshops can be extremely simple or elaborate, depending on the funds and space available. The in-house work can be done by library staff, or students and volunteers working under the direction of a staff person. The principle requirements for in-house treatment (more than work space, tools and equipment, and people to do the work) is (a) an understanding of what can and should be done in-house and (b) rigid discipline to insure that those doing the work adhere to the instructions and guidance prepared for them. See Cunha (9a).

The following are suggestions for making treatment decisions based on the accumulated information on the C forms. Confidence comes with practice.

8.1 Soiled and stained books and documents

Collections of books and paper records that are defiled only by erasable dirt can be cleaned easily on the premises. It is a time consuming job but well worth the effort. The survey report should identify the items that need that attention and recommend that the work be done in-house.

The removal of grime involves washing, and the use of solvents and bleaches to remove the embedded soil. That is work for professionals, if the book or document is of sufficient importance to warrant the cost, and that should be recommended after obtaining cost estimates.

The removal of stains from documents and book pages also requires the skill and experience of professionals who, can identify the stains and reduce them by washing, by the use of solvents, or by bleaching as the circumstances dictate. That is not inexpensive, but it should be recommended if the stains are obliterating the text. Because it is so easy to expunge important information by the treatments, bleaching and the use of solvents for stain removal must never be attempted by anyone who has not been trained in those conservation procedures.

8.2 Worn and torn books and documents

If the overall condition (as noted on the C1 forms) of any category of books in the general collections is minor wear and tear, it is often possible to repair them in house. The workspace required is minimal, and the supplies, tools and equipment needed are few. Excellent guidance for implementing a book repair program is in Milevski (16) and (17) and Morrow (18). That should be the recommendation together with a list of treatment priorities.

Unless a library has its own bookbindery, commercial rebinding is the general recourse for moderately damaged books in the general collections. Reputable commercial bookbinders can, for a reasonable price, repair books with loose sewing, worn and torn covers, missing end papers, etc. and return them to a strong and durable condition. An in-house bindery, if there was one, could also do it but would not able to handle the same volume of work as a highly mechanized commercial establishment. It is the responsibility of librarians, when contracting for commercial binding, to ensure that the work will meet conservation binding standards in regard to the quality of the materials used and the techniques of workmanship. Recommendations for commercial binding approval should so stipulate.

The first consideration in the decision making in regard to heavily damaged books (disintegrating paper, missing and mutilated pages) in the general collections is whether the books are available in reprint, or on microform, and at what cost. It will usually be the case that replacement cost (book price plus in-house preparation costs), when replacements of general collection books are available, is less than the bookbinders estimates for restoration.

Damaged books in the special collections and rare book rooms are another matter completely. They are seldom replaceable in their original editions, and microform copies would be a most unsatisfactory substitute. Restoration by professional book restorers should be the recommendation here. The bookbinders should be asked to provide cost estimates for each item. Those estimates should describe the damage (acid discoloration and embrittlement, paper staining and disintegration because of mold, mutilated pages, missing covers, etc.), how the damage would be corrected, and the probable cost. The priorities for treatment will have to be made by the librarian.

Because of the number of moderately to heavily damaged books in special collections almost always far exceeds the availability of funds to pay for their treatment, repair and restoration will have to be programmed over a period of years. When that is the case, it is logical to recommend an in-house boxing program to protect the damaged items until it becomes their turn for treatment. The boxing can be done by staff, or students and volunteers working under the direction of a staff person. The box making techniques are simple, and instructions are widely available. The tools and equipment required are few and the costs for material are modest. The investment is worthwhile.
Worn and torn documents, except when there is damage to precious items, can usually be treated in house. For single minor tears, simple repairs, using good quality paper and starch or wheat paste, will suffice. For multiple tears, encapsulation between sheets of thin polyester film is the preferred solution. Encapsulation is easy to do, the tools required are a knife and scissors only, and the cost for materials is modest (see Cunha 9b). This should be recommended in most survey reports.

In many libraries and archives unbound documents are very often not in good quality, acid free folders and boxes. When that is the case, the report should recommend a high priority in-house program to refile the documents in acid free folders, and repackage the folders in archival quality storage boxes that have been labeled so as to lay flat on the shelves.

8.3 Acid damage

The pages in most of the books printed after the mid-19th century will be acid to some extent, sometimes to the point of embrittlement. Those printed on ground wood pulp paper will often be brittle even if they are now only a few years old. All acid contaminated books are doomed to self-destruct if the acid in them is not neutralized.

The treatment alternatives for acid contaminated books that could be recommended are (a) replacement with reprints on good paper, if they are available - which is unlikely, (b) copy on microfilm or microfiche - the currently favored method, (c) spray deacidification of individual items selected because of their particular importance to the institution - costly but a quite satisfactory solution, if the paper has not already become brittle, and (d) mass deacidification. Mass deacidification, is the ideal solution for all but the already embrittled books in libraries. Unfortunately mass deacidification will not be available in most countries in the foreseeable future. In the United States it is expected to become available from commercial sources, or from regional cooperative mass deacidification facilities, in a few years. See Cunha, G.M. Mass Deacidification for Libraries. Chicago: American Library Association, 1987 for more information on this important breakthrough in preservation.

Considering the resources now available, the survey report should include recommendations for the treatment of acid contaminated books along these lines:

a. a list of books, selected because of their extra importance to the library, for deacidification by a professional conservator as soon as possible.

b. a recommendation that the library obtain (if they are available) replacement copies or copies on microform of already brittle books.

c. or the library start its own microfilming program.

Acid contamination of unbound records is equally serious even though the paper on which they were created is sometimes of better quality - even very high quality. When acid contaminated single sheets are discovered, and the damage is discoloration only, they can often be spray deacidified in-house even if only modest treatment facilities are available. When the damage includes discoloration and embrittlement, they can be spray deacidified and encapsulated in-house. Encapsulation is a simple, easily learned, inexpensive method for enclosing brittle paper between sheets of thin, transparent, polyester film that can be done on any flat surface using only a knife and scissors for tools. Free instructions are available from the Library of Congress and many other sources.

8.4 Mould damage

If, during the survey, important books with heavy fungus damage (widespread staining and disintegration of the paper) are discovered they require high priority attention. The report should recommend, if replacement copies or copies on microfilm are not available, that the damaged books be sent at once to a bookbinder/restorer for disassembly, sterilization, stain reduction, page reinforcement, and rebinding as necessary.

It should also be recommended that heavily mould damaged documents be sent immediately to a conservation laboratory for sterilization, stain reduction, and paper reinforcement (or encapsulation) as necessary. Those treatments are beyond in-house capability unless there is a trained conservation technician on the staff.

8.5 Insect damage

The report should include a statement that all books and boxes of documents containing insects and/or traces of insects, or in which the paper has been damaged by insects, must be fumigated as soon as possible. That can be done easily with vacuum fumigation equipment that is frequently available in preservation workshops, sometimes in large libraries and archives, and often in industrial establishments such as food processing businesses. If the traces of insects are wide spread, the whole area should be repeatedly treated by commercial exterminators until there is assurance that the problem is under control.

8.6 Rodent damage

Because of the possibility of disease, evidence of rodents in the building should be a matter of major concern. The report should recommend that exterminators be hired at once to destroy the pests. Together with that, there should be recommendations for increased emphasis on housekeeping, and the strict observance of regulations in regard to the consumption of food and beverages by the staff and patrons. When leather book covers, and sometimes even the text blocks, have been chewed by rats or squirrels, restoration by professionals is required if the book, is important as an object. Otherwise it can be replaced, or microfilmed to preserve the intellectual content.

8.7 Water damage

Books and documents that have been wet in the past are usually stained. Slight staining can safely be ignored if there is no evidence of mould and the paper is dry. Heavy staining, that is offensive, and sometimes even obliterates the text, has to be removed by professional bookbinders or paper conservators. That should be recommended, unless the damaged item is one that can be replaced or microfilmed.

Often the covers and text blocks of books that have once been wet are twisted and distorted, making the book unusable. If the book is important, and it cannot be replaced, it can be restored to first class condition by bookbinding restorers. A recommendation to do so should include a statement that the price will be high, but the results will be most satisfactory.

8.8 Photochemical damage

Damage by natural and fluorescent light, and the ultraviolet radiation that is always associated with such lighting, to boxed records is improbable because that dangerous energy cannot reach the enclosed materials. Documents that have been displayed under, or otherwise exposed to, natural light or fluorescent artificial light for any length of time have undoubtedly been damaged often to the point where, in addition to the loss of strength, the paper has been discolored, and the ink faded. When the discoloration and/or fading has made the text difficult, or impossible, to read, professional conservators can often recover the printed or written information by infra-red or ultra-violet photography, or by chemical means.

The first evidence of light damage on shelved books is faded spines. That is a warning that should be the basis of a recommendation in the report to correct the dangerous lighting by blocking or screening the windows through which the sunlight is coming, and by putting ultra-violet filtering sleeves on any fluorescent tubes used for lighting the spaces in question. If that is not done the light will soon begin to destroy the cloth, paper, or leather material covering the back of the book first to the point where the title, author, shelving data, etc. is obscured and ultimately to the point where the spine will fall off thus exposing the book block itself to further damage.


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