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Preservation Policy


Approved, November 1997
Revised, 2009


  • 1. Philosophy
    • 1.1 Mission and objectives
    • 1.2 Definition of terms
    • 1.3 Priorities for the program
    • 1.4 Categories of materials
  • 2. The Preservation Program
    • 2.1 Preservation Administration
    • 2.2 Environmental Control
    • 2.3 Replacement and Reformatting
    • 2.4 Conservation
    • 2.5 Deacidification
    • 2.6 Commercial Binding
    • 2.7 Shelf Preparation
    • 2.8 Stacks Maintenance
    • 2.9 Disaster Preparedness
    • 2.10 Personnel  and User Education
  • 3. Remote Collections
    • 3.2 Storage
    • 3.3 Archives
  • 4. Organization
    • 4.1 Preservation Department
    • 4.2 Function
    • 4.3 Relationships
      • 4.3.1 Internal
      • 4.3.2 External

1. Philosophy

1.1  Mission and Objectives

The practice of preservation begins, not when an item has begun to deteriorate from use, abuse or age, but with selection. Each item's ultimate value to the collection should be considered at the time of acquisition and initial preservation plans made at that time. The preservation of library materials and the implementation of guidelines governing that activity are the responsibility of every department in the library. The treatment library materials receive throughout the library will directly affect their length of usefulness. Preservation requires establishing a balance between the amount of protection an item is given and the use it receives.

The preservation of library materials is an essential element in the mission of Milner Library. The establishment of a Conservation Lab in 1989, a Preservation Committee in 1990, a Preservation Department in 1994, and the Center for Conservation and Preservation in 2003 reflect the library's long-standing commitment to this mission. The mission of the preservation program of Milner Library is to insure the availability of the library’s collections, now and in the future. The preservation program is structured in accordance with the following principles.

  1. Preservation activity should encourage cooperation at all levels, within the library and university community, regionally, and nationally.
  2. The program should encompass both general and special collections, and include materials in all formats in accordance with the Collection Development Policy of the library.
  3. The program should conform, insofar as possible, to established practices for the preservation of library materials.
  4. Current and future activities should be integrated into a unified plan which provides for the accomplishment of short- and long-term objectives through phased development.
  5. Preservation is essential in an academic library and therefore should be an integral element in administrative planning for the library as a whole.

1.2 Definition of Terms

Milner Library strives to provide a preservation program for its materials consistent with the library’s mission. The program encompasses the plans, guidelines, procedures, personnel and resources necessary to implement, where appropriate, the treatment of those materials maintained for the use of the educational and research community the library serves.

For the purposes of this document, the library’s collection is understood to include all materials held in Milner Library, including the Infrequently Requested Materials (IRMA) storage area, and the University Archives and North Storage facilities located on Warehouse Road, Normal.  The term "preservation" means maintaining, in reasonable condition, each item in the collection. "Conservation" is the action taken to prevent, stop or retard deterioration. "Restoration" implies returning the deteriorated item to its original or near original condition. "Information preservation," as opposed to preservation of the physical object, consists of reformatting materials in order to preserve their intellectual content.

This preservation statement, working with Milner Library's existing organization and procedures as well as recognized preservation knowledge and techniques, provides specific guidelines for preservation and outlines the distribution of responsibilities to facilitate those practices.

1.3 Priorities for the Program

  1. Follow accepted preservation practices throughout the library.
  2. Identify and prioritize those materials in need of conservation treatment, and select the appropriate treatment method.
  3. Maintain appropriate environmental conditions insofar as possible in the library, archives and storage facility.
  4. Maintain an effective disaster preparedness and recovery program, which encourages staff awareness and prevention efforts.
  5. Provide an education program for library staff and patrons to insure proper handling, shelving, use and repair of the collection.

1.4 Categories

Working with Preservation Department personnel, librarians and staff set priorities, make decisions, and develop procedures for the preservation of the following categories of materials:

  • Research Materials - materials of permanent research value.
  • Circulating Collection - materials that receive moderate to heavy use within the building, circulate frequently and contain some duplicates.
  • Reference Materials - materials that are used heavily and are frequently bound inadequately for their size, weight and amount of library use; sometimes superseded.
  • Ephemeral Materials - materials that will be withdrawn, superseded or reformatted. These include materials which receive heavy use and those which receive light use.
  • Special Collections - rare books, unique materials, items of local significance, or special format or subject collections.
  • Digital Collections – electronic files maintained by the library. 

2. The Preservation Program

The Preservation Program in Milner Library addresses issues in compliance with standard preservation practice and includes the following ten key elements:

  • Preservation administration
  • Environmental control
  • Replacement and reformatting
  • Conservation
  • Deacidification
  • Commercial binding
  • Shelf preparation
  • Stacks maintenance
  • Collections improvement
  • Disaster preparedness
  • Personnel and user education.

2.1 Preservation Administration

The Milner Library mission statement includes the preservation of materials as one of its primary elements. This commitment to preservation necessitates an organized program to meet the needs of the library and the university. The preservation efforts of the library require a strong administrative component in order to emerge as a cohesive program. The preservation department works closely with all areas in the library to coordinate preservation activities and maintain a balance with other programs. The preservation librarian serves as the preservation advocate in discussions concerning the functions and mission of the library.

The preservation librarian oversees the development and operation of the preservation department. Responsibility for production-oriented activities, such as bindery preparation and conservation, is delegated to the Conservator and conservation lab staff who operate within guidelines established by the librarian. For components which involve the library as a whole, such as environmental control and disaster preparedness, the preservation librarian provides expertise while working with other appropriate library personnel. Decisions which determine the growth and direction of the preservation program are reached cooperatively among the library administration, the preservation librarian, and other appropriate personnel in the same fashion as other major library programs.

The preservation librarian ensures that preservation activities performed by the library are consistent with accepted preservation practice and standards. New procedures and technologies are analyzed and evaluated before being adopted for use in the library.

The preservation librarian also represents the library in professional arenas and national preservation activities. It is the responsibility of the preservation librarian to remain abreast of state-of-the-art preservation theory and practice and use it to the best advantage of the library.

Other core activities of this position include:

  • Maintaining a disaster preparedness plan, ensuring the training of a core disaster recovery team and serving as the core of the library's disaster recovery team.
  • Monitoring library practices for adherence to established preservation practices and making recommendations to the administration as needed.
  • Educating library staff and users in appropriate preservation theory and procedures through workshops, displays and articles.
  • Monitoring the condition of the collection through surveys and identifying areas in need of preservation treatment.
  • Identifying opportunities for grants and gifts to fund equipment purchases and special projects.

2.2 Environmental Control

Control of the physical environment is the single most important aspect of collections maintenance.

The optimum temperature and humidity levels for both library materials and human comfort are 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 50 percent relative humidity (rh). Optimum temperatures may be lower for storage areas containing rare books, photographic media and other special formats. Excessive temperature and high relative humidity increase the rate of deterioration for most formats and promote mold growth, while very low humidity desiccates bindings and embrittles paper.

Maintaining a stable environment is also critical since fluctuations in temperature and rh cause materials to expand and contract and thus accelerate deterioration. Additionally, light levels must be managed to avoid fading of print and bindings as well as weakening of cloth and paper fibers. Ultraviolet rays, from both sunlight and fluorescent light can be especially destructive.

As is the case with many libraries, the heating and cooling system in Milner Library does not provide for the maintenance of optimum conditions for both people and library materials. The rh in the building tends to be considerably lower than recommended, especially in dry winter months, and the humidity control system, when activated, creates unacceptable levels of condensation on exterior windows and cannot be used effectively. Portable humidification and de-humidification units are used in the Special Collections book room and the University Archives to provide minimal humidity control in those areas. Any new construction or remodeling of the existing facility should include plans for adequate temperature and humidity control. In areas where exterior windows create unacceptable levels of radiant heat, shading has been installed.

The extensive use of exterior windows and florescent lighting throughout the library building creates areas of intense natural and artificial light. UV blocking tubes are installed over most lighting in stacks and special collections areas and some windows have been shaded using scrim or Tyvek paper. Future renovation plans should take into account the need to control artificial light and to shade window areas.

Chronic and severe storm water leakage throughout much of Floor 1, especially in the on-site storage facility (IRMA), continues to threaten collections and equipment stored in those areas. Efforts to remedy this problem have included the installation of a diapering system that diverts leaks into containers. This system is in place throughout the most severely affected areas on Floor 1 and is monitored regularly by preservation personnel, especially after periods of heavy rain or snow melt.  Book stacks located in particularly vulnerable areas are draped in plastic sheeting and are targeted for relocation to more stable ranges within IRMA. Deterioration of structural concrete and water-related electrical hazards led to the closure of Floor 1 as a public service area in 2007.

The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system in the library is maintained by the campus Facilities Management Department. Every effort should be made to work with ISU-FM to insure the best possible conditions in the library within the present limitations and to also assure all regular maintenance activities are performed to the system, including annually flushing out the roof units to prevent them from leaking into Floor 6. Facilities Management personnel maintain the dry filters in the main intake duct which clean incoming and recirculated air.

2.3 Replacement and Reformatting

In cases where the expense of fully restoring an item outweighs its artifactual or monetary value, the library pursues a program of information preservation.

Information preservation requires making every effort to purchase a replacement copy of a damaged item from an out-of-print vendor, or as a reprint, photocopy, microform or electronic file. The library’s Digitization Center is equipped to convert some deteriorated library materials to electronic formats. The Preservation Program is committed to selecting the most appropriate type of reformatting for information, and examines emerging technologies to determine their potential value and use to the library.

The library converts a limited number of materials to microfilm using a vendor. All microfilming contracts are written to specify that all appropriate national standards for archival quality and bibliographic integrity must be met. Incoming microfilm is inspected on a random basis to insure adherence to these specifications. Print Masters reels are stored in a controlled environment in the University Archives, and Archival reels are stored with a commercial vendor off-site.

As with all of the Library’s operational units, the Preservation Unit operates with limited resources and benefits from grants and other outside finding. Whenever possible, grant opportunities should be pursued for reformatting projects that enhance the preservation mission.

Materials that are beyond repair and have reached the end of their physical usefulness must be evaluated by the appropriate librarian. The subject specialist is in the best position to determine the value of a given item to the collection, and the decision to withdraw, reorder or reformat is the responsibility of that librarian. Under exceptional circumstances, such as mold contamination or extensive water damage, preservation personnel may immediately remove damaged materials from the building to protect the existing collection. In such cases, the barcodes of items are retained and the subject librarian is notified immediately. Preservation personnel are available for consultation concerning the preservation possibilities for a given item. (See Milner Weeding Policy)

2.4 Conservation

The choice of the most appropriate treatment for a given item is based on the item's unique characteristics including its long-term value to the collection, its condition, previous and projected use, the availability of a replacement, and its intrinsic or artifactual value.

Conservation activity occurs in two basic steps. First, an item is identified as needing treatment. Second, conservation personnel select an appropriate treatment based on the item’s condition, agreement with subject librarians if necessary, and according to the set of existing policies and procedures outlined in the Conservation Manual.

The original identification for treatment may occur at any time during the process of acquiring, cataloging, processing and disseminating library materials. New acquisitions should be reviewed by the subject specialist before cataloging, taking into consideration the item's projected use and permanent value to the collection. New items in damaged condition should be immediately routed to the conservation lab, while materials with vulnerable bindings as well as those of long-term value to the collection should be routed to conservation for commercial binding preparation. Items awaiting digitization are first evaluated by the Conservator to ensure their physical stability and to perform necessary repairs and cleaning to ensure a high quality scan.

All personnel who regularly handle library materials should be prepared to identify damage and to route damaged items to conservation. The circulation workspace on Floor 2 and workrooms on Floors 3-6 each contain a shelf for damaged items to be retrieved by conservation personnel. Repairs to damaged items should be carried out by conservation personnel only.

For circulating items, cost is the primary element in treatment selection. The cost of repair, restoration, withdrawal, replacement, archival boxing, or returning to the stacks “as-is” must be considered as well as the long-term cost effectiveness of the selected treatment.

Decisions to treat individual items or whole collections are made jointly by the subject librarian responsible for the material and conservation personnel, in consultation with the Preservation Librarian.

Routine repair and rebinding procedures are designed to reduce the time an item is unavailable for use. Batch processing is used when possible to save time and money.

All procedures used in the Conservation Lab are reversible insofar as possible and all materials used are preservationally sound and durable.

Grant funding provides opportunities to purchase additional equipment, supplies or to fund special projects. Lists of funding agencies and available preservation or conservation grants should be consulted at least once annually by the Preservation Librarian.

Through the use of preventative preservation practices and common sense, damage to library materials can be limited. Damage tends to grow worse with time and handling, so it is important to promptly identify and treat damaged items before they become unusable. Materials returning through circulation or interlibrary loan needing treatment should be identified and treated before they return to the stacks. Damp, wet, or sticky items pose a serious risk of mold contamination and must be separated from other materials immediately and treated before they are shelved. Tape and other inappropriate adhesives should be removed by conservation personnel before they cause damage or migrate to adjacent items on shelves. Sticky notes, labels, paperclips and acidic bookmarks all cause damage to paper and should be removed from all returning materials. Items vulnerable to vandalism should be identified and monitored or shelved in secure areas whenever possible.

2.5 Deacidification

The paper used in the production of books from the mid 19th century until the 1990’s is overwhelmingly acidic, including some books currently in print. Acidic paper gradually grows brittle and discolored over time, resulting in weakening, breakage, and eventual disintegration of paper-based materials. Deacidification through washing or spray application neutralizes acid in paper and leaves an alkaline buffer to prevent re-acidification over time, thus dramatically slowing this process. According to a 1993 condition survey, 83% of Milner Library’s book collection is printed on acidic paper with 5% already classified as brittle. Mass deacidification by a commercial vendor should be considered for materials of long-term research value, particularly if replacement of the material would be difficult. Single sheets, including all materials to be encapsulated, can be deacidified in the Conservation Lab.

2.6 Commercial Binding

The commercial bindery is an integral part of the preservation program. Because the bindery is an outside vendor, library personnel responsible for the binding contract must ensure the quality workmanship, appropriate leaf attachment, and other sound preservation practices for commercially bound items. The library’s requirements in these areas are written into the binding contract and regularly monitored with the vendor and through inspections of binding shipments. Only binderies in full compliance with Library Binding Institute standards for processes and materials are considered for the Milner Library binding contract.

The bindery shipment schedule manages the flow of materials to and from the bindery and minimizes the time an item is unavailable to patrons. For periodicals, the periodical specialist provides a target number of items to send to the bindery each shipment. Subject librarians target vulnerable items for commercial rebinding during the selection process. Conservation personnel send worn or damaged materials for commercial binding when in-house repair is beyond the scope of the lab. Materials sent for commercial binding are charged out on the on-line catalog to alert users to their unavailability

Bindery preparation personnel must be familiar with procedures and trade language to make appropriate decisions and tour the commercial bindery as necessary to review processes and ensure that materials are handled properly.

The commercial binder provides automated bindery preparation procedures and a database to assist the library. This system is used in conjunction with the on-line catalog and the serials check-in database in order to prepare materials for binding and to keep adequate records.

2.7 Shelf Preparation

Proper shelf preparation helps patrons locate library materials and speeds the procedures used by circulation and shelving personnel. Spine labels, property stamps, check-out slips, and security targets all identify and track library materials and ensure efficient circulation between patrons, personnel, and shelving.

The variety of formats, sizes and unique collections housed within Milner Library requires multiple physical processing procedures. Labels, stamps and other markings are applied by processing personnel according to policies determined by the preservation librarian, mutually agreed upon with other library divisions and recorded in a Processing Manual.

The Processing Unit uses only preservationally sound shelf preparation procedures and all materials are reversible insofar as possible. Materials used for physical processing are first evaluated and tested for their durability and integrity before being adopted.

Processing personnel are trained to recognize potential preservation problems and to refer those items to the appropriate preservation personnel. (See Processing Manual).

2.8 Stacks Maintenance

Maintaining stacks in an orderly condition protects the physical well being of library materials and facilitates access by patrons. As the primary storage location for library materials, stacks contribute greatly to the condition of the library collection as a whole. Appropriate shelving positions, adequate spacing, good use of book ends, and general cleanliness all help to sustain the integrity of bindings and paper. Maintaining proper call number helps patrons locate available items. Step stools ease the retrieval of materials from high shelves and thus reduce the hazards of falling items. Finally, well-maintained stacks communicate to patrons that library materials are valuable, useful and worthy of respect. Facilitating access may reduce the frustrations with library services that inspire acts of vandalism.

The Stacks Maintenance Unit is responsible for all shelving, shelf reading and floor pick-ups of most circulating items. Shelving for Government Documents, Special Collections, Reference and the Teaching Materials Center collections is arranged by their respective subject librarians. Unshelved items are retrieved from the circulation area and floors by shelving personnel who sort and reshelve all items according to a schedule that minimizes the time items are off the shelves. These personnel also carry out shelf reading projects, identify overcrowded areas in need of shifting, coordinate shifting projects with subject librarians, reposition misshelved items, arrange step stools, and perform other tasks as assigned and as outlined in the Stacks Maintenance Manual.

Stacks cleaning is currently carried out on an as-needed basis but should be adopted as an ongoing project carried out by the stacks maintenance program. 

2.9 Disaster Preparedness

Libraries are susceptible to damage resulting from natural and man-made disasters. Fires, floods, earthquakes, storms and mechanical malfunctions can all bring dirt, water and debris in their wake. Advance planning for such events enables the library to organize the salvage operation and reduce losses.

The disaster preparedness plan for the library is maintained by the Preservation Librarian in consultation with the Associate Dean for Technical Services. The plan includes names and phone numbers of pertinent personnel  members responsible for given aspects of disaster recovery; lists of necessary supplies and their locations; collection salvage priorities; detailed salvage procedures; and the names and phone numbers of off-site persons, suppliers and businesses who could contribute expertise in the event of a disaster. Copies of the plan are distributed to the recovery team, all library departments, and to other pertinent campus offices.

The development of salvage procedures and the determination of methods to be used during a recovery operation are the responsibility of the Preservation Librarian. Priorities for salvage are determined by the subject librarians.

Much of the damage occurring in libraries today is the result of poor maintenance of old plumbing, leaks in the roof or careless placement of air-conditioning or ventilation ducts. Plans for a new building or remodeling of the existing structure should take these possible dangers into account.

2.10 Personnel and User Education

Before a library preservation program can be effective, it must have the support of the library personnel. People who handle hundreds of books each day contribute greatly to the preservation of library materials, thus, a primary responsibility of the preservation program is to communicate the preservation goals of the library to all personnel. Preservation of the collection requires the cooperation of everyone who works in the library.

All new employees are referred to the Preservation Librarian as part of their overall orientation. The Preservation Librarian participates in student training and holds workshops on pertinent topics as necessary and notifies affected personnel of new techniques and practices available in the Conservation Lab.

An active preservation program encourages respect for the library and its collection. Patrons resort to mutilation of library materials out of ignorance, disrespect for the library, or dissatisfaction with library services. These motivations can be weakened through education, logical policies, clearly posted penalties and user-oriented services. Patrons are prosecuted for the mutilation and/or theft of library materials in accordance with appropriate statutes. A warning statement to this effect is posted in several places within the library.

3. Remote Collections

3.1 Storage

Milner Library maintains two separate storage facilities: the Basement Storage Facility for Infrequently Requested Materials (IRMA) containing approximately 500,000 volumes located on Floor 1 of Milner Library and an off-site storage facility containing approximately 138,000 volumes located in building WRC I, on Warehouse Drive, Normal.

Materials sent to both storage facilities continue to have value to the collection, but are not used often enough to warrant shelf space in the main library. Patrons can request materials from either location. Items are retrieved on a schedule designed to minimize waiting time while taking into account available staff resources.

To conserve preservation resources for the most frequently used items, materials from storage receive treatment in Conservation only if retrieved through circulation. 

The environment in WRC I experiences fluctuations in humidity throughout the year and is subject to leaks. There are severe and ongoing environmental problems in the Basement Storage Facility (IRMA) that must be monitored regularly (see section 2.2). Correcting these environmental problems should be considered in all planning for  renovations or construction.

3.2 Archives

The University Archives is located WRC I, on Warehouse Drive, Normal. The Archives is an official arm of the library, and the University Archivist reports to the Special Collections Librarian.

The Preservation Librarian works closely with the University Archivist, determining appropriate treatment, housing and reformatting for materials in the collection. Disaster recovery assistance is afforded to the Archives just as it is to the main library and storage collections.

4. Organization

4.1 Preservation Department

The Preservation Department resides within Technical Services in the Milner Library organization. The Preservation Librarian reports to the Associate Dean for Technical and Administrative Services.

There are five units within the Preservation Department: Binding, Conservation, Processing and  Stacks Maintenance. In addition, the Preservation Department also oversees IRMA retrievals. Each unit is overseen by one full-time employee with part time student assistants with the exception of the Conservation Lab which contains two full-time employees and part time student assistants.

4.2 Function

The preservation program is guided by the following principles:

1. Policies and procedures for all Preservation units are consistent with established preservation practices.

2. All materials used by preservation units are permanent and nondestructive, and all treatments are reversible insofar as this is possible.

3. A distinction is made between materials of permanent research value and those which are rare or unique. This distinction influences the decision for the type and extent of treatment performed on a given item.

4. Decisions for treatment are made cooperatively between the subject librarian, who is aware of an item's value to the collection, and preservation personnel, who are knowledgeable of the appropriate treatment options.

4.3 Relationships

4.3.1 Internal

While the Preservation Department is physically housed and organizationally placed in Technical Services, the preservation program is committed to service for the entire library and is guided by the needs of the library and the university committee. The preservation program is not a behind-the-scenes process, but actively reflects the purpose of the library and the use of the collection.

4.3.2 External

Milner Library is committed to furthering cooperative efforts to preserve library materials. The library is an active participant in cooperative projects with such organizations as the Alliance Library System and the Illinois Cooperative Collection Management Program. These cooperative activities have a positive impact on library collections state wide, as well as reducing costs and eliminating duplication of effort.

The Preservation Librarian serves as a resource person for the region, providing collections care and disaster recovery information and assistance to other libraries. The Center for Conservation and Preservation hosts training workshops open to the community on various Preservation topics.

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Milner Library
Campus Box 8900
201 North School St.
Normal, Il 61790-8900
Phone: 309.438.3451

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Last Updated: 8/16/12