A Brief History
1934 - 35
The Mending Division was established as a part of a Federal Emergency Relief Administration
(FERA) grant as a Division of the Binding Department. The division reported to the Binding
Librarian, Miss Josie B. Houchens, who taught bookbinding and mending techniques and supervised the
student workers in both Mending and Binding. The Mending Unit was initially located in Room 124 of
the bookstacks with the Marking Unit on the half stacks level above Mending. Bindery Preparations
was located across the hall in Room 128.
1936 - 49
Employing between eighteen and twenty-five students, the Mending Division, led by Mrs. Ethel
Richbark from 1942-1954, bound pamphlets, performed spine repairs, and completed page repairs.
Bindery Preparations prepared materials to be commercially bound. In 1940, students received
thirty-five cents per hour.
1950 - 60
Processes and techniques were evaluated and new supplies, materials, and techniques were
introduced to the unit.
1965 - 66
Binding, Marking, and Conservation (re-named from previous " Mending Division") moved into
room 12 of the Main Library.
1968 - 69
Fumigation was introduced as a method by which to combat mold outbreaks.
1972 - 73
Single item deacidification treatments were introduced as an option in the Conservation
1978 - 79
Two major water disasters, in the Geology Library and Remote Storage, promoted the need for
centralized disaster preparedness and the establishment of a preservation fund for disaster
salvage. In 1979, the Binding and Preservation Division was moved to report under Collection
1981 - 86
After another water disaster in the Geology Library prompted the writing of the first
Library Disaster Plan. Additionally, monies provided by the Kappauf Fund allowed for a lab
remodeling including a sink, spray booth, and new workbenches.
1986 - 87
Binding, Marking and Conservation were reorganized into two separate departments. Binding
and Marking were shifted to the Acquisitions Unit, and Conservation reported to the Preservation
Librarian, Bill Henderson (formerly the Head of the Binding and Preservation Division).
1988 - 89
The Conservation Unit was split into two discreet sub-units both reporting to the
Preservation Librarian: Book Repair & Pamphlet Binding, led by Norma Linton and Special
Conservation, led by Jane Gammon.
Five thousand dollars in private money in 1998 permitted Conservation to purchase vitally
needed equipment. Large items included a board crimper for phase box construction, a polyester
welding machine for encapsulation of flat paper items, a HEPA filtered vacuum, an ultrasonic
humidifier, and a Preservation Pencil.
1988 - present
Since 1988 the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign participated in many
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) preservation
microfilming projects. Funded by the NEH, cooperative projects coordinated by the
Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and NEH grants
secured directly by the University of Illinois, permitted the institution to participate in the
national brittle books program by filming 78,945 volumes and repairing 10,800 volumes.
2001 - present
In 2001, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign established a centralized
preservation program for the Library. A Head of Preservation was hired to oversee the functions of
Bindery Preparations and Reformatting (transferred in 2001 to the Library from the Office of
Printing Services), as well as to develop a brittle books program and to oversee the preservation
administration functions of the Library, left unmanaged since Bill Henderson's retirement in 1996.
The sub-units of Pamphlet Binding and Conservation were relocated into room 44 of the Main Library.
In 2001, the program was recognized by the
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation by the
receipt of a $1.4 million matching grant to fund endowed conservation staff for the support of
special and general collections conservation. In 2005, the University Library established the John
"Bud" Velde Endowed Professorship in Preservation, funded by a generous gift of Library Friend Bud
Velde. The Conservation Unit moved to its current location, the John "Bud" Velde Library
Conservation Laboratory in the Oak Street Library Facility in 2006 (for a photo tour of the lab,
please see our
Flickr page). With this move, pamphlet binding
was moved under the supervision of the preservation unit and remained in the main library.
Again in 2010, the program was recognized for its accomplishments by the Andrew W Mellon Foundation
with an additional $1.25 million matching grant to fund the position of senior special collections
conservator. Also in 2010, the Conservation Unit entered the social networking community by
starting up both
Both the Preservation and Conservation Units currently report to the Dean of Libraries and are
part of the Technical Services Division.
This history was compiled by Jane Gammon, who has worked in the Library's Repair and
Conservation Unit since 1953, and updated by Jennifer Hain Teper.