About Us

Preservation Unit 
425 Library, MC-522
UIUC Library
1408 West Gregory Dr.
Urbana, IL 61801

Conservation Lab 
Oak St. Library Facility
OSLF, 2nd Floor
809 South Oak Street
Mail Code 527
Champaign, IL 61820

Digital Content Creation 
413 Library, MC-522
UIUC Library
1408 West Gregory Dr.
Urbana, IL 61801

Brittle Books Reformatting Policy and Workflow

Brittle Books Reformatting Policy


The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is committed to building and sustaining collections for the use of students, faculty, visiting scholars, and the public. The UIUC Preservation Department reformats brittle and damaged books to ensure the preservation of the intellectual content of its collections. The UIUC Library shall maintain and preserve the original book scanned to create the electronic text, regardless of condition.

This policy is predicated by the following beliefs.

  1. Increasingly, library users prefer to access information through online sources.
  2. U.S. Copyright law provides special rights for libraries to preserve and provide access to information sources, provided the institution owns a copy of the original information source, e.g. book or journal.
  3. As the Library converts more intellectual content into digital formats it must renew it’s commitment to preserve and provide long term access to this material via a trusted digital repository and digital access management system.

Methods for Identifying Brittle Books

  1. Circulation or Use: Selecting books returned after use ensures that they are valued by current researchers. However, this method of referral can result in an uneven work flow since it relies on the number of books in use at varied points of the academic year and the ability of library units to process them. Other methods of identification will be used to supplement the workflow, such as:
  2. Mass digitization projects: books rejected due to condition.
  3. Collections of significance: collections identified as nationally important by collection managers.
  4. Online catalog queries based on such criteria as:
    • the number of times circulated,
    • publication dates prior to 1923 (in public domain),
    • publication dates after 1923 (copyright protected),
    • single copies held at UIUC,
    • books unique to UIUC within the CARLI consortium or CIC libraries or OCLC/Worldcat.

Criteria for Selecting Brittle Books for Reformatting

Reformatting brittle and broken materials by digitally scanning them and providing online access will allow greater numbers to use these searchable texts.  Brittle Books will reformat a book if all three of the following conditions are true.

  1. BB will reformat, if a suitable replacement reprint cannot be purchased.
  2. BB will reformat, if a free full-text copy is not found on the Internet Archive or Hathi Trust web sites.
  3. BB will reformat monographs or serials in sets of 10 volumes or less. In order to preserve as many titles as possible with finite funds, we limit the size of the sets to be reformatted.

Criteria for Creating Only a Digital Format for a Title

  1. The book was published before 1923, is in the public domain and can be made available to the public online.
  2. Selected volumes of a monographic or serial set referred by a mass digitization project. The referral to BB is usually made because the condition of these volumes is too fragile to be reformatted within the mass digitization project.

Criteria for Creating Digital and Printed Formats for a Title

  1. The book was published in 1923 or after and is copyright protected. The Library can provide online access to its community of users. Students, faculty and staff can authenticate their status by entering their login and password when prompted after selecting a 'Full text' hyper link in the Voyager online catalog. Those unaffiliated with the University may borrow the printed facsimile through Interlibrary Loan or access digital formats by visiting the campus and using a publicly available computer.

Disposition of the Brittle Book

The cost for scanning unbound materials is less than bound materials. Since the paper in the books we are scanning is brittle and the bindings are often broken, we allow the vendor to cut the pages from the binding.* When these loose pages are returned from the vendor they are boxed and transferred to the Oak Street Storage Facility. The Voyager record is set to non-circulating to reduce the risk of losing pages. The copy used for scanning will be preserved for the following reasons:

  1. In order to correct problems with the digital scan discovered after the quality control procedure.
  2. In order to scan the book again if the digital file is corrupted or lost.
  3. If a researcher needs to consult the original book.

*Occasionally, exceptions are made and the vendor is instructed not to disbind a book. This may be due to the condition or significance of the book.


Brittle Books Reformatting Workflow

Materials Referred to Brittle Books

Damaged books are identified by Departmental Libraries and the Main Library’s Bookstacks staff when returned by a patron. They are referred to the Preservation Dept., Main Library, Room 44 for repair.

Monographs and serials, in sets of 10 volumes or less, are referred to Brittle Books when they are too brittle to be repaired by Conservation or bound by the Library’s commercial binder.

Searching and Decision Making

Brittle Books (BB) searches the following sources to gather information on which to base the reformatting decision.

If the book is selected to be treated by BB, it is entered into the Preservation & Conservation Access database.

Brittle Books Decision Options:

Purchase a Reprint

BB searches Amazon.com for a recent reprint of the damaged edition.

The Acquisitions Dept.’s monograph request form is completed for the direct order. Acquisitions staff places the order.

When the order is received, BB will review the book to ensure that it is a good replacement for our damaged edition. All pages must be clearly printed. It should contain the same text, commentary, and illustrations as the original. It is taken to Content Access Management – Copy Cataloging to be added to the collection. If it is not a good replacement and Acquisitions cannot return the book, it is added to the collection but BB will reformat the damaged book.


The damaged book is examined page-by-page to ensure that no material is missing from the book. Underlining and marginalia are removed from the pages or replaced with photocopies of clean pages. Missing and damaged pages are replaced with photocopies. The vendor scans each page and produces digital files and a printed, bound facsimile, when requested.


If UIUC owns several copies of the damaged edition, BB may process the damaged book for withdrawal. The Voyager item and holdings records are changed to show that the copy has been withdrawn. A withdraw routing form is completed and the book is forwarded to the Office of Collections for review and disposal.

Processing Vendor E-Text Files

The vendor scans each page and produces JPEG or TIFF files, and a searchable PDF for each book.

File Storage

Vendor files and files created to provide online access are permanently stored in a secure archival server space and backed up periodically.

Vendor dvds are stored in Intercept brand sleeves and acid-free boxes in the Preservation Dept., Main Library, Room 44.

Processing Facsimile Copies

BB may request a facsimile copy from the vendor. It is printed on permanent acid-free paper and bound according to Library Binding Institute standards.

BB examines the facsimile page-by-page to ensure that no material is missing and that all pages are bound correctly. If errors are found, BB checks the digital files for the same error. BB will return the book and digital files to the vendor for correction, when necessary.

BB prepares the facsimile for the shelf and takes them to the Content Access Management Department to be added to Voyager.

Processing Brittle Books for Oak St. Storage

The original brittle books, which usually have been dis-bound by the vendor, are measured for a custom-sized acid-free box.

The boxed book is transferred to the Oak St. Shelving facility for permanent storage and marked as non-circulating.