Brittle Books Replacement and Reformatting Policy

Introduction

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. Unfortunately, the physical and chemical composition of many of these items actively works against this commitment. The dual rise of industrialism and mass literacy in the 1800’s resulted in an increased demand for paper. To meet this demand, manufacturers adopted techniques that permitted them to produce paper from wood pulp. While meeting demand, this process left a great deal of residual acid in the paper – acid that breaks down the paper fibers. The elevated temperatures and humidity levels found in many library buildings accelerate this deterioration.

Although new production methods have reduced the number of volumes printed on acidic paper and new technologies such as deacidification can help us prevent paper embrittlement, few cost effective options exist for preserving severely embrittled volumes in their original format. When items of this type are discovered, the most cost effective options are to replace the item with an acceptable surrogate or preserve the intellectual content through reformatting.

Identification of Brittle Items

Brittle items will be identified through two primary processes – circulation or use and those selected by preservation and collection development personnel as possessing national significance.

  • Circulating Materials: Items identified as damaged by circulation and processing units will be forwarded to the Preservation and Conservation Departments for examination by the Brittle Books Coordinator. This individual will complete searching for acceptable microfilm replacements and will complete some basic searching for replacement print editions. Consultation with the responsible subject librarian will ensure that appropriate decisions are made about replacement and reformatting options.
  • Collections of National Significance: Since collection-wide reformatting options are beyond presently available funding, projects to reformat significant bodies of material will primarily be completed through application for grant funding. These projects may involve a combination of treatment options to ensure that the items from this collection are treated as appropriately as possible. For example, a combination of reformatting and deacidification project might seek to preserve both embrittled and non-brittle acidic papers. Identification of collections of national significance will be done by subject librarians in consultation with the AUL for Collections and members of the preservation and conservation program.

Bibliographic Review Process

  • Triage: Circulation and processing units will route materials to the Preservation and Conservation Departments. Preservation and Conservation personnel will separate materials that can be repaired in-house or can be commercially bound. Generally, brittle serials will be tied or have enclosures made according to the guidelines below. The brittle monographs will be sent on to the Brittle Books area for processing.
  • Pre-Review: The Brittle Books Unit will sort all materials. Basic searching for potential acceptable surrogates will be completed before review by a subject librarian. The Brittle Books Coordinator will also request additional pieces from multi-volume sets for bibliographic review.
  • Review: While subject librarians are encouraged to review materials at any point during normal operating hours, the Preservation and Conservation Departments will provide a regular dedicated time for their personnel to assist subject librarians with treatment decisions. Materials will be available throughout the month on an on-going basis so that individuals who are not able to attend a particular review will be able to continue to make decisions about their materials. Subject librarians may also make appointments to review large bodies of material with assistance during non-dedicated review times.Should the subject librarian desire, the Brittle Books Unit will request duplicate copies and editions from the Stacks and Branch Libraries whenever they are available. These items will be waiting for re-evaluation at the next monthly evaluation.If any materials remain in the Preservation and Conservation Departments for two full months without any review, the options for replacement, reformatting, withdraw, or deferral of treatment will be made by the AUL for Collections.
  • Post-Review Volumes identified for conservation treatment or reformatting will be routed to the appropriate area of preservation treatment. Replacement pages will be secured through IRRC. The Preservation and Conservation Departments will be responsible for routing newly reformatting materials to cataloging for processing.Volumes identified for replacement by existing reprint copies will be acquired by the Acquisitions Unit. Fund numbers and other necessary information to continue this processing should be provided by subject librarians.Volumes identified for relocation to the Library’s high-density storage facility will be routed to that unit by Preservation and Conservation personnel.Volumes identified for withdrawal will be discharged by the Brittle Books Unit personnel and delivered to cataloging to have the necessary withdrawal process started.

    Volumes that require further research may be left with the Brittle Books unit to have the search form completed, or may be discharged from the Brittle Books unit to have searching conducted by the subject librarian as appropriate to the item.

Decision-Making for Replacement and Reformatting

Decisions about reformatting options should be made after careful consideration of many factors. These considerations may include:

  • Availability of reprint or acceptable microfilm.
  • Significance of the item to the subject’s corpus.
  • Current or potential use.
  • Cost of option v. above mentioned items.
  • Appropriateness of the reformatting option to the material.
  • Condition of the item.
  • The Library’s role as a research institution and a member of the National Preservation Program.

Monographs

In the case of single monographic volumes, the recommended option is to replace the original item with an acceptable, available surrogate in microfilm or print. Acquisition of acceptable microfilm surrogates will be made from replacement funds managed by the Preservation and Conservation program. Acquisition of available reprints will be made by subject librarians from their acquisition funds.

In the case when acceptable preservation microfilm exists, the Preservation and Conservation Program’s primary recommendation will be replacement in that format. Preservation and Conservation will secure preservation microfilm or facsimile replacements when no acceptable microfilm surrogate exists.

Monographic Sets

In the case of monographic sets, the recommended option is to replace the original item with an acceptable, available surrogate – in microfilm or print. Acquisition of acceptable microfilm surrogates will be made from replacement funds managed by the Preservation and Conservation program. Acquisition of available reprints will be made by subject librarians from their acquisition funds.

In the case when acceptable preservation microfilm exists, the Preservation and Conservation Program’s primary recommendation will be replacement in that format. Preservation and Conservation will secure preservation microfilm or facsimile replacements when no acceptable microfilm surrogate exists.

Serials

The default treatment option for brittle serials is stabilization. The individual volumes will be tied and re-shelved, unless a significant number of pages are loose or the volume is in poor structural condition. In this case, the Preservation and Conservation Departments will construct/obtain a protective enclosure. This policy has been adopted in response to the large number of serials in the collection and budgetary constraints that the departments act under, but certainly not out of disregard for the importance of our serial holdings. Extensive boxing of serials is certainly a possibility in the future but may not be possible for every item at this time. Because of their nature, serial runs make good candidates for larger, more costly batch projects and will require significant evaluation for reformatting.

All damaged serials will be put into the queue for bibliographic review, to alert subject librarians about potential areas of concern. Replacement and reformatting funds managed by the Preservation and Conservation Program will be used for the replacement and reformatting of brittle serials as the budgets permit. Basic bibliographic searching for acceptable, available preservation microfilm surrogates will be completed by Preservation and Conservation at the point of review. If they do exist, the subject librarian will be informed and funds will be made available via replacement funds managed by preservation and conservation. This is, by far, the most cost effective replacement option available. Searching for surrogates produced by vendors (UMI, etc….) will be the responsibility of subject librarians. Funding for this level of replacement will be dependent upon available reformatting monies or the availability of money in subject librarian’s funds.

If an especially damaged, important, or highly used issue is discovered by a subject librarian, they are requested to make arrangements with Preservation and Conservation personnel to have it repaired or reformatted. Likewise, significantly damaged or embrittled items will be put into the review process, both to assure that we give them proper treatment, and to alert subject librarians to potential problems in their collections.

If a serial selected for reformatting is missing pages, the Brittle Books Unit will attempt to order them through ILL. In some cases, especially for foreign language materials, we may request the help of the appropriate subject librarian in locating the correct pages.

Reformatting Options

Preservation microfilm remains the most permanent method of preserving the intellectual content of a print item. Properly produced and stored, a set of preservation microfilm can preserve access to a document for hundreds of years. Moreover, it has become a widely accepted standard for the production and dissemination of duplicate copies throughout the world. As a major research institution and a long-participating member of the national preservation program, the Library’s preference will be preservation microfilm when no such surrogate exists.

Preservation photocopies or facsimiles are produced on acid-free paper. Their primary value lies in providing an institution with a durable paper surrogate for the deteriorated original item. Such facsimiles are a single replacement for a single deteriorated item. They do not provide a master, and they cannot be duplicated for wide-spread dissemination. However, many are currently produced through scanning.

Digital access to brittle materials is desirable primarily in that can be manipulated to create a robust access tool. Permanence is still a major issue for digital information. For that reason, digital imaging as the sole replacement and access point for brittle materials is still something that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Preservation and Conservation program discourages. However, the program will work to develop access mechanisms that satisfy the demands of both long-term access and dynamic digital access.

Deferral of reformatting is always an available option. Should the item not warrant reformatting, or should resources not be available to reformat an item, treatment can be deferred through stabilization.

No treatment is also an option. Should an item not warrant any treatment or even maintenance within the collections, withdrawal is an option. No withdrawal will be made without a subject librarian’s approval.

Disposition of Originals After Reformatting

The Preservation and Conservation Program’s objectives are to preserve access to the original item in the least destructive manner possible. To that end, disbinding items for reformatting will be avoided when the item is generally intact. The subject librarian may choose to maintain the original, intact items where they came from, or they may choose to relocate the items to the Library’s high-density storage facility.

In those cases where disbinding is necessary to secure a satisfactory reproduction, the original item shall be stabilized and maintained at the Library’s high-density storage facility after reformatting. Alternatively, the responsible subject librarian may also choose to withdraw the item.

If a volume’s pages are in pieces before it is reformatted, the binding is shattered, or the item is generally non-functional, it is already beyond further use and may be withdrawn from the collection after reformatting. Alternatively, the responsible subject librarian may also choose to relocate the item to the Library’s high-density storage facility.

In any case, the subject librarian may always choose to withdraw the item from the Library’s collection once a satisfactory replacement is secured.