Brittle Books

Due to inherent vice in modern paper, many print materials decay and become brittle over time, which limits physical handling of these materials. To maintain access to the content, Preservation Reformatting offers in-house and outsourced reformatting of brittle materials so that they may be accessed in ways that do not damage the materials.

Identified materials arrive at Preservation Reformatting through other Preservation Services departments and workflows. Materials are sorted per their copyright status – is it in the public domain or under copyright? – which determines the specific path they take while in Preservation Reformatting.

Brittle Items Receive Labels and Streamers That Designate Their Treatment Statuses

Public Domain

Materials in the public domain (i.e. items published before 1926; items that are not protected by any copyright, trademarks, patents, or other intellectual property laws) can be used freely without obtaining permission from a rights holder. This means they can be reformatted and uploaded online for UIUC students and researchers to view without many constraints. Books are part of the public domain when their copyright expires, is forfeited, or if the item was created with no copyright license and thus was never intended to be protected under copyright law.

Preservation Reformatting offers the following services for public domain brittle materials:

  • Conservation treatments, including paper repairs, and mold remediation
  • Re-housing for longevity of preservation
  • In-house digitization by Internet Archive
  • Outsourced vendor digitization
  • Long-term preservation storage
  • Online access on Internet Archive and/or HathiTrust
  • Patron digitization requests


The opposite of public domain, copyrighted materials are materials published after 1926.  As a research institution, UIUC has unique rights to upload and share works under copyright with patrons for research purposes. These items are preserved and reformatted in order to provide patrons with continued access to these materials with respect to their rights statuses.

Preservation Reformatting offers the following services for copyrighted brittle materials:

  • Conservation treatments, including paper repairs and mold remediation
  • Page-by-page collation
  • Replacement pages (if applicable)
  • Re-housing
  • Outsourced digitization
  • New facsimile copy
  • Long-term preservation storage
  • Restricted access on HathiTrust

Timeframe for Reformatting

Brittle book services can span several days to several years, depending on a variety of factors. Consult with Preservation Reformatting staff to discuss and determine project timeframes.

Transferring Brittle Materials to Preservation Reformatting

Deliver materials to room 425 in Main Library. If unsure how to transport items, contact us at for assistance. If necessary pick-up or campus shipping delivery may be arranged.




Photo Showing How Book Cradles Provide Support for Mending and Inspection


For further inquiries on our brittle book services contact us at