Preservation Metrics and their Applications to Prioritize Treatments

Application for Library Innovation Funding

(June 2013 application cycle)


Submitted by: Jennifer Hain Teper (in cooperation with Cherié Weible, William Schlaack, and Annette Morris)


Project Overview:

This proposal represents the last “test” phase of a proposed change in the way that preservation and conservation select and prioritize materials for treatment within our units, based on the availability and interpretation of digitized content, national holdings, local use, and condition of the physical object.  In 2011, a pilot survey searched a random sample of books entering our units for treatment with the goal of identifying what level of searching yielded accurate information to inform selection for preservation and conservation treatment. After this pilot, a 2012 survey of conservation selection practices at US research libraries was performed. The resulting data was analyzed to see how similar institutions use or disregard these metrics in their conservation prioritization. Finally, an implementation project, proposed for the summer/fall of 2013 would examine the general collections at the University of Illinois to test the recommendations resulting from the two prior investigations. The outcomes of this implementation and the perceived successes and/or failures of the project will shape the integration of such workflows into permanent decision making practices in our unit and provide a meaningful decision making framework for collection managers.  We have selected to work with Central Access Services for this pilot since their collection has the broadest range of preservation and conservation issues.


Previous Work:

1)      Pilot survey of incoming treatments

In 2011, 95 books were randomly selected from those awaiting significant repairs.  Data was gathered on basic bibliographic information; local, state and national holdings; and availability of digitized content.  Additionally, potential trends related to publication date or subject area were investigated.  Books reviewed were from the general, circulating collection and ranged in age from 1833 to 2010.  Over 65% of the materials had not yet been digitized and ranged from uniquely held to widely held titles (over 1,000 copies nation-wide).  No statistically valid trends between scarcity and date or subject area were found. A general consensus was, however, that the availability of these metrics did positively benefit treatment decisions.

2)      Survey of the field

In 2012, an online survey was developed and distributed to academic and research libraries in the US. Results, suggest that libraries still rely on circulation as their main selection mechanism for conservation treatment. Half of responding libraries consider national holdings prior to making treatment decisions, most often for general collections conservation, however, little in-depth searching is done beyond a basic OCLC searches. Of those who search holdings, many discard highly damaged items if sufficient national holdings are present. Slightly fewer programs reported searching for available digital content, and gathering local use statistics prior to treatment.

Project Objectives:

This project is focused on more meaningful use of limited resources for in-house and vended services within preservation and conservation for our general collections.  The comprehensive use of digitized content, national holdings, and local use in conjunction with the physical condition of the piece in hand will yield much more meaningful application of preservation/conservation approaches, such as preservation reformatting, construction of protective enclosures, and conservation treatment, as well as more educated recommendations for returning items unrepaired or for discard.  While this sort of data collection already takes place prior to our current selection for preservation reformatting, we do not collect this data comprehensively for incoming materials from general collections due to a general lack of available support staff hours. This application therefore requests funds to allow us to hire a grad hourly to undertake comprehensive searching of all general collections coming from our main stacks for preservation/conservation treatment.  The hourly will do the following for up to one full book truck of incoming stacks materials (approximately 240 books a month):

  • Note how the item would have been routed for treatment w/o metrics (for comparative data only);
  • Check for available full text digitized content noted on WorldCat or through GoogleBooks, Hathi Trust, and the Internet Archive, as well as currently licensed e-resources for serial holdings;
  • Note number of copies held in WorldCat (and trouble shoot to identify possible errors in scarcity data due to improper cataloging on our end);
  • Record number of known circulations, both through date due slips and voyager data
  • For serials, note if title is included in the CIC shared print repository (Elsevier, Wiley and Springer titles at present);
  • Once all metrics are collected, make selection for treatment utilizing metrics alongside the condition of the material to better inform treatment decisions;
  • Return any items to Central Access Services that are unrepaired or only boxed with reason for that decision and make notes as such in voyager record;
  • Draft decision making framework utilizing metrics to lead future treatment decisions, resulting in more predictable treatment decisions that can be referred back to concrete data;
  • Report out time needed for searching to plan for future staffing


Our hope is that this searching will reduce the amount of redundant decision making processes that go on in preservation and conservation, thus freeing up additional staff time assist with this searching, but ideally we would be seeking additional hourly wages (perhaps from gift funds, if none are available from the library) to take on this responsibility.


This project is proposed to begin in in August 2013 and run the length of the Fall semester, with reports and frameworks being completed in December 2014.


Project Evaluation

Summary data would be reported out fir to the Preservation and Conservation staff as well as interested Central Access Services staff.  Once formal recommendations are completed, a summary and recommendations will be taken to the Collection Development Committee if it results in any library-wide changes in selection and treatment decisions (which is our hope).  Success of this project in in the completion of the data collection and perceived value of the data collected versus the changes in treatment decision.



  • Estimated 10 minutes of searching per book, extended to 240 books per month for 5 months = 200 hours of labor.
  • Additional 40 hours for collection of summary data and drafting decision making framework (in consultation with Jennifer Hain Teper, Annette Morris, Kyle Rimkus, Cherié Weible and Dan Hill).

Total budget request: 240 hours of labor at $19.47/hour = $4,623