A Brief History


1934 – 1935

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 – 1949

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 – 1960

Processes and techniques were evaluated and new supplies, materials, and techniques were introduced to the unit.

1965 – 1966

Binding, Marking, and Conservation (re-named from previous “Mending Division”) moved into room 12 of the Main Library.

1968 – 1969

Fumigation was introduced as a method by which to combat mold outbreaks.

1972 – 1973

Single item deacidification treatments were introduced as an option in the Conservation Unit.

1978 – 1979

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 Development.

1981 – 1986

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 – 1987

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 – 1989

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 Flickr and Facebook pages.

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.