Conservation Unit

Conservation work station


Located on the second floor of the Oak Street Library Facility in the John “Bud” Velde Library Conservation Laboratory, the Conservation Unit performs a variety of repairs on both circulating and non-circulating collections. Ranging from collections conservation, otherwise referred to as book repair, to specialized item-level treatments, the Conservation Unit offers a variety of treatment and stabilization options.
Additionally, conservation personnel respond to all emergencies which affect Library materials, recover wet and mold-affected materials, and assist with exhibit preparation.

Circulating Collections Repair

We perform a variety of treatments on circulating, reference and reserve materials, including:

  • Simple and advanced book repairs;
  • Mending and cleaning flat and bound paper;
  • Encapsulation;
  • Constructing protective enclosures such as clamshells, phase boxes, and portfolios.

To determine whether an item should be sent for repair, please see here.

To route materials to conservation, please complete a green streamer (GEN204)and send the item through Library Shipping. Moldy or severely damaged items are best handled by hand-carrying them as soon as possible to the Preservation Unit at 44 Main Library or the Conservation Unit in the Oak Street Library Facility.


The conservation treatment of special collections and rare materials is characterized by the nature of the materials treated. Either singly or as a collection, rare materials are distinct from other library materials in some way. They may have aesthetic, evidential, or financial value, they may present a unique physical format, or they simply may be exceptionally old or scarce. It is often through their physical construction that they provide researchers with important information. For these reasons, conservation treatment of special collections and rare materials is handled differently than the treatment of circulating collections materials.
Conservation personnel follow the guidelines and standards of practice as outlined by the American Institute of Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC). Supplies used in the treatment of special collections materials are of the highest quality and the treatments are planned to be as reversible as possible. Documentation of the treatment itself, through both written and photographic means, is an important component of this work as well.
This level of conservation treatment is performed on materials from the Rare Books and Manuscript Library, the University Archives, the Illinois History and Lincoln Collection, and all other library units that have special collection or non-circulating materials.

Pamphlet Binding

Barring any special projects, pamphlet binding operations typically process 5,000 to 6,000 pamphlets annually. Using a ‘machine stitcher’ that forms staples from a spool of wire and tapeless binders, the library has pamphlet bound 154,462 items between 1990 and 2003 for an average of 11,882 items annually.