The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 22, Number 3


20-Year Brittle Books Plan is Behind Schedule

In 1991, a 20-year plan to microfilm the nation's most brittle, unique and valuable books, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, was announced in the newsletter of the Commission on Preservation and Access. Out of 320 million volumes in research libraries, 12 million were estimated to be unique and endangered; of these, three million were to be saved by filming. (The plan was described in the September 1991 Abbey Newsletter, p. 83.)

Deanna Marcum, testifying before Congress on behalf of NEH last March, pointed out that only some 773,000 embrittled volumes will have been saved when currently funded filming plans are completed. This is only about 25% of the targeted total. By now, 40% would have been filmed if the plan were on schedule. Marcum emphasized that digitization cannot replace microfilming because digital records are not trustworthy preservation media, and cannot solve the brittle books problem.

International Project Focuses on Carbonyls

A two-day conference entitled "Museum Pollution: Detection and Mitigation of Carbonyls" was held at Strathclyde University on June 17-18, 1998. Over 30 delegates from the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Canada and the U.S. attended. Several carbonyl pollution issues were discussed (acetic acid, formic acid and formaldehyde), and a number of actions were proposed.

A database will be constructed by 12 labs in the Netherlands, U.S., Canada and the UK, to collate data from previous and future sampling experiments. A second database will collate post-1995 data from nine organizations (BRE, BM, CCI, GCI, NICH, ROM, MoL, NMS and the V&A) on materials safe to use for storage of artifacts. Accurate sampling methods for the gases will be standardized. Lastly, a group of conservators and scientists (including Cecily Grzywacz at the Getty Conservation Institute) will investigate the effects of carbonyl pollution.

A summary of the conference is available. Results of ongoing research will be presented in 1999 at NICH in Amsterdam. To offer or receive further information, contact Dr. Lorraine Gibson, The Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage, Gabriel Metsustraat 8, 1071 EA Amsterdam, The Netherlands (tel: 31 20 3054 780, fax: 31 20 3054 700).

Bookkeeper® Process Chosen in The Netherlands

After a four-year comparative study of deacidification methods, carried out in cooperation with TNO (an independent research company), the Dutch Royal Library and State Archives have settled on Preservation Technologies' Bookkeeper® process to deacidify their collections. The work will be done by Archimascon, B.V., a Rotterdam-based licensee. It has already treated about 10,000 pounds of archival documents--the equivalent of 500 shelf-feet of documents.

The process uses submicron particles of magnesium oxide (MgO), suspended in an inert liquid carrier and a dispersant that keeps the particles from sticking together. They move into the paper and stick to the fibers. There they combine with the small amounts of water in the paper and the air, forming magnesium hydroxide, which protects the paper by neutralizing acidic gases. Offers Easy Publication of Theses, a new project of the Internet bookstore, offers a service to authors of theses and dissertations which may prove useful to the conservation field if it makes research reports from conservation graduate students more available: reproduction and marketing of theses and Ph.D. dissertations worldwide. Authors get royalties of 20% to 40%, paid annually. Their submissions are made available in both paper and digital PDF files. The bound version is a soft cover, 5/5" x 8.5", which will be sold for $20-$30 depending on the number of pages (books with over 401 pages go for 8�/page). An electronic file downloaded at would be $6, regardless of the number of pages.

The author controls the distribution rights and the copyright, which means they can publish with another publisher anytime, after notifying

For more information, visit the web page

Ricoh's Page-Turning Copier Not Available Yet

In October 1994, Ricoh announced that it had developed a page-turning photocopier that worked with the book lying spine down. The library world welcomed this news, because such a copier would allow bound pages to be copied with little damage, even if the pages were brittle. The Authors Guild, however, has opposed its development, because it sees the technology as "an open invitation to electronic piracy of copyrights." The assistant director of the Guild told American Libraries in 1994 that the effort of turning pages is one of the most important remaining restraints on illegal photocopying.

Although there has been no announcement from Ricoh that it has abandoned the copier, this may very well be the case. Telephone calls to Ricoh from the Abbey Publications office over the last four years have not been returned.

100,000 Moldy Books at Arkansas State

About one-fifth of the print collection was attacked by mold at Arkansas State University's Ellis Library, believed to be caused by a combination of humid weather, a water leak over the weekend, and a turned-off reheat coil in the humidifier. The mold was discovered August 24 on starch-filled cloth bindings, but not on the pages. Environmental safety officers were summoned, along with the chief of the physical plant and the head of heating and air conditioning. The archivist talked with consultants and formed a plan of attack. Library and cleaning staff hand-sponged the books with hospital-grade Lysol, a procedure similar to that used in 1993 in a similar outbreak. (Reported in American Libraries, Oct. 1998, p. 13-14)

Boston Public Library Flooded By Burst Water Main

Shortly after midnight August 16, a water main broke and filled the basements of both buildings (the McKim and the Johnson buildings) with three feet of water, saturating the bottom three shelves of nearly every stack section. (The water main was apparently part of the 103-year-old McKim building, because it was laid in 1895. The reason for the rupture was not immediately apparent, because the main had been restored only ten years ago.)

About 50,000 crates were used to ship the soaked books and documents by refrigerated truck to Disaster Recovery Services, a freeze-drying facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The merely damp materials were shipped to the company's facility in Amesbury, Massachusetts. (Reported in American Libraries, Oct. 1998, p. 12)

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