Preventive Preservation: The Importance of Environmental Monitoring and Integrated Pest Management in Maintaining Library Collections

Written by Anne Carney and KayCie Voigt

What is environmental monitoring and how is it practiced?

Environmental monitoring is a set of practices that seek to make library staff aware of and strive for the ideal environmental conditions to protect collections. This is practiced through a variety of methods, all centered on the idea of preventive preservation. Preventive preservation is a set of regularly practiced activities that help to ensure long term collection safety. These practices seek to prevent damage to collections before it happens by creating ideal storage conditions and monitoring of the library spaces to catch any issues as soon as possible.

Environmental monitoring largely consists of a few key practices which can yield a much better understanding of both collection and public spaces. One of the most important aspects is monitoring the temperature and relative humidity of your library space. This can be done with a variety of different readers.  What is most important is consistent records of the temperature and humidity of the space. Programs like eClimate Notebook from the Image Permanence Institute allows users to upload digital datalogger readings and generate graphs for temperature and relative humidity. This information can be helpful when making decisions about collection storage and maintenance. High relative humidity can cause serious damage to collections and encourage the growth of mold, which is both dangerous to collections and human health. While not all collections need tight control over humidity and temperature knowing the normal boundaries of your collection can help quickly indicate issues with the HVAC system and the building, helping to protect collections in the long run. Establishing the baseline of normal temperature and humidity fluctuations for your library takes a bit of time, but it can best help prevent many large scale preservation issues. Finally, one of the most important aspects of practicing environmental monitoring is good channels of communication between facilities, departmental and preservation staff. A clear understanding of the roles that each set of staff have in the overall health of the building and collections is key to preventive preservation of the collections housed in the library.

What are the benefits?

Environmental monitoring can offer a great deal of benefits to the library and the collections. The most direct benefits are the protection and retention of your collection. Keeping stable library conditions is one of the best ways to protect the collection long term. Doing so cuts down on replacement costs and conservation and preservation treatment because of embrittlement or mold related issues. Another advantage to performing environmental monitoring is that it encourages a better understanding of the collection, patrons and library building. A holistic understanding of how these factors impact the health of the collection through regular monitoring can lead to better decision making for collection changes both short and long term. Many of the tools used for environmental monitoring can also be eco-friendly alternatives to consistent spraying of pesticides or inefficient heating and cooling of collection areas.

How it’s done at UIUC

In the preservation department at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, many of the environmental monitoring practices explored above are put into use to ensure the long term safety and health of collections. Monitoring temperature, relative humidity, and integrated pest management are key to the practice at UIUC. The individual units work in concert with the Collections Care section of the Preservation department in order to coordinate collection of data on a monthly basis. This data is collected and reports are made in order to better understand trends. An additional source of monitoring comes through regular maintenance and monitoring of the library’s HVAC systems. These systems help to ensure consistent temperature and relative humidity ranges throughout library buildings. To ensure that this monitoring takes place, the collaboration between preservation, facilities and the individual library units is vital. Environmental monitoring is a relatively simple set of practices that can mean a world of difference for the health of your collection.

Integrated Pest Management

Another one of the ways the environment is monitored in libraries is through Integrated Pest Management (IPM). The presence of pests in library collections can cause serious damage to materials. The starch, cellulose, and proteins found in library materials provide food for certain pests. IPM in libraries is both a form of pest control and a preservation process. It provides an eco-friendly approach to handling pest activity by avoiding the use of potentially harmful chemicals in the building. One of the most important IPM tasks performed in libraries is the monitoring of the interior space for pest activity. At the University of Illinois libraries, pest activity is monitored through the use of glue traps.

These glue traps are placed in strategic locations throughout the library. Traps are most effective when they are placed near drains and water sources; near building entry point like windows, doors, and vents; in areas where food is present; and on floors below ground level. Traps should also be placed along baseboards and window edges.

Once a month the old traps are collected and inspected, and new traps are set. Data is gathered about the number and types of bugs in each trap. Each month of data is compared to previous months to see if there was a change in the amount or type of pest activity. At the end of the year, all of the monthly data is gathered together to create annual reports. These annual reports are then used to generate multiple year reports that are helpful in understanding trends of pest activity within the library. Through monitoring the library spaces we can keep track of the number and type of insects. Properly identifying the pests caught in traps is necessary to determine if they pose an immediate and direct threat to collections. When certain pests make their way into library materials, damage to the books, as demonstrated in the images below, can occur. As you can see in these images, the damage caused by pests is extensive and may have been prevented through proper monitoring.

Other IPM actions taken at the University of Illinois Library include limiting the areas where food can be consumed and where it can be discarded. Garbage cans should be labeled to ensure that the waste that is most attractive to pests is disposed of in the proper place so it can be dealt with in a timely manner.

Overall, environmental monitoring and integrated pest management allow the library to not only be aware of the conditions of the materials and try to ensure longevity of those materials, but also enable the library to think about the best ways to utilize time and effort to create the best space for materials, staff, and patrons.



Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection: Crowd-Sourced OCR Correction

Written by William Schlaack, Digital Reformatting Coordinator

Looking for something to do that incorporates reading primary sources, exploring historical events, and expanding access to Library materials? Then head on over to the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections (IDNC) and try your hand at text-correction! All that is required is a free user account and a keen eye.

While always growing IDNC currently provides free access to 158,430 issues from 146 newspapers from across the country. During the digitization process, newspapers are scanned using a special software featuring Optical Character Recognition (OCR). OCR software recognizes the shape of images and assigns alphabetical values to them. Due to the mass, automated nature of this process certain fonts, charts, and images are output incorrectly, resulting in garbled text that is not useful for keyword searching. Text correction thus improves the accuracy of keyword searches and helps researchers like you.

Before user text correction
During user text correction.
After user text correction.

For detailed instructions click here. If you have any questions feel free to email – thank you!

Preservation Week 2020

Preservation Week 2020 | April 26 – May 2, 2020

We celebrate preservation every day in Preservation Services at the University of Illinois, which is why we get so excited when National Preservation Week rolls around! This year, between April 26th and May 2nd, the American Library Association is celebrating its 10th annual recognition of  Preservation Week. This week is dedicated to advocating for the care of cultural heritage materials in our communities and collecting institutions. Typically, the week consists of various preservation-themed events for communities, galleries, libraries, archives, and museums. The official ALA Preservation Week theme this year is “Preserving Oral History,” although the week also serves as an opportunity to spread awareness of all forms of preservation.

Preservation: What is it?

Preservation is the act of caring for cultural heritage to ensure its wellbeing and longevity. Preservation is necessary because collections in libraries, museums, or even your attic will gradually deteriorate over time. Eventually, our material heritage will no longer exist; preservation seeks to slow the process by which materials degenerate so that we may access, appreciate, and learn from them for as long as possible.

Some causes of deterioration include:

  • The Environment: Light exposure, Temperature, Humidity
  • Direct Physical Forces
  • Disasters: Fire & Water
  • Pests
  • Contaminants
  • Inherent Vice, or an innate quality of the object that predisposes it to deterioration e.g. cellulose nitrate film base or acidic iron gall ink

For many years, collections care was done reactively instead of proactively, and most action to conserve collections was allocated to the most precious collection items. Now, preservation specialists practice preventive care of collections and they don’t limit the prevention of damage to the most expensive or rare items. The field of preservation has developed slowly, and still, only recently has the importance of preserving items in our memory institutions gained public awareness.

In 2005, Heritage Preservation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services conducted a comprehensive national survey of the condition of the nation’s collections. This study had a huge impact on the field as it brought about an awareness of how many items were at risk (approximately 4.8 billion) and spurred action to care for these items. Then, in 2014, the study was repeated, and the number of collections reportedly held by memory institutions had grown to over 14 billion, not including 30.7 million cubic feet and 32.6 million linear feet of unbound materials, and over 387 TB of digital information. The study concluded that “preservation is part of the mission for a vast majority of U.S. collecting institutions. Yet many, especially small institutions, have not yet prepared for emergencies and have faced challenges in many actions related to preservation, including conservation practices with digital content.”

These surveys revealed the need for improved environmental storage conditions, increased emergency planning and disaster response training, and at least one staff member to have preservation training in collecting institutions. The Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) a division of ALA, began Preservation Week in 2010 in tandem with the growing awareness and concern for at-risk items in cultural heritage collections. Preservation week continues to be a great opportunity for library, archives, and museum professionals to connect with communities about their collections, to provide advice and information about preservation, and to provide an opportunity to highlight an institution’s work in preservation.

“Some 630 million items in collecting institutions require immediate attention and care. Eighty percent of these institutions have no paid staff assigned responsibility for collections care; 22 percent have no collections care personnel at all. Some 2.6 billion items are not protected by an emergency plan. As natural disasters of recent years have taught us, these resources are in jeopardy should a disaster strike. Personal, family, and community collections are equally at risk.” – official ALA statement on the importance of preservation week

Preservation at the University of Illinois

Preservation at Illinois began as early as 1934 when the Mending Division was established as a part of a Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) grant as a Division of the Binding Department. In the sixties, the division was renamed to ‘Binding, Marking, and Conservation,’ but by 1986, the division was split – Binding and Marking shifted to the Acquisitions Unit, and the Conservation Unit reported to the Preservation Librarian. Today, the Conservation Unit still reports to the Preservation Librarian, and both the Preservation and Conservation Units are a part of the Technical Services Division. For a more in-depth history of Preservation and Conservation at the University of Illinois, check out our history, here.

“The Preservation Services Unit exists to provide long-term access to the physical and intellectual contents of the Library’s collections through conservation, preservation, and digitization. These programs seek to provide this access with an eye toward maximizing the Library’s investment in collections, services, and staff while continually seeking to improve the services that we provide.” – Mission of the University of Illinois Preservation Services

Preservation Services at Illinois will be hosting online webinars, online exhibits, virtual posters, and more for Preservation Week!


Other Preservation Week Resources:


Costain, C. 1994. “Framework for the preservation of museum collections” Canadian Conservation Institute Newsletter 14:1

Heritage Preservation. The Public Trust at Risk: The Heritage Health Index Report on the State of America’s Collections. Heritage Preservation, Washington DC, 2005.

Institute of Museum and Library Services. Protecting America’s Collections: Results from the Heritage Health Information Survey. Washington, DC., 2019.

Preservation, Conservation, and Digitization Services. A Brief History. Accessed at

Independent Study in the Lab – Tacketed Binding

In the coming weeks, we will feature blog posts written by a current MSLIS student in the iSchool at the University of Illinois, Annabel Pinkney. Annabel is interested in the material culture of the book, the history of bookbinding, and the preservation and conservation of library materials. Due to her interests in the physical wellbeing of library items, she enrolled in an independent study this semester to practice book and paper conservation treatment and to explore historic bookmaking. This week she is creating a tacketed stationer’s binding!

Independent Study: A Tacketed Binding Model

This semester, I have been working hard to master basic conservation treatments and learn as much as I can about the historic craft of bookbinding. During the first half of the semester, I completed conservation treatments for 12 books, ranging from a book which was in nearly flawless condition, to a book that appeared to be run over by a car several times.

Before treatment documentation of a book repaired earlier this semester.

With the onset of the global pandemic, I have shifted to working remotely. I have sorely missed the amenities of working in a conservation lab, but so far, I have been able to work from home fairly efficiently. To aid in the adjustment to working from home, I am taking the rest of the semester to focus on building historic book models and reading, reading, reading! This week, I am making a tacketed stationer’s binding. Join me in taking a look at what this involves.

Tacketed Stationer’s Bindings

Tacketed stationery bindings are considered a type of temporary binding. These are non-adhesive structures most commonly made in 16th century Germany, Italy, and the low countries (what is modern-day Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxemburg).  According to Nicholas Pickwoad,  “it can be said that tacketed bindings of printed books were intended to perform a variety of functions within and outside the book trade. The ease with which they allow a cover to be attached to and separated from a sewn text-block and their lightweight made them attractive to the book trade, which found them useful for giving immediate cheap protection to their wares. The private or institutional owner who did not wish to spend more on their libraries than they had to, clearly found them a convenient way to protect their books and allow them to be used.”

Folger binding, unwrapped. Folger Shakespeare Library, V.b.296 (c. 1568–1644), binding unwrapped. Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

What is a tacket?

Think of a tacket as a hefty medieval staple. Tackets are made of parchment that has been twisted upon itself while wet. When it dries, the parchment shrinks and hardens, forming a very secure bond where it has been twisted.

Types of tacketed bindings. Drawing by Nicholas Pickwoad, from “Tacketed Bindings: A Hundred Years of European Book-binding.”

There are two types of tacket bindings, primary and secondary.  Primary tackets individually secure each section of pages to the cover one by one, whereas secondary tackets are used to attach the entire text block (which is already held together by the conventional manner of sewing) to the cover.

A Word on Temporary Bindings

In the 1500’s, books were not necessarily produced as they are today. Books were sometimes sold as sewn blocks of printed pages without a case. After purchasing a text-block, one could hire a binder to design and build a case for their book with hard covers (usually made of wood). Depending on the wealth of the owner and the importance of the book, the case could be very fancy (e.g. a full leather covering with gold tooling and bosses). But until the owner of the text-block had the means and intention to have it cased in boards, the text-block could be temporarily secured in a limp case of vellum or leather – like a tacket binding! This provided simple and quick protection for their new purchase.

Some books, however, were never intended to have a sturdy wooden case. The ease of construction, low cost, ergonomic, and lightweight handling of a limp vellum cover were ideal qualities for account keeping books, typically known as ledger bindings. For these reasons, tacketed bindings may not have always been intended to be temporary.  Pickwoad tells us that “some of the surviving [tacketed bindings] were clearly intended as no more than temporary protection for the texts found inside them and have survived by accident, while others were clearly more permanent in intention, but it is not often possible to know where to draw the line between the two.”

Making the Model

There are many variations of the tacketed binding (in Pickwoad’s article he identifies 240+ variations of the tacket attachments alone), so it was imperative that I first develop a clear plan for my model using the materials I had at hand. My end goal was to make a secondary tacketed binding with transverse twisted tackets.

I began by making my text-block. I folded large, hefty sections of paper and secured them with a sewing structure I imitated from an online recording of the Guild of Book Workers 2007 Standards meeting (Creating Medieval Stationer’s Binding Structures: Lacing Patterns, Tacketing Methods, and Leather by Chela Metzger) However, instead of using split leather thong, I used Bristol board. You can see that the supports are longer on only one side. This was traditionally done to allow for the possibility to add more sections to the book at a later time.

Left: Chela Metzger’s Sewing block from the GBW Standards meeting recording 2007. Right: My sewn text block inspired by Chela.

Next, I constructed a paper case with large turn-ins and three leather overbands. These cases would normally have been made out of vellum, parchment, or leather, but I only had access to a thick, textured paper (I used Canson Mi Tienes paper). I decided to add cardstock weight paper insets laced onto my supports to strengthen the covers. I’m intending to add an Italian decorative lacing pattern into the overbands once I have the right cord. Simultaneously, I consolidated my spine with a layer of wheat starch paste and added Japanese paper linings to the spine between my sewing stations.

Prepping the limp cover with leather overbands.

My next step was to start making my tackets. I cut up very thin pieces of parchment and I soaked them in water for about 10 minutes to make sure they had been sufficiently hydrated and were pliable. Once moisturized, I twisted the tackets firmly and let them dry in their new formation. While my tackets dried, I sewed endbands onto my text-block.

Left: Twisted parchment drying
Right: Endbands on a leather core in progress.










Finally, I attempted the tacketing process. I pierced the parchment tackets into the sections of my text-block and out my case’s pre-punched leather overbands. I found securing the tacket ends to be more challenging than I expected.  After an hour or so of adjustments, my tackets ultimately turned out to be a little looser than I would like. Parchment is a beast of a material, and I am relatively inexperienced in coaxing it to do what I want.  However, after I tighten my tackets a bit and add decorative lacing to the overbands, I will consider this model a win.

Tackets in progress.
Me and my (almost) finished book!


Pickwoad, Nicholas. “Tacketed Bindings: A Hundred Years of European Book-binding.” “For the Love of the Binding”: Studies in Bookbinding History Presented to Mirjam Foot. Ed. David Pearson. London: British Library and Oak Knoll, 2000. 119–67. Print.

Chela Metzger. “Creating Medieval Stationer’s Binding Structures: Lacing Patterns, Tacketing Methods, and Leather.” Guild of Book Workers Standards Meeting. 2007. Video.



Pamphlet Bindings: A History & DIY Activity

The global pandemic has affected us all in different ways. For most of us, we’re facing a lot more down-time and time spent indoors. In response to the growing need for boredom mediation, we’re supplying you with this short tutorial on how to make a pamphlet binding along with some brief historical tidbits. Enjoy!

A Very Brief and Noncomprehensive History of the Pamphlet Binding.

The pamphlet binding is a simple structure with a long history in the Western world. In fact, the term pamphlet is derived from the main character of a love poem, Pamphilus seu de Amore, written in the 12th century. The poem rose to popularity, and the term pamphlet came to be associated with small pieces of writing after the character, Pamphilus. (Partridge, 1966) The definition of a pamphlet binding, according to Randy Silverman (1987), is “a thin book composed of between one and three folded sections, linked together by a sewing structure and bound as a permanent enclosure.” Today, pamphlet structures are still used as conservation structures and are commonly found in zines, brochures, music, and other ephemera.

Most ubiquitously throughout history, pamphlet bindings have been used for ephemera because of their economic use of material and ease of assembly. Pamphlet production was likely at a highpoint during the late 18th century in Europe and America. (Silverman, 1987) In early America, pamphlets were a dominant form of information dispensation, and could even be considered as “America’s first social media” (check out the RBML’s awesome blog on the topic here). With just a little digging, you can find evidence of pamphlet structures throughout history.

Here’s an example! As early as 1860, the U.S. Government Publishing Office binders produced every kind of folded, stitched, sewn, or glued pamphlet and book.

Image of workers at the government publishing office pamphlet making room.
“Single section pamphlets, being carried along the rail, receive a wire stitch to secure them. This photo from the 1930’s is one of many showing employees of different races working side by side. In this period area in GPO outside the production floor were, like most Federal Agencies, segregated.” (Borrowed from the Government Printing Office Picturing the Big Shop: Photos of the U.S. Government Publishing Office 1900-1980)

Pamphlets were also the common structure for binding serialized novels as they were published. For example, this serialized collection of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (below) exists as pamphlets!

This image is from the Nate D. Sanders Auctions September 2016 Lot #80 Charles Dickens First Printing of ”David Copperfield” in Serialized Form — Rare in Original Green Wrappers.

There are infinite historical variations on the pamphlet binding. One will find that historical example materials run the gamut in sewing supports, endpaper styles, and covering materials. There really is no right or wrong way to make one – so experiment with what you have, and let’s get to it!

Did you know? The University of Illinois had its own “Pamphlet Binding and Book Repair” section of the library, started by William Henderson (Preservation Librarian, 1986-1996) in 1989. This was a critical step towards establishing a conservation department. In its beginnings, 8-10,000 pamphlets were bound per year.

Making a Pamphlet Stitch

You will need:

  • 2-6 pieces of paper
  • A needle
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Thread




  • 1 piece of cover weight paper
  • Bone or Teflon Folder
  • An awl




STEP 1: Begin by folding your pieces of paper in half. Fold all your sheets at once, with your cover weight paper on the outside of the fold. Use your fingernail to crease the edge or use a bone folder if you have one.

STEP 2: Use your ruler to measure the height of your pamphlet. Make three marks on the inside of the pamphlet, one at the center, and two equidistant from either side of the center mark.

STEP 3: Use your awl to pierce through the marks you made. Aim to go directly through the fold from the interior to the exterior of the pamphlet.

STEP 4: Cut a piece of thread 2 ½ times the height of your pamphlet and thread your needle.

STEP 5: Take your needle and thread through the center hole of the pamphlet leaving a small tail behind.

STEP 6: Take the thread from the outside through one of the other holes. It doesn’t matter which one. In this case, I went through the top hole.

STEP 7: Bring the thread all the way across the interior of the fold, and out the final hole. In this case, I am going from the top hole to the bottom hole. The key is to take the thread through the hole you have not used yet.

STEP 8: Finally, take the needle back into the center from the outside. This will leave the two ends of your string coming out the center hole on the inside of your pamphlet.

STEP 9: Tie off the strings and trim the ends.

STEP 10: Decorate, and you’re finished!

Works Cited:

Eric Partridge, Origins; A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English (New York: Macmillan, 1966), 466.

Randy Silverman. “Small, Not Insignificant: a Specification for a Conservation Pamphlet Binding Structure.” The Book and Paper Group Annual Vol. 6 (1987)

United States Government Publishing Office. Picturing the Big Shop: Photos of the U.S. Government Publishing Office, 1900-1980  2017.

Nate D. Sanders Inc. Lot Detail; Charles Dickens First Printing of David Copperfield in Serialized Form. Copyright 2020.

University of Illinois Preservation and Conservation Services.