Lights, Camera, & More Lights: The Role of Lighting in Conservation Photo Documentation

By Savannah Adams, Conservation Unit Graduate Assistant

“The Conservation Professional shall document examination, scientific investigation and treatment by creating permanent records and reports”
Article VII, AIC’s Code of Ethics

Everyone loves a satisfying before and after picture, but for conservators those photos are also an important record of how an item has changed during treatment. In fact, those photos are so important that the Conservation Unit has a whole area dedicated to image capture. This summer, the Conservation Unit had the opportunity to refresh our photo documentation area. The space now features a new grey paper backdrop, more storage, and most importantly, new LED lights!  

Until recently, our copy stand (Fig. 1) was equipped with four flood lamps using 250W incandescent bulbs. Although the specifications for these lights weren’t terrible – emitting 6500 lumens and a Color Temperature (CT) of 3500K – the bulbs burned uncomfortably hot and had an average lifespan of about 3 hours. With a library collection as large as the U of I’s, we were burning through a lot of bulbs during photo documentation of the library’s special collection materials.  

Working as the Conservation lab’s Photo Documentation Coordinator, I wanted to find a new sustainable light source that would burn cooler and longer than incandescent. I also wanted to better understand how different light sources might affect the type of photography we use for conservation documentation. After months of researching light bulbs, light terminology, referencing the AIC standards for conservation photo documentation, and asking our friends in Digitization Services for guidance, we made the leap and updated our setup with two new LED Studio lights. And what a difference it’s made!  

Conservation Photo Documentation

Before delving into the nitty-gritty light bulb jargon, let’s discuss the function of Conservation photo documentation and how it differs from digitization and other forms of documentation.  

The role of conservation photo documentation (here after referred to as photodoc) is to provide a visual representation of an object before, after, and sometimes during treatment procedures. Unlike digitization – which aims to create a digital reproduction or surrogate of an object – conservation photo documentation is intended to provide a photographic record of the conservation treatment that may be used to supplement both written documentation and treatment reports.

In addition to being used for before and after treatment comparison, photodoc can also serve as an examination tool, wherein the use of different light sources, directions, or wavelengths can highlight certain areas of damage or surface textures that may otherwise go unnoticed. Want to see how it works? Try crumpling up a sheet of scrap paper and then opening it flat(ish) again. Use a flashlight to illuminate the paper from above and note how it looks. Next, move the flashlight down so it sits on the same surface as the paper and illuminates it from one side. The peaks and valleys of the crumpled paper will look much more dramatic!

Therefore, it is important that each image consistently represents the scale, color, and texture of the object as accurately as possible – which is sometimes trickier than it sounds. One of the most important elements for achieving this level of image accuracy is lighting.

Lighting Specifications for Conservation Photo Documentation: LED vs Incandescent 

Our newly acquired LED lights deliver up to 10,700 lux while only using 75 watts of power consumption (that’s 175W less than our previous bulbs!). In addition, the LEDs have a Color-Rendering Index (CRI) of >96, emit 5580 lumens, and a color temperature (CT) range of 3150-6300K. All these words and numbers may sound nonsensical to those uninitiated in light bulb technical specifications. However, when you break down the terminology and compare the different features of our old incandescent verses the new LEDs, you may find that the information is…illuminating. 

According to the AIC Conservation Photography and Documentation Guide, the ideal light source should be, “continuous and inexpensive, with low heat output, a daylight color temperature, and a smooth and spike-free spectral curve” (section 2.3, p. 19). But what does that mean exactly? And how did our old incandescent lights fare verse our new LED lights? Is it even possible to achieve all these characteristics within a single light source? The short answer is no, but our new LEDs are a good step closer to the perfect bulb. Let’s deconstruct the AIC quote bit-by-bit in order to better understand what we want our lightbulb to do:


“…continuous and inexpensive…”

A continuous light source is one that is exactly that – the intensity of the light remains constant and flicker-free. The expense of a light depends on several factors, including frequency of use, heat offput, or current output. However, to demonstrate the amazing cost efficiency of LEDs over incandescent, we try and figure how much the light sources costs us for an hour of use:

One of our previous incandescent bulbs cost $5.99 with an approximate life expectancy of 3 hours. In contrast, one Anova Pro II LED light costs $1,477 and has an estimated lifespan of 100,000 hours. Therefore, it costs…

Thus, the LED light source is 120x cheaper than the incandescent alternative. Note that this does not take into consideration power demands of the bulbs and how much the electricity will cost to power them. It’s fairly well known that LEDs are the most cost-effective option, but we did the math on this too and you can expect to spend around 80% less on energy for LEDs vs incandescent providing the same amount of light.

“…low heat output…” 

As the person working under them, I have always held that the heat output should be relatively high on the list of considerations for lights used for conservation photodoc purposes. Our old incandescent lights would quickly heat the photodoc area to an uncomfortable temperature! Even more importantly, subjecting library materials to direct, high temperature lighting can contribute to photocatalytic degradation and is therefore an key aspect to consider when looking into bulb types. For example, a 100-watt incandescent bulb has a filament temperature of approximately 4,600 degrees F and a surface temperature between 150-250 degrees F. In contrast, the Anova Pro II LED studio lights have an operating temperature of 5-100 degrees F (depending on brightness settings).  

Fig 3: Range in Kelvin temperatures from 2000K – 10,000K

“…a daylight color temperature…”

Color Temperature (CT) is the color of the light emitted and is measured in Kelvins (K). For photo documentation purposes, a standard CT ranges from warm, reddish tungsten (3200K) to a cool, bluish (8000K). As mentioned above, the ideal CT for conservation photodoc is a daylight color temperature which is around 5500K. 

Additional information regarding color is attributed to its CRI or “Color-Rendering Index.” The CRI is measured in a scale of 0-100 and describes how well a light source reproduces a set of different colors in comparison to a reference light source of the same or similar color temperature. Under this system, the highest possible CRI is 100 – the ideal for photo documentation purposes. Our previously used incandescent bulbs had a fixed CT of 3500K and a CRI between 80-90, while the LEDs have an adjustable CT of 3150K-6300K and a CRI of >96. 

“…and a smooth, spike-free spectral curve…”

Different light sources emit various intensities of light at different colors across the spectrum. The emitted lights can be visualized in a type of graph called a spectral curve, where the x-axis represents intensity and the y-axis represents wavelengths of light in the visible range. To achieve a “smooth” and “spike-free” curve, the light source should exhibit a smooth arc that is well distributed across the color spectrum. In the image below, the spectral curves of incandescent and LEDs are compared. Visually, the incandescent lights (left) appear smooth while the LEDs (right) exhibit two spikey arcs. However, because the incandescent emits far less blue light, they are more challenging to accurately color match. Although LEDs may appear more “spikey,” both light sources are considered smooth (for example, compare the spectral curve of fluorescent lights – yikes!). As seen below, LEDs actually provide a more balanced distribution of colors across the color spectrum, giving them the advantage.

Fig 4: Spectral curves comparing incandescent verses cool white LED light

So, after weighing the pros and cons, the decision to trade out our old incandescent lights for new LEDs was a no brainer. The photographs speak for themselves! See above (Fig 2) for a comparison of the same “black” scrapbook photographed under incandescent verses LEDs. Due to the brighter and more evenly distributed light from the LEDs, it was revealed that the book wasn’t black, but blue!


General Collections Book Repairs

By Anneka Vetter, General Collections Hourly

Note: Click on any image to enlarge.

In library conservation we come across our fair share of beautiful books, historic letters, and unique objects all in need of treatment and tender care. We also have a regular influx of common, mass-produced books: textbooks, reference books, literature, and everything in between. While these books may seem less important than many of our special or rare collections materials, they serve an important function to the university as the most circulated items. These are the books handled by hundreds of students and professors over the years, taken down from the stacks, stuffed into backpacks, perhaps accidentally dropped a few times, eventually worn thin and broken from use. Since these book repairs make up a regular part of our daily operations in the lab we thought it only appropriate to introduce this basic workflow.  

As highly circulating materials, our ultimate goal for general collections books is to withstand being handled by many hands over many years, and that changes what materials and processes we use to make repairs. Function comes first and aesthetics second. While we take care to make our repairs blend in to the original design as seamlessly as possible, we don’t spend very much time on perfectly matching every new material and color to the original. Medium Rare and Special Collections conservation treatments, in contrast, are far more detail oriented and carefully consider every aesthetic and material aspect of the treatment. On the other extreme, the local bindery, where we send a fair amount of books, chops off spines and replace most of the original material except the textblock (check out our previous post about bindery options for more info). Our general collections workflow is the happy medium: we stabilize and repair while still considering aesthetics and keeping as much of the original book as possible, while also working quickly. For reference, medium rare and special collections book binding can take weeks to complete; in general collections most repairs take about an hour.  

So today’s blog post will introduce our most common general collections repairs. But first, let’s start with Book Anatomy 101. What most people consider the “book” is actually the textblock, containing all the writing and pertinent information being communicated to the reader. The binding of the book is how the pages are kept together, they can be glued or sewn together, and there are hundreds of bindings styles and variations. The rest of the structure, the case, is simply protecting the textblock and helping to make it functional.  The case is the outside covering made up of boards and bookcloth (or sometimes leather, paper, parchment, etc). To attach the textblock to the case there is the internal structure: supercloth (gauze in the diagram), cords sometimes, and spine lining material to reinforce the binding.

Fig. 1 Modern Hardcover Book Binding

In conservation we do everything from fixing tiny tears to completely rebuilding the case. Every book has different needs, we often combine multiple repair types to fit the book’s needs, but the damage generally falls into the following categories: torn bookcloth, loose or torn supercloth, damaged boards, and broken bindings. Our most common repairs, from least invasive to most, include cover repair (repairing small tears in the bookcloth), reback (replacing damaged bookcloth on the spine), reback with boards detached (replacing damaged bookcloth on the spine AND repairing the supercloth internally), recase (repairing supercloth internally but keeping the original bookcloth), and creating a new case (replacing the boards and all of the bookcloth). If this is starting to sound too technical, don’t worry, we’ve got great pictures! For example, Fig. 1 provides a visual showing the structure of a hardcover book.

Cover repair

These repairs are pretty obvious: there are small tears in the cover materials, but not enough to warrant replacing the bookcloth. These are easy to fix externally: tears are reinforced with tissue and then toned (colored) to match the original cover material. We also help consolidate and strengthen any soft corners or loose pieces of bookcloth, although, spoiler alert: the outside corners are soft on almost every single book we ever get in the lab.

Fig. 2 Before: the cover is torn! Oh no!

Fig. 3 During: repair tissue is applied.


Fig. 4 After: the tissue is now toned to match the bookcloth.

reback with boards attached

These books show more significant damage to the cover material, mostly along the hinge, but the boards and hinge and supercloth underneath are still stable. Often the difference between a book needing cover repair vs a spine repair is the degree of the damage. On these repairs (Figs. 5, 6, and 7), we replace the cover material around the entire spine, but preserving as much of the original materials as possible. 

Fig. 5 Before: the bookcloth is torn at the spine.

Fig. 6 Before: another view of the spine bookcloth detaching.

Fig. 7 After: We’ve replaced the bookcloth around the spine, using a bright and cheery coordinating color.

reback with boards detached

Here we go a layer deeper: these generally have a damaged internal structure, for example the supercloth or hinge is torn in addition to the cover material (Figs. 8 and 10). We detach the boards, strip down the textblock to the spine, and rebuild with new supercloth and bookcloth on the spine.   

Fig. 8 Before: the cover is torn at the spine.

Fig. 9 After: replaced the bookcoth around the spine.








Fig. 10 Before: another view of the spine damage.

Fig. 11 After: the spine fixed and decorative label saved.

Fig. 12 Before: the hinge and supercloth is torn on the inside.

Fig. 13 After: we’ve replaced the supercloth and managed to save the decorative endsheets and book plate.


On these books the cover material looks great, no tears! So what’s the problem? Upon opening the book, the internal hinge is broken and the textblock has become separated (Fig. 16). Thus, we detach the cover, replace the supercloth underneath, and “re-case” it in the original cover. 

Fig. 14 Before: the case is in good shape (although there is a small tear at the top we fixed, earlier shown in cover repair).

Fig. 15 After: we were able to save the whole case!

Fig. 16 Before: while the bookcloth and case is fine, here we see the internal damage and torn supercloth.

Fig. 17 After: we’ve replaced the supercloth and endsheets!

Double Fan Adhesive Bindings(DFA)

We’re headed to the guillotine! Time to free the books, off with the spines! This repair type is an adhesive binding rather than a sewn binding. This repair is most often done on books that were originally bound this way and have “cracked” or broken. Books in this state often go to the bindery, however if the paper is too brittle or there are portions of the cover to be retained we repair them in the lab.  This repair removes the cover and chops off the spine of the book, so that the entire textblock is now unbound, flat pages.  The pages are then glued together by “fanning” the pages out one way to apply glue to the right edge, then fanning to the other direction to apply to the left, thus the name “double fan” adhesive. Because this repair chops off a bit of the spine, it changes the original size of the book and an old case would no longer fit. Therefore, these repairs are finished by creating a new case. 

Fig. 18 Before: This binding was broken into multiple separated blocks.

Fig. 19 After: The pages are now bound together! This is after the DFA, but before being put into a new case.

Fig. 20 After: the DFA binding is open, showing how well the textblock stays together!

New case

These books are often the most damaged (or in the case of the DFA, simply need a new case to fit their changed shape). The book in figure 21 is a great example: the cover material is torn, the edges of the boards are frayed and soft, the boards are detached, packing tape has been used to keep pieces together, ultimately there is so much damage it isn’t worth saving very much on them. Thus, we replace everything around the textblock and build a new case! Figures 22 and 23 show the new case from the previous DFA repair.

Fig. 21 Before: damaged spine being held together with packing tape, scratched cover, board edges worn away.

Fig. 22 Before: broken binding, and the case has boards that are warped and will not fit the new DFA binding.

Fig. 23 After: new case made and the decorative cover and label was saved.

Miscellaneous repairs

Internal hinges, sewing, and tip ins, oh my! Is there a book that technically looks fine, doesn’t have any tears, but just seems loose? We can tighten up the hinges without taking it apart completely and help it live a long and fulfilling life in the stacks. Pages missing or falling out? We can put them back in the right place. We also spot sew, or fully re-sew books where the actual structure is compromised.  

While this post shows a range of what we can do, one of the underappreciated benefits of the general collections workflow is that it provides training for our hourlies! Because we have a much higher volume of these books and they are cheap, in comparison to medium rare and special collections, they provide great practice materials. Our department specifically prioritizes education and training for future conservators, and this is where many of our graduate students and assistants from the iSchool, academic hourlies, undergraduate students, and volunteers begin their work in the lab. Our workers are able to learn basic bookbinding principles, the structure of various binding styles, types of adhesives and when to use them, how to prepare a myriad of materials from bookcloth to paper and board, and countless other skills. The general collections workflow not only gives books longer lives for the university to use, but also allows our department to give back to the university community by providing jobs and assistantships and passing on the craft of bookbinding on low risk materials. 




At the Lab: The Battle Flag of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion

Written by Extra Help Hourly Savannah Adams; research and editing by Graduate Assistant in Newspaper Digitization and Conservation Hourly Katie Poland

Before Treatment of the Original Battle/Parade Flag of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion  

Original Battle/Parade Flag of Abraham Lincoln Battalion

During Treatment: Conservator Jody Waitzman vacuuming the flag through a screen to remove surface dirt and dust.

The Oak Street Library Facilities Conservation unit has been tasked with the stabilization, cleaning, and safekeeping of the Original Battle and Parade Flag of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion. The flag, sized at 88cm x 107cm, is inscribed in black pen and ink and/or paint, and blue pen and ink. Made from a semi-sheer textile in red, white, and blue, the flag has many small tears, holes, abrasions, discoloration/soiling and general signs of use. However, it is stable overall. Oak Street Library Facility Conservator, Jody Waitzman, treated the flag by vacuuming the item through a screen to reduce surface dirt and dust (see image) and rehoused for rolled storage in an acid-free, preservation-grade box.

Spanish Civil War and the Abraham Lincoln Battalion (1936 – 1939)

In the decades leading up to the Spanish Civil War, tension between the Republican government of Spain and the Nationalist faction, led by General Francisco Franco, steadily increased. After General Franco’s failed attempt at a military coup in order to gain control of the country, the nation was thrust into a bloody, 3-year long Civil War. The Nationalists, or rebels, were backed by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. In opposition, the Republican government received aid from the Soviet Union, as well as International Brigades.

Within the International Brigades, military units were composed of volunteers from Europe and the United States. The Lincoln Battalion was formed by a group of volunteers from the United States who served in the Spanish Civil War as soldiers, technicians, medical personnel and aviators. The American Battalion stood for Spanish Republican forces and against that of General Franco and his Nationalist faction. Of the approximately 3,015 volunteers from the US, 681 were killed in action or died of wounds or sickness.

Inscription on flag:

Detail of the battle sites inscribed on the stripes of the flag.







HILL 666



What these battles signified: 

Jarama – Brunet: The battle of Jarama took place February 6-27, 1937. This twenty-one day battle was an attempt by General Franco’s Nationalists to dislodge the Republican lines along the Jarama river, just east of Madrid.

The Pingarrón Hil defense led by Nationalist faction soldier Carlos Asensio.

Pingarrón Hill: Also known as “Suicide Hill,” the battle on Pingarrón Hill took place on February 12-13, 1937. The flag’s inscription recalls the place in which Spanish soldier, statesman, and member of the Nationalist faction, Carlos Asensio’s troops took the Pingarrón hills in the hopes of claiming the high ground. Unfortunately, this battle resulted in one of the deadliest fights of the Spanish Civil War.

Aragon Quinto: The Aragon Offensive was a salient military campaign launched by the Nationalist faction after the Battle of Teruel (see below). The offensive ran from March 7 – April 19, 1938, and overran Republican forces in Aragon, parts of Catalonia, and the Levante (the eastern region of the Iberian Peninsula) of Spain.

Ebro River: The longest and largest battle of the Spanish Civil War, Batalla del Ebro, took place between July through November of 1938. The fighting took place mainly in two areas on the lower region of the Ebro River: the Terra Alta comarca of Catalonia, and the Auts area by Fayón in Aragon. The battle was extremely deadly, with tens of thousands of Repubican soldiers left dead and wounded. However, the outcome had little effect in the advancement of the Nationalists.

Mosquito Ridge – Tureul: Coincidentally taking place during the worst winter Spain had seen in 20 years, The Battle of Teruel occured between December 1937 – February 1938. The battle proved to be one of the bloodiest the war had endured. The city of Tureul, initially held by the Nationalists at the start of the battle, would be taken over by the Republicans, and then eventually be retaken by the Nationalists. By the end, both parties suffered over 140,000 casualties throughout the two-month long battle.

Hill 666 Plaque commemorating the battle of the Ebro River.

Hill 666: On 2 October the Nationalists occupied the heights of Lavall and two weeks later Point 666, the key of the Pandols Range. Plaque Hill 666 in the Serres de Pandols-Cavalls signifies and commemorates the deadly battle at this location by the International Brigades during the Battle of the Ebro.



Jarama Valley (song)

Songs of the Lincoln Battalion  Spanish Civil War | Hill 666

From the Archives: Marvin H Mischnick Papers and Letters

The back of an envelope reading, “I love you soldier!”

Written by Digital Imaging Specialist Hourly Savannah Adams

At the Oak Street Library Facility John “Bud” Velde Conservation Laboratory, Graduate Assistant in Newspaper Digitization and Conservation Hourly Katie Poland has been working to vacuum, clean, and rehouse letters of Marvin H Mischnick. This small portion of the collection is to be added to his personal papers in the University of Illinois Archives.

In these letters, Marvin Mischnick, a photographer for the 3rd Armored Division in WWII,  corresponded to his first wife, Mildena Bates. Pictured are only a few of those letters containing examples of photographic prints made from microfilmed Vmail, commercially bought postcards, and lipstick kisses from Mildena.

Example of one of the commercially purchased postcards, specifically for Valentine’s Day.

Example of a photographic prints made from microfilmed Vmail.










Marvin H. Mischnick Papers

The Mischnick papers include correspondence, photographs, books, newspaper clippings, and artifacts concerning the Third Armored Division; World War II; Germany; France; Belgium; 23rd Armored Engineering Battalion;

photography; Dwight D. Eisenhower; Major General Maurice Rose; The American Legion; and the Third Armored Division Association. This general file contains significant material on World War II and the Third Armored Division, in addition to photographs of persons of note such as President Dwight D. Eisenhower. (Description provided by the UIUC Archives database)

A faint lipstick mark from Mildena with a signoff, “Honey put my lips in your wallet”

“P.S. Destroy this letter because I don’t want you to keep it.”


Reformatting Throughout the Ages

Written by Emilye Lewin, Preservation Reformatting, Collections Care, and Digitization Services hourly employee

When books become too brittle or damaged to circulate, they are routed to Preservation Services so that a preservation decision can be made. While the Library is committed to building and sustaining library collections for the use of students, faculty, visiting scholars, and the public, the physical and chemical compositions of many items actively work against this goal. Books become worn with time, so to combat degradation, the Preservation Reformatting department reformats these items to ensure they can be used by patrons without undergoing further damage. Today, reformatting takes the form of digitization, but this was not always the case. The timeline below shows the different forms reformatting has taken over the years to illustrate how librarians and preservationists have provided access to damaged materials.

Reformatting: The Early Years

1851     Daguerreotypes suggested for preservation

1920s    Commercialized for preservation and widespread use

1930s  Newspaper preservation begins plagued by quality control issues like lighting, contrast, film stock quality, etc.

1935    Microfilm is introduce – Microfilm rose in popularity when Recordak, a    division of Kodak, used a 35mm microfilm camera to film and publish the New York Times on microfilm. Microfilm quickly became a solution to the many preservation and storage issues inherent in newspaper collections and government documents.

1971  Project Gutenberg – Volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works. Created by a former University of Illinois student.

Contemporary Reformatting Projects at UIUC

Because polyester film has a life expectancy of at least 500 years, we still use microfilm as a means of best preservation practice today. The microfilm itself is often considered to be the preservation copy, while digital files are created from the microfilm as access copies to be used by the public. The timeline below shows how microfilm projects at UIUC have evolved into digitization projects.

1982    United States Newspaper Project. Started at UIUC in 1987 as a partnership between UIUC, the Chicago History Museum, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. We have cataloged over 20,500 newspaper titles and resulted in the creation of the Illinois Newspaper Project Database so patrons can access newspapers digitally.

2004  Microfilm Goes Digital – National Digital Newspaper Program. The goal of this project is to enhance accessibility of innovative newspaper content for researchers and scholars. UIUC is currently focused on selecting items that represent a wide variety of geographic, temporal, and demographic groups, specifically labor, African American, and non-English language newspapers.

2004 Google Books -Joint partnership with prominent research libraries in order to build a shared digital repository combining digitized public domain materials from each library’s individual collection into one easily accessible online resource. Public domain materials are available to view, search, or download while only basic information (such as title, author’s name, and a few lines of descriptive text) are provided for items protected by copyright laws.

2014 Internet Archive Partnership – As part of a partnership and customized preservation workflow, Internet Archive staff are located inside the Main Library and perform in-house digitization. This is a unique reformatting workflow as it ensures Library materials never leave the building. Internet Archive has digitized over 16,000,000 eBooks and growing, with over 73,000 books from UIUC.

A Brief Walkthrough of Our Bindery Options

Written by Victoria Schmitz, Collections Care Graduate Assistant

At the library’s preservation unit, we send items to a commercial bindery when they need to be rebound. Described below are some of our options of binding and how we decide which binding style is appropriate for individual items.

Example of digicover bind in cover candidate.

If an item needs to go to the bindery, our first preferred option is to send it in as digicover (paperback or hardcover) or digicover bind in cover (paperback only). With this option, the informational and/or artistic value of the item’s cover and/or inside covers can be preserved through a professional copy printed on a hardback casing, as well as binding in the original cover.

Digicovers have a size restriction, so if the item does not meet the requirements, the next best stop is custom bind in covers, or economy bind in covers. The item must be paperback for both of these options so that the covers can be bound in the buckram cover with the rest of the text block. Custom is for sewn binding while economy is for perfect bound items.

Example of a binding that is sewn.

Example of perfect bound.

If the item does not meet the digicover requirements, has sewn binding, the text block is not broken, and is a hardback with informational and/or artistic value on or inside the covers, we can send the item to our Conservation unit. If the item is not qualified for conservation, then it will need to be sent to Collections Care for bindery prep so that we can copy the covers. We will cut the copies to the appropriate size and then send to the item and loose pages to the bindery as a custom monograph.

An item that does not have informational and/or artistic value on or inside its covers has routes that depend on if it is paperback/hardback and its binding. Paperback follows the instructions above, but if it does not have informational and/or artistic value, it will not hurt to copy or bind in the original covers. As for hardcover, the item will be sent in as custom monograph.

Example of informational and/or artistic value on the inside of covers.

Example of a custom monograph candidate.


A Preservation Chat Reflecting a Year into the COVID-19 Pandemic & our Local Emergency Access Digitization System Workflow

Two Digitization Workflows, Both Alike in Dignity, in Fair Preservation, where we lay our scene… it has been just over a year since the state of Illinois issued a stay-at-home order and we hustled to close our labs and offices to work remotely. COVID-19 had arrived regionally, and we departed the building for our homes in the spring. By mid-summer, we were starting to repopulate the library cautiously in limited numbers. We tested weekly, and then biweekly following campus SHIELD saliva testing protocols, and shipments in and out of the library followed quarantine restrictions to limit the chance of shared contact infections. As a non-public-facing unit, our work in Preservation Services could carry on in the background. Shortly after returning to the office, often on staggering shifts or as the only person in an area, we set to work supporting an experiment to provide digital first access to all general collection requests.

Here’s a conversation we had reflecting on the good that’s come out of all of this:

Will: My first thought when we started up with this was, how can we leverage existing digitization workflows to meet the needs of an extremely increased general collections patron request demand?

William Schlaack, Digital Reformatting Coordinator

Rachael: I was optimistic, but uncertain of how we’d get up to speed and keep momentum, especially considering we were starting from a complete stop in services. I remember an early talk about what we were going to try to do with Kyle, Jennifer, you and Shelby about getting this going and feeling a bit like we had just come back from off season to a culminating test of skills and agility.

Will: After that, it was sort of setting up the parameters for items that we are unable to scan with any sort of fast turnaround time and thus would need to be sent to the locker pickup workflow. Initially it was very difficult to deduce what our capacity for scanning was with our existing infrastructure.

Rachael: I was glad to meet our colleagues Diane and Johna, who came to us from other library areas to help. Their willingness to learn how to use our equipment and adapted workflows as we started sorting out the day to day of hands-on digitizing of all the books has been a positive constant.

Will: A lot of this was taking old techniques and applying them in new ways with new people.

Rachael Johns, Digital Imaging Specialist II

Rachael: I agree, I think the people aspect was a really big factor. We had people learning some fairly complex technical processes from scratch, and we improvised as we went. I was so thankful that came together and I remember Jennifer emphasizing the people aspect, a willingness for this experimental approach, and that came through for us. All the other things, that maybe were big hurdles, seemed smaller in comparison.

Will: We used and tried to investigate making do with what we had, pushing that to the limit, and learning that we really needed to scale up the DS side of things because our existing general collections digitization that I manage wasn’t built to have this quick turn-around time and scale – DS went from digitizing rare manuscripts to mass market paperbacks over the course of a month.

Rachael: Yes. It was interesting!

Will: With realized that with our on-site Internet Archive scanning center we would only be able to continue to scan content through them that is in the public domain. After some real quick calculations, we realized that out of all the requests items in the public domain accounted for only about five percent of the total, so that didn’t take a lot of the pressure off of Digitization Services. Nonetheless, the triage and digitization processes are always balancing acts, with the need for prompt turn-around times promised to patrons, what we could logistically handle. Our communication has always been more or less the following: what are we getting, what does the queue look like, how are we ensuring a balance of efficient delivery time and meeting needs for patrons? Except now the scale and turnaround time are both greatly expanded and expediated, respectively.

Rachael: Maybe to me this aspect is sort of game, keeping things balanced, or at least I’ve tried to approach things that way to stay energized – everything is so trying so coming back to the team vibes, after a year, it’s not the details I’m remembering most it’s getting to know the people involved.

Will: It has been interesting when what we do becomes the forefront of what’s needed, but that magnitude is not something we were traditionally equipped for… we’re used to being in the background and now we’re more public facing and collaborating with staff from all over. I think we’re certainly the better for it. This has been an exercise in opening up channels of communication.

Rachael: It’s been somewhat surreal, from the quiet first coming back to campus. At that time from being remote to in person I was still interacting remotely with Brynlee, Kim, Henry and Angela in a tiny unit that is used to a much different focus to fall and winter, now having more staff with help from great people like Christine and Tabby and shifting back to Special Collections support on a daily, which we kept working with on a much smaller scale but now a year later, getting back into a more regular schedule for.

Will: It’s been trying to meet a quantity, before the reigning paradigm was quality.

Rachael: Right, the needs of a general collections workflow are not the same as the needs of an exhibit in New York City being blown up 20 feet tall! Will you be glad to get back to normal or do you think some of this is here to stay?

Will: It will be interesting to see the role, with the new normalcy and increase comfort with remote work capacities, this injection of ideas about remote and online access to things will have, I don’t think it’s going away. It will always be lingering as people find new ways to approach usage. I would hope to some extent we take the spirit of collaboration and quick thinking that was developed through this process and ensure that we sort of continue to meet shifting patron needs.

Rachael: Quick thinking and support from the library for our small area here in DS to step up to this challenge, was so impactful. I’ve enjoyed the interpersonal aspects helping this effort. We were a small existing team in DS, and now we have new people in DS. Shelby was fairly new, and working with you both from across the hall, and all these new professional relationships has been a really great outcome.

Will: It’s exciting to see our initial ad-hoc and frankly cobbled-together experimental workflow become a much more defined and collaborative institutional procedure and policy working in concert with departments across the library. That’s been good to see. I’m really proud of everything not just our digitization staff have accomplished, but staff across the library as well, to meet this unique challenge and serve our patrons safely and efficiently.

Rachael: Agreed!

A special thanks goes out to Tabby Garbutt, who loaned us the opening line of this blog post and has the unique perspective of having worked on both workflows on this project, IA and DS!