Preservation Procedures Manual
- What is a brittle book?
- Replacement Options and Withdrawal Procedures
- Criteria for Brittle Book Program
- Preservation Searching
- Brittle Books Random Sampling
- Overall Activities
The Norwegians refer to them as "sour books." The Germans refer to them as "books of crumbs." The French refer to them as "silent books." (Citation: University of Iowa Exhibit: Keeping Our Word: Preservation Across the Ages October 1998–January 1999) Most library and archival institutions in North America call them "brittle books." It is a term used to describe books from about 1850 to 1950 that have weak paper from acidic residue. They are difficult to read because the paper is so fragile that it breaks off as the pages are turned.
The cause: Prior to 1850 books were usually owned by a small, elite part of the population. With the discovery of the printing press and the advent of new technology, books were available for purchase by most of the population. Manufacturers added wood pulp (that isn't purified) and bleach into the paper-making process to speed up the production of books and to keep up with the increasing demands. The added chemicals deposited an acidic residue on the paper. The acid deteriorates the paper as it ages. Many collections now have numerous brittle books where the acids are forming and reducing the strength of the paper, turning it brown and crumbly. Books that were manufactured prior to 1850 usually have stronger paper because they were made with pure and natural materials.
Today, books consist of paper made from wood pulp that has been purified, and is usually acid-free. Unfortunately, there are still some acidic papers being produced, particularly in newspapers and paperbacks.
The Brittle Books Unit searches bibliographic and replacement information for circulating brittle books and routes this information to the Selectors. They decide on whether the book needs replacement based on the importance of the book to the collection and the costs of replacement. As a result, brittle books are replaced with usable copies for the collections. Once the book is replaced, the original is sometimes withdrawn. Several Preservation funds are set up from generous donations to support these replacement options:
- Purchase replacement copy
- Order a preservation photocopy and/or digital CD
- Request page or keyboard imaging from UVA Digital Library Production Services
- Withdrawal (See Guidelines for Withdrawing Materials from the University of Virginia Collections)
The Brittle Books program focuses on the brittle books in the collection that have circulated. Other criteria is:
- Doesn't pass the three fold test (fold a small corner of the page three times and if it breaks off, the paper is brittle)
- Circulated 5 times or more
- One copy exists in the holdings
Preservation bibliographic searching is a review of the libraries' holdings. It is important to know how many copies are in the collection. Preservation replacement searching is the search for new and/or useable editions of books which have become unreadable due to damage or acidic properties in the paper (brittleness).
- The bibliographic search begins in VIRGO and is performed as soon as the brittle book is received in Preservation. The book is searched by the title or call number to determine if there are other copies in the library holdings. If there are other copies, the search ends and the book is routed to Conservation for a protective enclosure. If there are no other copies found, and all the criteria is met for the brittle books program, a search on OCLC is done. The OCLC search reveals the number of universities that have this book in their collections. A printout of the bibliographic record is attached to a form showing the search results. The book is charged to the library patron: brittle. Each brittle book is also reviewed by Special Collections staff to determine its importance to their collection.
- The replacement search is an attempt to find a new copy of the brittle book by examining reprint sources such as Books in Print online. If the material is not available, an "O" is noted on the search form to show that the material was not found. If a reprint is found, the order information with the publisher, date, price and ISBN number is noted for the selector. If the selector opts for purchasing the reprint, the order information and fund allocation is sent to the Acquisitions Department.
Periodically, the Brittle Books Unit will do brittle books sampling in the stacks. The UVA Library Management Information Services provides a statistical report of which call numbers are included in the random sampling of the total collection. Staff members and volunteers are trained to evaluate the physical condition of these books and record the number that are found to be brittle. Determining the percentage of the collection that is brittle can play an integral part in the planning and development of Preservation and the Library.
There are five possible physical conditions that are recorded:
- Good paper, good binding
- Somewhat brittle, but still readable. Binding is intact and paper has some flexibility.
- Potential imminent loss of text. Very brittle paper and/or missing pages, damaged binding.
- Needs repair:
- Condition of the paper is ok or good but the binding needs repair.
The condition of the paper is determined by the three fold paper test. Damaged bindings should be self-evident.
- Preservation searching of bibliographic records, library holdings, OCLC and Books In Print to find available replacements.
- Messenger mail search results and replacement options to the Selectors.
- Implementation of the decisions made by the Selectors, such as, replacement order, preservation photocopy, digitize page image or keyboard, protective enclosure, shrinkwrap or possible withdrawal
- Selectors have two weeks to make decisions. If there is no decision after such time, the default is to send the book to Heckman for a preservation photocopy.
- Prepare and receive shipments to Acme and Heckman for preservation photocopies.
- Record the decisions from the Selectors in an Access database.
- Track preservation funds that are used for replacement options.
- Work closely with Acquisitions staff on receiving the replacement copies.
- Work closely with Circulation and Cataloging staff on adding replacement copies and withdrawing originals.