General Collections Conservation

Although Conservation Services resides within the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, we are also responsible for the care of all circulating materials for the KU Libraries. The collections conservator and a staff of student employees perform the duties required to maintain these collections. Some of the work, or treatment, is carried out on items before they are available for use. Using a knife or guillotine to trim the pages of an unopened book, tipping in an erratum, or adding a pocket to hold loose materials such as maps in a book are a few examples of treatments we perform. Materials that have been damaged are mended, given new covers, cleaned, or boxed as necessary.


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Pamphlet Binder

Pamphlet binding is a method of reinforcing a pamphlet between two rigid supports joined by a cloth spine. We sew or staple the pamphlet onto the cloth spine (left). If the pamphlet has multiple sections, such a music score with parts, we add an envelope or pocket behind the sewn section (right). We use both commercial and custom-made pamphlet binders.


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Polyester or Colibri wrapper

We use two methods of protecting paper dust jackets on books from damage or loss. The first method (pictured on the left) employs premade polyethylene wrappers and a machine that custom welds and cuts away the extra wrapper material.  The second (pictured on the right) is to use a piece of polyester (Mylar) cut to the size of the dust jacket and folded around the book. Both methods are reversible.




We perform two types of mending when paper materials are cut or torn: using heat-set tissue or paste and Japanese tissue. Heat-set tissue (strip at bottom) is a thin tissue paper backed with a heat-activated adhesive. We use a tacking iron (above left) to apply the tissue. We use this type of repair primarily on materials from the map collections and serials department. This treatment is not easily reversible.


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Book Repair

Books in circulation are typically damaged through repeated use, mishandling, and faulty binding. We send a majority of these books to a commercial bindery. We repair items needing some special care in the conservation lab using one of three treatments: endsheet replacement (right), recase, and case binding (left).  We retain the original case or cover of the book when performing the first two treatments. In contrast, we construct an entirely new case for the text block when creating a case binding.


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Protective Enclosures

We use protective enclosures for materials housed in all the KU Libraries’ system. For circulating collections, we use pamphlets, pockets or envelopes in pamphlet binders, or corrugated boxes. For the Spencer Research Library’s collections, we construct custom boxes called tuxedo boxes for books that have fragile, detached, or missing covers (first slide). We also create special housings for objects in Spencer collections by fitting the interior of standard archival boxes with foam, Tyvek, and other materials to protect the items and facilitate their use (second slide).


Student Employees in the Conservation Lab

Conservation Services employs undergraduate and graduate students to assist the conservators with many of the duties and treatments involved in maintaining the collections. The students each have their own dedicated tool set, shelves for work in progress, and statistic sheets for tallying completed work. In addition to the twenty-one treatments listed on the circulating collection report shown here, the students also construct custom enclosures, vacuum dusty items, assist with humidification and flattening of rolled materials, and help the collections conservator with large-scale project management.