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Evaluation Process for Determining Book Treatments

The Wallace Conservation Lab performs many different types of book repair and conservation treatments in the course of a day. When a book comes to the lab, it will be evaluated for the type of repair it will require (such as torn spine, loose cover, pages falling out). Depending on the damage it has suffered, it will enter into the appropriate queue. The Lab batches like-type repairs together to maximize efficiency when working. Thus, all the torn spines will be placed together so a technician or student can work on several at the same time.

Of course, other problems areas may arise as work progresses. For example, as a book with a torn spine, which appears to be sewn, is worked on, it might become apparent halfway through that the thread is broken and that the current steps must be halted to first sew the book. The Wallace Conservation Lab staff is trained in a variety of repair techniques so these situation can be handled as they arise.

Besides being separated by types of treatments, books are also separated by the materials they are made of and their age, uniqueness, and value. Most books are sent through the book repair department based in the type of damage and thier fairly typical binding structures. Books bound before 1900 or bound in leather will be routed to the collections conservation department. The technicians working on these books have had more extensive training to handle the wide variety of binding structures and materials encountered in this subset of conservation erpair candidates. When the work is completes, a note is made in the library catalog on when and what type of repair work was performed.

Finally, books from the various library special collections (Rare Books and Special Collections, Maps, Fine Arts, etc.) go through an entirely different evaluation process. The Conservator will give each book (or map or fina art print) an individual condition description (of how the volume appears as it enters the Lab) and a treatment proposal. The Conservator and curator then decide on the best course of action based on the item's value (monetary, historic, and to the collection as a whole)> The work is then performed by the Conservator or by highly trained technicians under the direct guidance of the Conservator. When the work is completed, a detailed treatment report is written and kept on file at the Lab and with the specific collection's curator.

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