CU libraries take part in national book preservation effort

A student in the distance studies among the Norlin stacks on the third floor of the Norlin Library. April 9, 2014 (Rachel Ramberg/CU Independent File)

The University Libraries system at CU Boulder recently joined an effort led by the Library of Congress to embark on a three-year intensive initiative to examine the preservation of book collections in U.S. research libraries.

This project is supported by a half-million dollar grant provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a charity organization that funds arts and humanities efforts across the United States.

CU, along with partner universities in Florida, Arizona, New York and Washington, will send an identical sample of 500 books from the university’s library system to be examined by Library of Congress researchers in Washington, D.C. A micro sample will be removed from a single page of each book to study how books age without actually damaging or removing any pages from a given book.  

Lauren Stapleton, preservation manager of the Special Collections Archive in Norlin Library, says data from these experiments will inform the library’s “preservation practices and retention decisions,” taking into account the effect of Colorado’s dry climate on the aging and decomposition of paper-bound literary works.

“The impact on the books is noninvasive so patrons will likely never see where the microsamples were taken from,” Stapelton said. “The impact on the libraries will be to aid in the knowledge about the true condition of our collections.”

A kick-off meeting for this nationwide preservation effort will take place in March in Washington, D.C. Hillary Morgan, the CU Libraries conservator for the preservation unit, will travel there next month to attend the meeting and personally experience the testing that CU books will undergo.

Chidera Onwugbufor, a student assistant for the Special Collections, Archives and Preservation (SCAP) department at Norlin, expressed that this project, and many others taking place at SCAP, are very interesting but often overlooked by CU students. 

“[The project] is great opportunity because the Special Collections department provides really cool and important research on campus that doesn’t always have the full attention of campus community,” Onwugbufor said. 

The Library of Congress project is currently underway, and Stapleton says that the results will be announced to the public in early 2022.

Contact CU Independent News Staff Writer Delaney Deskin at delaney.deskin@colorado.edu 

Delaney Deskin

Delaney Deskin is a sophomore studying Linguistics and Political Science at CU. In addition to writing for the Independent, she is a member of CUSG, an avid polyglot and language lover, and a devoted viewer of West Wing. You can contact her at delaney.deskin@colorado.edu.

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