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CLIR Issues Number 61

CLIR Issues

Number 61 • January/February 2008


Mass Deacidification Revisited by James Neal, Connie Brooks, Paula DeStefano, Alice Prochaska, and Hans Rütimann

CLIR Fellows Share Experiences as “Hybrid” Professionals by Elliott Shore

Blue Ribbon Task Force Members Named

Real-World Approaches to Redesigning Work in Libraries by David Greenebaum

Frye Institute Participants Named

Mass Deacidification Revisited


by James Neal, Connie Brooks, Paula DeStefano, Alice Prochaska, and Hans Rütimann

RESEARCH LIBRARIES IN North America have long been concerned about the progressive destruction of primarily nineteenth- and twentieth-century paper-based collections caused by acid decay. In response, most have developed preservation strategies that rely on methods ranging from treatment of individual items to improved collection storage to reformatting. These actions, combined with a shift by many paper manufacturers to producing acid-neutral paper, have improved the long-term outlook for collections at risk. Yet the acidic-paper problem persists.

Among the treatments available is mass deacidification—a process by which alkaline agents are deposited in paper to neutralize acid and prevent further decay. Processes vary, but they share the virtue of being able to treat many books at once. This, combined with the ability to stabilize originals, would seem to make mass digitization an attractive option for preservation management. Nevertheless, its use has been limited. The process is expensive and often requires books to be sent off-site. Some treatments have had undesirable side effects. The long-term effectiveness of various processes is still being studied. In short, many libraries are uncertain whether the benefits of mass deacidification outweigh the costs.

What technical issues are associated with making mass deacidification affordable and practical for archival materials? Would more institutions use the process if they could do it on-site? To what degree do different deacidification processes change aspects of the paper or media that might affect future research?

These questions prompted The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to convene a study group on mass deacidification in North American research libraries. Formed in January 2007, the group was tasked with gathering information about current deacidification practices and experiences and with investigating the CSC Booksaver System, used widely in Germany. Study group members were Connie Brooks, former head of preservation at Stanford University; Paula DeStefano, head of preservation at New York University; James Neal, Columbia University librarian; Alice Prochaska, Yale University librarian; and Hans Rütimann, senior advisor to the Mellon Foundation.

Deacidification Processes

The only mass-deacidification process widely used in the United States is Bookkeeper, offered by Preservation Technologies, L.P. (PTLP). PTLP also operates facilities in Canada and the Netherlands and will soon open a facility in Bilbao, Spain. Bookkeeper is based on a liquid-phase process using magnesium oxide particles suspended in an organic solvent (perfluoro heptane). Most treatments are done in special plants, requiring that libraries send books off-site.1

Additional mass-deacidification processes have been developed since the Library of Congress (LC) began using Bookkeeper in 1995. In 1999, the CSC Booksaver system was piloted in Spain and became available in Germany in 2003. Booksaver, which is supported by the Preservation Academy of Leipzig (PAL), is now used widely in German libraries as well as in St. Petersburg, Russia. Booksaver uses carbonated magnesium propylate for deacidification. Unlike Bookkeeper, it can be installed at libraries for on-site use.

To learn more about the CSC Booksaver program, study group members met with staff at the PAL and with administrators and library staff members at German libraries using the process.The visit, while instructive, underscored the lack of rigorous comparative data on efficiency, safety, and long-term effectiveness of the Booksaver and Bookkeeper processes. To adequately evaluate and compare the two processes, all technical data must be measured on the same basis.

North American Research Library Deacidification Practices

The study group investigated mass-deacidification activity among research libraries in North America as well as plans for future investment. Members first reviewed the Association of Research Libraries’ (ARL) preservation survey of member institutions for the five-year period 2000–2001 to 2004–2005. Of the 115 institutions responding to the survey, those investing most heavily in mass deacidification were LC and the National Library and Archives of Canada. LC expanded its program significantly, growing from 100,000 volumes in 2000–2001 to 300,000 volumes in 2004–05, and treating more than one million linear feet of unbound materials over a sustained period. In contrast, the National Library and Archives of Canada has reduced its level of activity from 44,000 volumes in 2000–01 to 10,000 volumes in 2004–05, combined with little or no activity with unbound materials.

Of the remaining 113 responding institutions, 81 (72 percent) reported no deacidification activity over the five-year period. The total number of volumes being deacidified by the 32 libraries now engaging in this activity averaged just over 50,000 volumes per year. Slightly more than 1,000 linear feet of unbound material were treated per year during that period. Only 14 libraries have sustained, substantive programs averaging together more than 1,000 volumes deacidified per year. Much of the deacidification work is supported by grants rather than by the library budget.

The study group surveyed ARL institutions to gain insight into their future plans. Of the 32 libraries active in deacidification, 25 responded. Of these, 5 plan to increase investment in deacidification of collections over the next several years, 12 plan to sustain it, and 8 plan to decrease investment. The availability of grant funds was a determining factor in these projections; where decreased spending was projected, it was often because of plans to reallocate resources to digitization.

Among the 81 libraries indicating no deacidification activity over the five-year period, 45 responded to the study group’s questions. Thirty-five indicated no plans to invest in deacidification. Ten institutions plan to implement deacidification on a limited basis, depending on institutional budgetary support or grant availability. The libraries that plan to deacidify collections will focus overwhelmingly on special collections.

Discussion with Preservation Experts

In May 2007, the study group convened a small group of preservation experts at Columbia University to discuss deacidification as a preservation strategy and to review the findings of the study group’s visits to PAL and the German libraries. The following were among the observations recorded:

  • A declining number of libraries view the preservation of the original format for items in the general collection as a mandate.
  • Libraries increasingly focus preservation activities on special collections or unique holdings, on audio and video formats, and on digital archiving.
  • Off-site storage with improved environmental conditions is an important element in the preservation strategy of many libraries.
  • There is need for more reliable and sustained research on paper chemistry, the stabilization and strengthening impact of deacidification, and its long-term effects on materials.
  • Libraries are increasingly investing in digitization activities, not always with preservation outcomes, but often at the expense of investments in traditional preservation procedures.
  • Libraries still receive a large amount of material that requires deacidification treatment.
  • In addition to research libraries, other cultural heritage institutions have significant deacidification needs.
  • It is not clear whether institutional or grant funds have been the primary financial sources for deacidification activities.
  • The existence of a preservation program with dedicated expert staff has a significant influence on the level of deacidification activity at a library.
  • More information is needed about the total costs of deacidification work with a vendor as compared with a regional facility serving libraries and with local installation and operation.
  • In the interests of competition, comparability, and complementarity, it would be desirable to have more than one deacidification vendor working in the United States. Whether the market can support another company is not known.
  • It would be desirable for the research library community to invest in Bookkeeper with the goal of enabling the system to expand and diversify its services and to achieve portability and scalability.
  • If future deacidification efforts will focus on special collections, curators must be educated about the process in order to increase their confidence in it and to expand deacidification activity.


On the basis of its investigations, the study group proposes the following recommendations:

  1. A group of preservation experts and paper chemists should be convened in late 2008 to review current information on the science of deacidification, including an update on the scientific work being carried out at the Library of Congress and a forthcoming German report on the long-term effects of mass deacidification.
  2. A study should be carried out to determine the amount of new material entering the collections of North American research libraries that is published on acid-based paper or that does not meet the standards for permanent durable paper.
  3. Representatives from North American libraries that have sustained collection-deacidification programs should be brought together in 2008 to discuss trends in deacidification activities and business plans for future work in this area.
  4. The CSC Booksaver program at the Preservation Academy of Leipzig should be monitored, and an update on the PAL business plan and market prospects should be requested in late 2008.


1The Library of Congress contracted with Preservation Technologies to build and install a horizontal treater and spray booth on-site, enabling the library to use Bookkeeper in-house to treat paper-based materials in nonbook formats. Other U.S. libraries and archives use the spray system to treat materials in-house.

CLIR Fellows Share Experiences as “Hybrid” Professionals


by Elliott Shore

WHAT DOES A Ph.D. degree bring to a library staff? Can one be an academic and a librarian at the same time? What does it take to convince institutions that having staff members who bridge the divide between the library and the university’s academic departments benefits everyone—especially the students? These were just a few of the questions discussed at the third annual midwinter meeting of the CLIR Postdoctoral Fellows in Information Resources.1

The session was held February 1–2 at the Young Research Library at the University of California, Los Angeles, and hosted by UCLA University Librarian Gary Strong.

Attending were 10 of the 12 current CLIR fellows as well as two fellows from earlier cohorts who are now employed in libraries. Michelle Morton, now working at Stanford University, and Christa Williford, now at Haverford, are also finishing master’s in library and information science (MLIS) degrees at San Jose State University and the University of Washington, respectively.

Changing World of Libraries

In opening the seminar, Strong characterized the world of libraries as one of “constant change, new opportunities, new people, and new relationships.” Having spent much of his career in public libraries, he finds work in the academy riveting because of the convergence of knowledge, ideas, and artifacts and the institutions that connect them. The library is critical in making these connections, and the CLIR fellows are ideally suited to such work, he noted.

“Libraries are often complex and broad organizations, and part of larger and even more complex colleges and universities, and they need folks with deep expertise to help them function to their highest potential,” he said.

The New Hybrid

The fellows agreed. The discussions revealed that they want to be understood for what they are: a new kind of professional—a hybrid with both academic and library expertise. The scope of the projects that current fellows have undertaken illustrates the potential of this new hybrid professional.

Wesley Raabe (University of Nebraska) is conducting a project that centers on Washington, D.C., during the Civil War. Raabe integrated print and digital sources to offer a new way of looking at how the city was organized, how it functioned, and what was happening where and when. Danielle Culpepper (Johns Hopkins University) assembled an exhibit on Palladio that will open at the Peabody Library in March. At UCLA, Janet Kaaya, Caroline Kelley, and Elizabeth Waraksa completed portals to areas of the collections at the university library and beyond. The portals—on African languages, the Berber Maghreb, and Egyptology, respectively—were made possible by the three fellows’ deep subject and language expertise in their fields. These massive gatherings of material and resources are central to the mission of the graduate departments in the university and to scholars throughout the world.

Many fellows engage in multiple projects. Cecily Marcus is helping the University of Minnesota library rethink how it supports research across the university. She is developing a collaborative virtual community for ethics scholars and students and is working on information literacy across the curriculum. At Pepperdine University, Erica Doerhoff has set up a series of wikis that are changing how the university library communicates with the campus. She has also contributed to planning for the university’s digital library (including developing the copyright policies that will undergird it), helped assess audiovisual collections, and made strides in the area of podcasting. At the University of Virginia (UVA), Susan Wiesner is performing the duties of a librarian, giving lectures on campus, writing white papers and grants, and making presentations at conferences in the nascent field (for UVA) of dance.

A Matter of Degree

Because most CLIR fellows arrive at their host institutions without library degrees, they are not surprised when members of the library professional staff approach them with skepticism. However, resistance invariably turns to collaboration once everyone focuses on the work to be done and the language, subject, information technology (IT), and teaching skills that the fellow brings to the table.

Five of the 28 current or former fellows have decided to pursue MLIS degrees (two additional fellows came to the program with degrees in information science) because their experience as fellows has given them a deeper appreciation of what is involved in librarianship. Participants were curious to know what Morton and Williford were gaining from their MLIS experience. Morton responded that the degree is giving her a chance to learn the language that librarians speak, and that this makes it easier for the librarians to accept her. Williford felt that she had learned much on the job that was also covered in her program. Pepperdine University Librarian Mark Roosa, who joined the group for the discussion of fellows’ work, observed that several things libraries want to do these days require knowledge—whether IT, fund-raising, or subject expertise—that goes beyond what is normally part of the library school curriculum. He was echoing what fellows had heard from other sources, such as CLIR Board Chair Paula Kaufman, who maintains that libraries today need all kinds of expertise.

Looking Forward

The fellows voiced concern about their future job prospects; however, the track record of their predecessors shows they likely have nothing to fear. Program graduates have filled a variety of jobs in libraries, taken hybrid positions shared by libraries and academic departments, become academic faculty members, served as consultants to library and information resources organizations, and enrolled in library school. There is no single outcome for a CLIR fellow, and the range of possibilities grows with each new cohort, as CLIR President Chuck Henry affirmed.

The thoughtfulness, energy, and intelligence of this group of humanities scholars who are lending their learning and new perspectives to college and university libraries across the country moved Henry to ask CLIR fellows from all cohorts to think of themselves, throughout their careers in academia, as part of a virtual and real social and intellectual community—a “collegium” that will foster interdisciplinary collaboration across the traditional library, IT, and academic department divides that currently prevent higher education from realizing its potential.


11Information on CLIR’s Postdoctoral Fellowship for Scholarly Information Resources is available at

Blue Ribbon Task Force Members Named


FIFTEEN LIBRARY LEADERS, scholars, and technologists have been named to the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access announced last September (see CLIR Issues 59). Funded by the National Science Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the task force will sponsor quarterly discussion panels involving international experts from the academic, public, and private sectors. The group held its first meeting in Washington, D.C., January 29–30.

CLIR is a partner on the project, along with the Library of Congress, the Joint Information Systems Committee of the United Kingdom, and the National Archives and Records Administration. The task force is cochaired by Fran Berman, director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center at University of California, San Diego, and Brian Lavoie, a research scientist with OCLC.

The group will set up a Web site to solicit comments and encourage dialog. Two reports are expected, including a final report in late 2009 that will offer recommendations for digital preservation.

Task Force members include the following:
Paul Ayris, Director of Library Services, the University College of London
G. Sayeed Choudhury, Associate Dean of Libraries, Johns Hopkins University
Elizabeth Cohen, Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Stanford University
Paul Courant, University Librarian, University of Michigan
Lee Dirks, Director of Scholarly Communications, Microsoft Corporation
Amy Friedlander, Director of Programs, CLIR
Vijay Gurbaxani, Senior Associate Dean, Paul Merage School of Business, University of California at Irvine
Anita Jones, Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Ann Kerr, Independent Consultant, AK Consulting
Clifford Lynch, Executive Director, Coalition for Networked Information
Dan Rubinfeld, Professor of Law and Professor of Economics, University of California at Berkeley
Chris Rusbridge, Director, Digital Curation Centre, University of Edinburgh
Roger Schonfeld, Manager of Research, Ithaka, Inc.
Abby Smith, Historian and Consulting Analyst to the Library of Congress
Anne Van Camp, Director, Smithsonian Institution Archives

Real-World Approaches to Redesigning Work in Libraries


by David Greenebaum

Editor’s note: A year ago, CLIR published Library Workflow Redesign: Six Case Studies, a report that described work-restructuring projects at six libraries and summarized lessons learned. Following on broad interest in the topic, SOLINET last spring presented a series of classes on work redesign for libraries. The classes were developed by SOLINET Instructional Services Librarian David Greenebaum. They were funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and supported by CLIR. In this article, Greenebaum reports on the workshops and on how some of the participants applied what they learned at their home institutions.

WORKFLOW REDESIGN HAS captured the attention of librarians seeking to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their existing operations in order to free resources for digital asset management and other emerging needs. In spring 2007, SOLINET held three one-day workshops to support libraries in this process. Held at Lake Forest College in Illinois, Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, and Amherst College in Massachusetts, the workshops were offered to members of the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education, the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Library Alliance, and the CLIR Chief Information Officers’ group.

The Workshops

The workshops opened with a discussion of the forces driving libraries to redesign their work. Participants then looked at five principles of work redesign: focusing on the client, determining key processes, putting people needs before system needs, eliminating or streamlining handoffs, matching people to work, and building ongoing assessment into work processes. The shift from a task-centered to a client-centered focus is significant. No longer considered ends in themselves, library processes have value to the degree that they are integrated into the clients’ needs.

Next, participants reviewed two tools for analyzing workflow: process mapping, a graphical representation of the activities and tasks that make up a process, and workload analysis, a numeric analysis of outputs based on levels of effort spent on them. Attendees were introduced to the steps associated with envisioning and designing a new workflow: establish the need for change, set goals and objectives, focus on the client, understand the existing processes, consider environmental enablers and barriers, and bring the end user into the process.

The class ended with a segment on building support for redesign among the staff. This can best be achieved, attendees learned, through fully disclosing goals and intentions, involving staff in the project, and communicating clearly and through multiple channels.


After the workshop, planners periodically asked participants whether they had been able to apply the class’s principles and tools of work redesign within their own libraries. By August, several institutions reported increasing their efficiency through work redesign. Following are three examples of the redesign efforts reported by participating institutions. In each case, the institution applied one or more of the principles of work redesign that had been presented in the class.

Trinity University: Rethinking the Boundaries of the Process. Faculty members at Trinity University who have made acquisition requests are normally notified when the material has been cataloged and is being held at the circulation desk for them. In the past, this notification was part of a process separate from the acquisition process itself. As a result of this “handoff,” delays and mix-ups sometimes occurred. The Trinity librarians decided to make faculty notification part of the final step in the process for acquisition requests. This transferred full responsibility to the acquisitions staff and eliminated the handoff.

Rhodes College: Streamlining Special-Case Procedures. Reference books at Rhodes College are not given the full set of labels that circulating books receive. Rather than printing out full label sets for new reference books, student assistants type spine labels. Reference books were often not labeled as promptly as they should have been because assistants tended to give priority to circulating books. Printing out full sets of labels for all books, even though only the spine labels would be used on reference books, eliminated this bottleneck.

State University of New York (SUNY) Brockport: Consolidating Related Duties. At SUNY Brockport, several staff members did different tasks related to maintaining electronic journal access. By breaking down these related tasks and examining them systematically, the Brockport librarians were able to consolidate activities relating to e-journal access into a single job. They developed a job description for that post. Now, one person has responsibility for the entire process. With oversight for all of electronic journal access, this staff member has a better grasp of the process as a whole and can take measures to make it run smoothly.


Redesigning work processes can be daunting at first. By starting with a small project, as at Rhodes or Trinity, a library can learn what is involved without risking major upheavals. If the redesign results in improvements, those gains can produce momentum for more and larger projects.

Frye Institute Participants Named


THE FOLLOWING INDIVIDUALS have been selected for participation in the 2008 Frye Leadership Institute. The Institute will be held June 1–12, 2008, at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Karen Albert, Fox Chase Cancer Center
Neal Baker, Earlham College
Keith Boswell, North Carolina State University
Joan Cheverie, Georgetown University
Ann Crawford, University of Connecticut School of Law
Trevor Dawes, Princeton University
Lisa DeMings, Brandeis University
Samantha Earp, Duke University
Angi Faiks, Macalester College
James Frazee, San Diego State University
Meg Fryling, University at Albany, SUNY
Jeffrey Gima, AMICAL (American International Consortium of Academic Libraries)
Gillian Gremmels, Davidson College
Laurie Harrison, University of Toronto
Kevin Hundere, Maricopa County Community College District/Glendale Community College
Carol Hunter, University of Virginia
J. Q. Johnson, University of Oregon
Lisa Kemp Jones, University of California, Los Angeles
Deborah Keyek-Frannsen, University of Colorado at Boulder
Louis King, University of Michigan
Vivian Lewis, McMaster University Library
Adriene Lim, Portland State University
Felice Maciejewski, St. Norbert College
Maribeth Manoff, University of Tennessee Libraries
Lars Meyer, Emory University
David Middleton, Seton Hall University
Glenda Morgan, George Mason University
Robert Moropa, University of Pretoria
Lesley Moyo, Virginia Tech
Brian Nichols, Louisiana State University A&M College
Nick Noakes, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Marla Peppers, Occidental College
Gail Persily, University of California, San Francisco
Paul Petersen, Emory University
Anne Posega, Washington University
Jeannette Riley, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth
Mark Ritschard, Colorado State University
Carlos Rodriguez, California State University, Sacramento
Michael Rubesch, Purdue University
Beth Schaefer, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Maureen Scoones, Hamilton College
Sarah Shreeves, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Elizabeth Siecke, Ramapo College of New Jersey
Scott Silverman, Bryn Mawr College
Bryan Sinclair, University of North Carolina at Asheville
Julie Sweetkind-Singer, Stanford University
Judith Tabron, Hofstra University
Jennifer Vinopal, New York University

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