Notice: Access to Special Collections material, the Reading Room, and Instruction will temporarily be suspended starting on Aug.12, 2024 as the collection will be moved from the basement to 3 East. Normal operations are anticipated to resume late in the semester. Read more for current updates.
Notice: Access to Special Collections material, the Reading Room, and Instruction will temporarily be suspended starting on Aug.12, 2024 as the collection will be moved from the basement to 3 East. Normal operations are anticipated to resume late in the semester. Read more for current updates.
Notice: Maintenance affecting the library catalog will occur on July 26-29. The catalog will be available except for newly added e-resources, which will not appear until after the maintenance is completed and the backlog of changes can be delivered - possibly 10 days. In addition, renewals and changes to circulation status will not be visible in the EDS interface during this time.
Notice: Maintenance affecting the library catalog will occur on July 26-29. The catalog will be available except for newly added e-resources, which will not appear until after the maintenance is completed and the backlog of changes can be delivered - possibly 10 days. In addition, renewals and changes to circulation status will not be visible in the EDS interface during this time.
Notice: Due to ongoing construction, 4 East is currently closed to the public.  To obtain items located on 4 East, please place an online request for the item to be paged for you using the ‘Place Request’ button in the catalog. Please visit our Circulation FAQ page for assistance in using our catalog.
Notice: Due to ongoing construction, 4 East is currently closed to the public.  To obtain items located on 4 East, please place an online request for the item to be paged for you using the ‘Place Request’ button in the catalog. Please visit our Circulation FAQ page for assistance in using our catalog.

Conservation & Preservation Policies and Procedures

Overall Preservation Policy for Library

Mission Statement:

The Conservation & Preservation Unit's mission is to maintain the excellent physical condition of the library’s print collections. This is done by performing conservation treatments on individual books and other library materials, protecting fragile volumes with boxes or other physical enclosures, collecting data on treatment needs and environmental conditions, and promoting the facilities in the conservation lab, binding preparation and preservation departments. The Conservation and Preservation Unit also works with those in charge of audio, visual and digital collections to help preserve works in these formats. In so doing, the Conservation and Preservation Unit ensures all of the Libraries' collections continued availability for students and faculty and their longevity for future generations.

See Staff FAQ page for other procedures.


The Preservation Department consists of the following departments and performs the major duties of:

Preservation Office

  • In charge of Disaster Response Committee and recovery operations
  • Environmental monitoring (data loggers)
  • Pest monitoring at Remote and SPC
  • Work with vendors and SPC head to send books out for conservation work
  • Consulting on matters of preservation for library admin
  • Questions from the public, outreach and education
  • Ordering supplies for conservation lab, bind prep and SPC
  • Assist in disaster recovery operations
  • Keeping of statistics of treatments and other operations

Conservation Lab

  • Box making for Special Collections and Archives materials (mostly in house, but working with vendors)
  • Special Collections and Archives conservation treatments
  • Exhibit preparation

Book Repair

  • Rush repairs for Circulation, ILL and Course Reserves
  • Pamphlet binding
  • Music binding
  • General collections book repair

Bindery Preparation

  • Send books and journals to commercial bindery
  • Send materials for deacidification
  • Gather unbound journals from PRR
  • Collection Renewal program
  • Review of damaged books by subject specialists


Each day, patrons and library staff find items needing repair, which are reviewed by staff in Binding Prep and Collections Conservation (Repair). Most are repaired, rebound or shrink-wrapped for return to the stacks. When an item cannot be repaired, rebound or shrink-wrapped and it needs to be considered for “collection renewal” – ordering a replacement, preservation photocopying or discard. Because these items are damaged beyond repair, they fall within the guidelines of permissible withdrawals. If a shrink-wrapped item circulates three times after being shrink-wrapped, it is also moved into the “collection renewal” workflow.

Procedures for Handling, Replacing or Reformatting “Collection Renewal” Items:

  1. A Binding Prep staff member changes the MAGIC item status to “c” (which displays to patrons as “Request ILL”) and makes a print of the item record to place in book. If there is more than one copy, a print of the MAGIC summary screen is also made to show all copies for further comparison of each copies’ condition.
  2. An Access and Preservation (A&P) staff member process these by:
    1. Checking condition of other copies. If another copy is in good shape, the Assistant Director for Access and Preservation decides which copy to withdraw and sends item to Data Cat for withdrawal.
    2. Making two pink copies of the MAGIC print(s) and stamping each with a deadline for a decision, ninety days hence.
    3. Sends on print to Data Cat staff for withdrawal for MAGIC then forward the print to Bib Support.
    4. Places second print in book and shelves in Preservation Projects Office.
  3. A Data Cat staff member withdraws item. From OCLC, the entire bibliographic record and regional holdings (“dhr”) is printed and stapled to the item print and forwards to Bib Support.
  4. If MSU was the only holding library in Michigan, MSU is required to own it in some format. Bib Support staff will search immediately and take the appropriate steps from below, depending on searching results:
    1. If more than one edition/format is available for purchase, information is prtined and sent to the selector for an order decision, noting that we must purchase this items because of the agreement that we are required to hold it.
    2. If available for puchrase in only one format, Bib Support will order with the selector’s fund and initials.
    3. If not available for purchase, Bib Support will return to A&P for preservation photocopying.
  5. If a selector doesn’t wish to replace an item held elsewhere in Michigan, he or she marks the print “discard” and returns it to Bib Support, for forwarding to A&P. The A&P staff member will stamp “withdrawn” over the ownership stamp and the barcode and pales it in the correct recycling bin.
  6. If the selector wishes to investigate ordering a copy, the print is returned to Bib Support for searching, with results returned to the selector
    1. If the item is available for purchase at an acceptable price in any format, the selector orders it as “DO NOT CAT” with Lil Damer as the selector. (This unusual procedure will speed up the order, receiving, and cataloging processes.) In Bib Support, the print is stamped “ordered” and returned to A&P staff to move the book to the “ON ORDER” shelf until the ordered item is received. (If the order item is never received, we will still have it and the selctor can consider “preservation photocopying.” See 6b below).
    2. If the item is not available for purchase in any format, the Assistant Director for Access and Preservation will decide about “preservation photocopying.” (NOTE: Because of U.S. copyright law, preservation photocopying is legal only if the item is not available for purchase in any format.) If the selector request reformatting, Bib Support sends the paperwork to A&P staff and the piece will be moved into the reformatting workflow for preservation photocopying (if suitable).
  7. When the DO NOT CAT copy is received, the Data Cat staff member will catalog it and email a copy of the new EEM bibliographic record to A&P and Bib Support staff saying it has been received and cataloged. The damaged original is stamped “withdrawn” and recycled by A&P staff.
  8. If A&P staff receives no response from bibliographers within 90 days, the A&P staff will send a photocopy of the print to the Coordinator. The Coordinator will see that a decision is made within 30 days.
  9. If A&P staff receives no response within 30 days, a copy of paperwork will be sent to the Assistant Director for Access and Preservation for follow up.

Additional Information:

  • Note to add to catalog record when preservation photocopy is made (not sure which field this goes in):

Reproduction Photocopy. Vendor (location: name), date. Size


Created: July 8, 2003
Last updated: December 18, 2006

  1. Place items in need of repair or boxing onto the Conservation book truck.  If you have a large number of items or a large collection of items (including boxed archival material), please contact Conservation to discuss options before placing them on the truck.
  2. Please fill out the “Conservation Request” form.  “Date” and “Requestor” are required fields – all other fields are options, but the more information you can provide, the better.
  3. If the conservation lab staff have a question or need/want to discuss treatment options with you, the conservator will contact you.
  4. If the item has a hold slip for another user, please remove the slip and route it to “Request Finished” in Aeon before placing it on the truck.

Questions about sending Special Collections books to the Conservation Lab:

What type of damage needs repair?

  • Any damage that could result in the loss of materials (i.e. loose pages, detached cover or spine).
  • Damage that will get worse with use (i.e. a cover that will fall off the next time someone uses it, torn foldout, broken sewing)
  • Damage that affects how the book functions (i.e. pages that are stuck together, plate can’t be unfolded, textblock is split in half)
  • Mold or suspected mold – please bring these items directly to conservation
  • Something that looks worn or tatty will probably look worn or tatty after repair – cosmetic “problems” don’t affect usability and therefore are not criteria for conservation.

Should I put damaged items in a plastic bag or tie it up with string?

  • If an item has loose pieces that may become lost, you can tie it up with string OR put it in a plastic bag or envelope.  Doing both is not necessary.  A plastic bag is not needed if the item does not have loose pieces – it can make the book slippery and more likely to fall off the truck in transit.  Please do not use the self-sealing bags with adhesive, and please don’t tape the bag closed.

What if I think a book is moldy?

  • Bring it to conservation immediately.  Please DO NOT place the item in a sealed plastic bag – this will create the perfect environment for mold growth.

Can I send uncatalogued materials to Conservation?

  • In most cases, the answer is no. Uncatalogued items in the conservation lab create security concerns, and their location within the library can’t be tracked.
  • The purpose of conservation is to insure that an item is available for use - items that are not in the catalog can’t be requested, and so they shouldn't come to conservation UNLESS…
    • The item can’t be cataloged because it is too fragile to handle.
    • You are using the item in an exhibit and need it ASAP
    • The item will be used by a class or a visiting scholar and needs repair ASAP.
  • Uncatalogued or unprocessed archival materials should be delivered to Conservation in person so that lab staff know what you want, why you want it, and any other special instructions.

What if the item is being used in the reading room?

  • If the item cannot be used without risk of damage, please contact Conservation for assistance. On demand or same day service is not always possible, but items needed by a patron have priority.
  • If the item is no longer needed by the patron, fill out a Conservation Request slip (some should be on hand at the reading room desk) and place it on the reshelving truck in the Reading Room.  When it is returned to the SPC stacks for shelving, it will be placed on the Conservation truck.
  • If the item needs to remain on hold (i.e. for a class or a returning researcher), contact Conservation.  If Conservation is not required before use, the item should remain on hold until it is no longer needed by the patron, and can be placed on the Conservation truck following the instructions above.

Created: March 9, 2016
Last updated: February 21, 2018

The MSU Libraries’ Preservation Unit maintains an active pest monitoring program. Areas where special collections are housed, including Special Collections, the Maps Library, the Kline Digital Media Center and the Turfgrass Information Center are checked regularly. Other areas in the library and monitored from time to time or as needed. The Preservation Unit partners with the Libraries’ Facilities Department to monitor insect, rodent and other pest activity. The Preservation Unit also monitors the Remote Storage Facility for insect infiltration. Fortunately, for all areas, there are only rare sightings of pests dangerous to library collections. The monitoring allows us to take a proactive approach in case there is an infestation of pest which will harm our library collections.

For library staff, reports from the various collection areas are available.

Is It Mold?

  • Foxing and insect dropping and sometimes confused with mold. See this infographic to help determine if what you have found is mold.
  • If you are unsure, contact Conservation as soon as possible. 

Why is Mold a Threat to Library Collections?

  • Active mold has the potential to spread to other items, and eliminating a large mold outbreak can be difficult and costly.
  • Inactive mold can be reactivated under the right environmental conditions.
  • Mold can stain or erode paper. This damage is not reversible.
  • Mold can pose serious health concerns, and should be handled with extreme caution.

If You Find Mold or Something You Suspect is Mold:

  • Do NOT attempt to clean the item yourself.
  • Do NOT put the item in campus mail or in an envelope for the currier to deliver.
  • Bring the item to the Conservation Lab immediately. Conservation staff will assess the item for mold and discuss possible treatment options.
  • If the Conservation Lab is closed and/or staff cannot be reached...

For General Collections Items:

  • Put the item in the Conservation Lab’s freezer, located in WG-21.
  • Please seal the item in a freezer bag, located in the cabinet adjacent to the freezer.
  • Email Conservation staff to alert them about the item.

For Special Collections Items:

  • If the item is unbound, or if the binding is cloth or paper, follow the instructions outlined above.
  • If the book has a leather or vellum binding, DO NOT PLACE IT IN THE FREEZER as this will cause damage. Instead, isolate the item and bring it to the Conservation Lab as soon as possible. DO NOT seal it inside a plastic bag, as this will create a microclimate that will encourage mold growth.
  • Email Conservation staff to alert them about the item.

After handling an item that you suspect contains mold WASH YOUR HANDS.

Created: 11/8/16
Last updated: 11/17/17

Any outside institution’s request to borrow an item from MSU Special Collections should be directed to the Head of Special Collections. The requesting institution should provide:

  • Full name and contact information of the institution
  • Dates of intended display
  • Terms of insurance coverage
  • Summary of security for the exhibition space
  • Facility report that documents the borrowing institution's:
    • Temperature and relative humidity ranges for the intended dates of display
    • Fire suppression system
    • Lighting levels

When reviewing an institution’s request, the Head of Special Collections should:

  • Ask the item’s Curator and the Head of Conservation to examine the item and advise on
  • suitability of the item for loan
  • Consider whether the proposed duration of display and/or environmental conditions of the
  • requesting institution would damage the item
  • Consider whether the proposed dates might conflict with any local needs for the item

If the Head of Special Collections agrees to loan the item, s/he, the item’s Curator, and the Head of
Conservation should coordinate to:

  1. Share with the borrowing institution any exhibit restrictions, requirements, or recommendations for the item
  2. Share whether or not the item will require conservation treatment before lending and whether the borrowing institution should bear that cost
  3. Specify to the borrowing institution a required insurance value; the item should be insured both while in transit and while on display
  4. Agree on any fees to be covered by the borrowing institution
  5. Sign any loan agreement provided by the borrowing institution, and/or have the borrowing institution sign our loan agreement
  6. Check that the item has all appropriate MSU markings
  7. Create an activity for the loan in Aeon and route the item’s status to “Item Checked Out to Activity”
  8. Take photos of the item
  9. Survey the item in Conservation’s survey database, clearly noting the item’s current condition
  10. Print out a copy of the survey to be signed and dated by the Head of Special Collections
  11. Pack and mail the item to the borrowing institution:
    1. Ask the borrowing institution to confirm receipt
    2. Include a copy of the condition survey and ask the borrowing institution to inform MSU if the item’s condition differs from the report in any significant way
    3. Ask that the item should be returned in the same packaging or packed with new materials in the same manner, and that it be shipped using the same method
  12. Head of Conservation should hold the paperwork until the item returns

Upon the item’s return, the Head of Conservation should to:

  • Assess the condition of the item and make sure it hasn’t been damaged
  • Return the item to Special Collections for re-shelving and route its Aeon status to “Awaiting Item Reshelving”
  • See that the loan paperwork is properly archived

Please see the ACRL/RBMS Guidelines for Interlibrary and Exhibition Loan Of Special Collections Materials for complete recommendations and best practices.

Updated 2016-12-08

  1. At the beginning of the process, take the items on the “To Be Shrink Wrapped” truck, change the status and create a file (in Sierra) for those items
  2. Strap and date, put microchamber paper in the item
  3. Shrink wrap (see internal instructions)
  4. When the shrink wrapping is done, search the file and do a global update to take out the status.

This handbook, kept in the Conservation Lab and given to each student employee at the beginning of every school year, contains information on job expectations, chemical safety training info, keeping statistics of statistics and instruction sheets for the various repairs the students learn.

The manual is kept in the Conservation Lab and updated as needed. It may or may not be put online. The manual is a working document which is always being updated and is intended to be used at the bench, not read at a computer workstation. That said, it would be a public service to have it online.

The working documents for disaster response are kept on the Disaster Recovery section of the Conservation & Preservation Unit's website. The documents link to personal information on the staff intranet when needed.

Disaster planning, response and recovery is a program actively promoted by the MSU Libraries. It is carried out by the Disaster Recovery Committee (DRC). The committee consists of 10-15 members from all the units in the Main Library and representatives from the branch libraries. The executive committee works with library stakeholders, such as Special Collections, Remote Storage and Patron Services to create detailed, specific response plans and to implement immediate response and recovery efforts. 

For the purposes of disaster planning and response, a disaster is defined as an event affecting library collections. For emergencies which affect human life and safety (fire, tornado, active shooters), please call 911.

For information on an active disaster event, see the immediate action plan.

The Conservation & Preservation Unit keeps detailed statistics on all work performed. Depending on the type or work, level of complexity and which unit the book came from, this record keeping will vary:

General Collection (Circulating) Books: Work in this area, performed by staff and students, is marked down on individual statistic sheets which are compiled monthly onto an Excel spreadsheet. The totals are tallied for library annual reports and organizational statistical surveys (i.e. ARL Preservation Statistics or the ALA Annual Conservation Stats).

Box Making: A record of the number and type of box made is kept for annual statistical surveys.

Special Collections Materials: These books are also record on the individual stat sheets, as above. They are also generally recorded in a database of treatment reports kept in a FileMaker Pro database. Books needing only minor mends or other minimal work do not get a full treatment report. All books get a treatment ticket in the book listing the minor repair or the treatment report record number.

Books sent to Conservation Vendors: A treatment report is written in the FileMaker Pro database for books receiving a full treatment. Books being sent for deacidification or boxing are only recorded as a statistic.

The Preservation Office collects data on temperature and humidity from throughout the Main Library, Remote Storage and branch libraries. This data is analyzed and then used to make adjustments to the HVAC system in order to create the best environment for the longevity of our collections. Environmental reports are stored on the Conservation & Preservation Unit's webpage. To request a special deployments in areas deemed vulnerable can be made by asking the Head of Conservation & Preservation.


  • Special Collections Librarian identifies an item as requiring specialized workflow and initiates the workflow by filling out the pertinent information on the Special Project for Digitization Tracking Report.
  • Item is prepared for scanning by Conservator and treatment is recorded per normal procedure and any notes are added to the Special Project for Digitization Tracking Report.
  • Special Collections Librarian, Conservator and/or Digital Curation Librarian determine the circumstances under which scanning can occur. These restrictions or recommendations are added to the Special Project for Digitization Tracking Report.
  • Item is approved for digitization and Special Collections Librarian or Conservator will alert the Digital Curation Librarian.
  • Digital Curation Librarian schedules day-of activities with the DMC manager.


  • Item is retrieved from Special Collections and transported to secure scanning facility within DMC. This involves completing a loan slip for the DMC.
  • Digitization technician oversees scanning by observing any special circumstances or recommendations.
  • Item is returned to Special Collections (vault) or other approved sequestered area until scanning is complete.
  • Upon completion of scanning, item is returned to Special Collections by the Digital Curation Librarian. Any notes resulting from scanning are communicated via the Special Project for Digitization Tracking Report.


  • The Digital Curation Librarian alerts the Conservator that scanning is complete.
  • Item is prepared for storage by Conservator and final treatment is recorded. Conservator places conservation ticket with item, along with a new ticket which notes that the item has been digitized.
  • DMC completes post digitization treatment of scanned images, records digitization metadata, and catalogue records are created. The DMC manager or Digital Curation Librarian alerts the Special Collections librarian that the digitized product is now available.

The Conservation Lab document significant treatments with both written and photographic documentation. A dedicated space for photo documentation is located on 2 East. This space includes specialized lighting, a DSLR camera and computer for editing photos. Full instructions for taking images is located in the Conservation Lab. 

The Preservation Office conducts surveys of collections, especially the various special collections. Surveys may be used for when applying for grants or planning future conservation efforts. Informal surveys mabe be paper-based or use Excel or Google Forms/Sheets. When more detail is needed, a dedicated FileMaker Pro database is used. Procedures for conducting survey and using the various survey tools are located in the Conservation Lab.

Due to the sometimes complicated nature of purchasing supplies for the Conservation Lab, the majority of purchasing is now conducted by the Preservation Office. All purchases are entered into the MSU Libraries' Supplies Ordering System and are reviewed by the Head of Conservation & Preservation, who then contacts vendors to make the purchase. The Preservation Office also makes app purchases of archival storage supplies for Special Collections. 

This link has guidelines on how to best use the SPC standard size boxes to store any size object (such as a framed picture) with the use of foam spacers.

What Should be Stored in the Map Case?

  • Maps, posters, and other single sheet items larger than 13x18” (33cm x 45.7cm)
  • Each item should be stored in a folder the size of the drawer (NOT the size of the item).  Empty folders are stored on top of the map case.  Contact Conservation when there are less than 10 folders in stock.
  • Collections of posters, papers, etc. that contain less than 15 items per folder.  Split larger collections into multiple folders as needed. For collections containing 50 or more items, box and store in oversize instead.
  • Do not fill drawers more than 2/3 full to avoid overfilling.

What Should NOT be Stored in the Map Case?

  • Maps, posters, and other flat paper items that are smaller than 13x18 (For MSS materials, consider a small flat box. For cataloged items, contact Conservation for a custom enclosure and store in folio or oversize.)
  • Bound items (contact Conservation for a box and store in folio or oversize)
  • Framed items  (box and store in oversize)
  • Large textiles (contact conservation for advice on oversize vs. rolled storage)
  • Collections of posters, papers, etc. that contain more than 50 items (box and store in oversize).
  • Anything that must be folded to fit into the drawer (contact conservation for rolled storage)
  • Anything that is not a single sheet of paper i.e.  framed items, protest signs, items mounted on foam core, newspapers, books, calendars, LPs, etc.

Please consult the list of standard box sizes and instructions for use for more information about housing large flat paper collections or non-standard items.

Contact Conservation if you have additional questions.