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Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Books on a shelf

Welcome to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library blog! As the special collections and archives library at the University of Kansas, Spencer is home to remarkable and diverse collections of rare and unique items. Explore the blog to learn about the work we do and the materials we collect.

Improving the Physical Environment in Spencer Library: The Second Visit from Image Permanence Institute

May 8th, 2018

KU Libraries recently hosted Christopher Cameron and Kelly Krish, consultants from Image Permanence Institute (IPI), for their second visit as part of the planning grant we were awarded from the National Endowment for the Humanities, under the Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections program. The purpose of the grant is to work with our environmental consultants to study the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system in Spencer Research Library in order to better preserve our collections while also hopefully finding ways to save energy.

On April 24-25, 2018, Christopher Cameron and Kelly Krish met with members of the KU team representing Facilities Services, Campus Operations, KU Libraries, and Facilities Planning and Development. We first met to discuss building and mechanical system updates since their visit in October.

Staff and consultants conferring, Spencer Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Whitney Baker (left, KU Libraries) confers with Christopher Cameron and
Kelly Krish (Image Permanence Institute). Click image to enlarge.

We then took a tour of the building to retrieve information from all the dataloggers in various collections spaces and the mechanical room. We use Preservation Environment Monitors (PEMs) that were developed by the Image Permanence Institute to record relative humidity and temperature. The data is uploaded into eClimate Notebook, software that was also developed by IPI. Christopher and Kelly can remotely access our data from New York; we have met via conference call periodically to discuss anomalies since their visit last October.

Consultant using a datalogger in the Spencer Library stacks, University of Kansas Libraries.

Downloading data from a Preservation Environment Monitor (PEM)
with a thumb drive. Click image to enlarge.

Staff member using a datalogger in the Spencer Library stacks, University of Kansas Libraries

Whitney Baker retrieving data in the
University Archives stacks. Click image to enlarge.

Christopher brought a new infrared (IR) camera to continue analysis of the vents in the stacks. Some seem to be blowing cold air into the space while others produce hot air. It’s a puzzle, and the IR data helps pinpoint how the conditioned air is delivered into the collections spaces.

Consultant using an infrared camera in the Spencer Library stacks, University of Kansas Libraries.

Christopher Cameron using an infrared camera to locate
cold and hot spots in the stacks. Click image to enlarge.

The consultants and KU team ended the visit by discussing the data, making plans for some controlled studies, and discussing how we might use some designated grant funds to conduct further testing or make small improvements to the system.

We look forward to hosting the IPI consultants again in late fall or early winter, 2018. In the meantime, we will take monthly data readings for twenty-three loggers in the Spencer stacks, vents, and mechanical systems.

Whitney Baker, Head
Conservation Services

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this blog post do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. “Improving the Physical Environment in Spencer Research Library” has been made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections.

Environmental Monitoring in Spencer Library

October 20th, 2014

One of the jobs of Conservation Services is to ensure that the storage spaces in Spencer Research Library are suitable for  collections materials. We have placed thirteen dataloggers–plastic boxes smaller than the side of a credit card–around Spencer Library to take readings of temperature and relative humidity at thirty-minute intervals.

HOBO datalogger

A HOBO datalogger that records temperature and relative humidity in Spencer Library spaces.

The information is analyzed in a special software, called Climate Notebook, and the graphs are stored in a central location on KU Libraries’ network so various library staff members can watch for unusual changes in their spaces.

If paper-based materials become too hot and humid, mold could flourish and damage collections. If a storage space is too dry and hot, embrittlement of organic collection materials like paper and textiles could result. Generally, the lower the temperature, the better for our library collections, but because these collections occupy the same space as people, we’ve set a compromised standard of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% relative humidity.

Some Spencer collections are stored in KU Libraries’ high-density storage facility, which is kept at around 50 degrees F and 35% relative humidity. In such a space, materials will last longer as rates of deterioration are slowed.

Whitney Baker
Head, Conservation Services