Condition Surveying British Library on Demand


British Library on Demand (BLoD) is the document supply service from The British Library. Items are purchased specifically for the purpose, in addition to the legal deposit collection, to provide remote access to over 42 million items. Users include libraries, higher education institutions, individuals and commercial customers across the UK and internationally. Launched in 1962 as the National Lending Library, with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), at its peak in the mid – late 1990s, four million requests were received a year. Items can be supplied as scanned digital copies that are e-mailed or physical copies are sent by post.

The material in BLoD ranges in age and format. We have items that are over 100 years old, pamphlets with a few pages to directories that are five inches thick! Some items are fragile because they are older and the paper and/or structure of the item is naturally deteriorating with some damage accelerated through use. Others are new items where modern day mass production of publishing books means they do not always last very long before damage occurs.

Collection Care North carry out conservation repairs to the collection, which can include tear repairs, repairing the sewing of bindings, re-attaching boards and many other repairs. It is currently unknown what the overall condition of the BLoD collection is. Collection Care North are in the planning stages of a collection wide condition survey. This will not mean surveying every book, but we will end up with a snapshot overview of the collections condition.

We will sample 400 items from each of the stores that BLoD is stored in. We will place out shelf markers so we know which shelf to take an item from to assess. The 400 shelves are chosen by dividing the number of shelves with collections on them by 400.

For example, if we had 10,000 shelves:

10,000/400 = 25

So we would need to choose an item from every 25th shelf.

We are going to start in Building 3, where Official Publications are stored. It is one of the smaller stores, to ease ourselves in to the task and to check our methodology works how we want it to. There are over 3,500 occupied shelves in this store.

The survey will record:
• Object type, e.g. hardback, paperback, monograph, serial, cartographic material, mixed format
• Storage, e.g. is the item in a box; is there environmental monitoring; is the shelving adequate?
• Condition, we use a set of four condition codes (see below)
• Damage – physical, chemical, biological, previous repairs. E.g. Physical –torn pages, detached boards; chemical – brittle paper, light damage; biological – mould or pest/insect damage

We hope to start surveying before the end of February. Watch this space to find out about our progress!

Emily Watts

This post was previously published on [Website Name] and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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