By James Thurn
Between March and August of 2007, Conservation Division move/stabilization personnel at the Library of Congress (LC) completed a survey to evaluate the size and condition of Pre-1801 books located in the LC Law Library. The primary purpose of the survey was to estimate the quantities and sizes of storage boxes necessary to house the books in the event the books are sent to Ft. Meade for long-term storage. The Library’s high volume, cool storage facility is located at Ft. Meade. This survey involved recording both the dimensions and the physical condition of sampled books. Such information is helpful in characterizing the overall condition of collections and potential treatment needs.
Eight move/stabilization personnel participated in the survey in three-hour shifts of two people per shift. The Preventive Preservation Section Chief, a Treatment Section senior book conservator, as well as Law Library staff provided assistance prior to and during the survey.
To meet project goals, assigned staff sampled randomly a portion of the Pre-1801 books from the surveyed collections. Based on discussions with Law Library personnel, five collections were identified as survey candidates since these collections are thought to contain more Pre-1801 books than other collections in the Law Library.
The survey was limited to the following five collections stored in the Madison Building sub-basement stacks:
Generally when undertaking a survey, the surveyors base sample size on the total number of items in a collection and the available time. Unfortunately, the number of Pre-1801 books in the five collections was unknown prior to the start of the survey, as many of the books were not yet cataloged. Estimation of the number of Pre-1801 books prior to the survey was further hindered because Pre-1801 books are interspersed among Post-1801 books. This disparate collection made selection of a sample size more complicated. Surveyors desired as large a sample size as possible in order to increase survey accuracy. However, the survey also had to be completed in a reasonable time frame by two people working on the survey for two to three afternoons per week. This need for both efficiency and accuracy led to the development of the methodology.