Published: Feb. 4, 2019

The University of Colorado Boulder is part of a major national effort to assess the physical health of books across American research libraries.

Norlin StacksThe Library of Congress is spearheading the initiative, thanks to a $540,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

CU Boulder Libraries, along with libraries at Arizona State University, Cornell University, University of Miami and University of Washington, “will compare the physical, chemical and optical characteristics of a representative sample of bibliographically identical books,” according to a Library of Congress news release.

Those comparisons will help evaluate the books’ overall health, decomposition and guide decisions about archiving and preservation.

“CU Boulder Libraries are an excellent partner in this grant because of our extremely dry climate," said Lauren Stapleton, preservation manager for the Libraries. "With the scientific testing of collections involved in the grant, we will learn if our climate has special characteristics that help or hinder our collections. We will use this knowledge to inform our preservation practices and retention decisions. We are thrilled to collaborate with the Library of Congress on this exciting project.”

The University Libraries will be shipping 500 books from the print collections at different intervals over 40 months to be analyzed at Library of Congress’s labs. The impact for patrons will be minimal. The impact on the books is noninvasive so patrons will likely never see where the micro samples were taken from the books. Staff from the Preservation Unit of CU Boulder Libraries will travel to Washington DC  to see firsthand what is involved with collecting this data.

Library of Congress officials said the results of the research will be unveiled in 2022.