Celebrating Preservation Week 2019

April 22, 2019
Annie Matthys

This week (April 21 - April 27, 2019) is Preservation Week, a week devoted to, “…highlight[ing] what we can do, individually and together, to preserve our personal and shared collections” (American Library Association).

Preservation awareness is extremely important, as there are, according to the American Library Association, “[s]ome 630 million items in collecting institutions [that] require immediate attention and care.” Unfortunately for many, there is no dedicated staff charged with collections care. Here at Stanford, the Preservation Department implements many programs whose main goals are to provide the best possible conditions for collections to live a long, useful life for researchers.

One way we care for collections is Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which is an environmentally conscious method that controls pest populations through common-sense practices. We follow IPM practices, avoiding insecticide use, seeking instead the possible sources of issues and correcting them through various changes and improvements, dependent upon the situation. Preservation staff may even make recommendations to assist in creating and maintaining environments that will be less prone to attracting pests and the issues that accompany them.

Library scene with patrons studying at tables and checking out books. The Agents of Deterioration are introduced, one of which is a giant silverfish representing insects. Preservation Librarians are shown waving, ready to take action against the insect.

Monitoring involves the strategic placement of blunder – or glue – traps in areas that house collections, evaluating captures on a regular basis, recording what is found, and tracking numbers and trends over time to establish a baseline of activity. By establishing this baseline and being prepared to account for seasonal changes, we can better discern when the activity has increased significantly and requires evaluation and additional preventive measures.

As an example of IPM in action, if we notice increased silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) activity where cardboard boxes containing donated materials are stored, we deduce that the boxes could be providing an attractive hiding place, since the insect prefers hiding in spaces with little airflow. The books stored within the boxes could also be a source of food (silverfish like to eat their starchy components), which damages the collection materials and could pose a threat to others housed nearby. We can then recommend that materials be unboxed more quickly and boxes discarded, thereby eliminating one attractive aspect of the scenario for the silverfish. Continued monitoring and reduced captures will provide confirmation that the tactics worked or if other solutions must be considered.

The giant silverfish calls upon others to scatter into the library, alarming patrons as they being eating books.

Of course, we always expect to see a negligible level of insect activity in any area where collection materials are stored. Some insects can just be considered incidental visitors, such as spiders, who pose no threat. We encourage library staff to maintain clean and clutter-free workspaces and display signage that will discourage library users from eating and drinking near collections, as the more preventive measures we adhere to the less likely we are to encounter serious problems. Additionally, it is important for Preservation staff to have close relationships with Pest Management Professionals, who we can call upon for consultations on potential sources for more elusive pest issues or to assist in identification. Once a pest has been identified, we can conduct research to determine if its presence presents a risk to the materials housed within that particular space.

Librarians think of how to eradicate insects and decide a cooler, less humid environment will work. Librarians implement climate controls and clean the open study areas of food waste. The silverfish is forced out of the library and seen stomping out.


The librarian feel triumphant but consider they must always be watchful, so they place glue traps down to monitor pest activity. They are also seen calling their colleagues, Pest Management Professionals.

Pest monitoring is an ongoing effort and a critical one to safeguarding the collections in our care. To learn more about IPM and our other programs, stop by our Preservation Department Pop-Up Booth at Green Library east portal on Tuesday, April 23rd beginning at 2:00 pm.

We hope you enjoyed the IPM comic, which is an action-packed look into the world of Preservation staff as we fight against the Agents of Deterioration, of which Insects are one (but there isn't really a silverfish super villain that we've seen - yet). All comics are original creations of artist Susan "Sooz" Knowles, generously created in collaboration with Stanford Preservation for our Preservation Week celebrations. You can see more of her work here and on Instagram and Twitter (@itsasooz).