Did you fall for our April Fools’ Day joke yesterday? As adorable as the book jackets are, we don’t actually wrap up our books for winter. Our books are kept in environmentally controlled and monitored conditions all year round. If they do need a little protection we place them in boxes made to the exact specifications of the book.
Thanks to Briony for doing the crochet and Eddie for the photo-shopping of that amazing bay of books with jackets.
Since we appointed our Preservation Officer we have been able to keep a much closer record of the environmental conditions in our stores. We now have evidence of the fluctuations in the temperature and relative humidity that are such vital considerations for the preservation of our paper-based materials. Here’s a chart which shows the output of our monitoring or data logging.
Everyone knows just how cold it can be over winter in Scotland, with temperatures regularly dropping to below freezing outside. Come winter we’ll all be putting on our warm, knitted jumpers, to attempt to keep out the cold. Extra layers trap the heat. And it’s no different for our books. In order to protect them from the lower temperatures that we have detected in one of our storage areas and to maintain the equilibrium so necessary to these valuable older printed collections by trapping the warmer air, each autumn we put the books into their (crocheted) winter jackets.
And every year, on the first day of spring (20th March), we begin the massive task of removing the jackets from all of our books. Each jacket has a top which is fastened with buttons, and they all have to be undone by hand. The books are then extracted and replaced on the shelves for the spring and summer months, when the outside environment is much more temperate on the East Coast of Scotland.
It certainly brightens up the stacks over winter, with the colourful and varied jackets. Now that spring is here, it’s becoming just that little bit duller, with many a brown binding reappearing on our shelves. But it won’t be too long before we’re preparing for winter again…
Text: Briony Harding
Assistant Rare Books Librarian
Photography: Eddie Martin
Photographic Collections Cataloguer