Library Council
University of Toronto Central Library System

University of Toronto Library. Library Council.
The committee was established by Library Council at its March 1998 meeting to develop policies and procedures relating to brittle materials. Along with meeting four times, the committee consulted widely with the University of Toronto Libraries community.

Terms of Reference

To review existing policies and practices related to brittle books in light of technological and organizational changes

To consult widely in the central library system concerning current and anticipated preservation needs.

To consult widely concerning questions of access related to preservation activities.

To report to Library Council no later that April 29th, 1998, recommending policies related to brittle material and solutions to questions of access related to preservation activities.


Joyce Chyrski Science Selector
Collection Development Department

Robin Healey Fine Arts, Italian Studies and Anthropology Selector
Collection Development Department

Lari Langford Head
Access and Information Services Department

Marian Press Coordinator
Reference & Information Technology, OISE/UT Library

Joseph DesJardins Project Librarian
Preservation Services Department

Carole Jaffrey Head
Technical Services Department

Sylvia Newman Collections Librarian
Gerstein Science Information Centre

Karen Turko Head
Preservation Services Department


One of the main functions of the Department of Preservation Services (PSD) is to reformat embrittled materials according to agreed upon policies. In recent years the flow of this embrittled material through PSD has dwindled to a trickle because of various factors and there has been a shift in the technology used to reformat. The taskforce has reviewed policies and procedures in the Central Library System regarding these materials and in light of technological changes is recommending new procedures more in keeping with the needs of the various departments at this time. During our consultation process committee members spoke to the Science Library Group (Gerstein, Chemistry, Pharmacy), Gifts, Reference Department, Reference and Access Service Committee, East Asian Studies Library, OISE/UT Library, Faculty of Music Library, Department of Fine Art Library, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture Library, Centre of Criminology Library, and Data, Map and Government Information Services. The purpose of all this effort is to develop policies and procedures for the handling of brittle materials for the central library system. For other libraries in the University of Toronto community, the Preservation Services Department plays a consultative role.


1.0 Procedures for Circulating Books

  • 1.1 As books are checked in from loan periods, designated staff in each location will enter items deemed to be embrittled into a special file for brittle materials. The details for file creation will be determined as a procedural matter. The books are then reshelved in the public stacks.
  • 1.2 As PSD is ready to work on these materials they will be culled from the shelves, examined and the availability in alternative format searched.
  • 1.2.1 Non-brittle items will be repaired or rebound, if necessary, and returned to the shelf.
  • 1.2.2 If brittle items are available in alternative format (reprint, microform, digital), source information will be given to the Collection Development Department for ordering.
  • 1.2.3 If the material is indeed brittle and not reproduced in reprint, microform or digital form, DBCN numbers and short titles for the items will be sent to Collection Development and the appropriate subject selector will make a scanning decision.
  • 1.3 Subject selector decision making will be driven by value. It costs approximately two hundred dollars to digitize an item. If the item is judged not to have sufficient value to justify scanning, the item will be returned to the shelves and marked to show this decision.
  • 1.4 PSD staff will put notations of treatment into the item note field for each book handled, and also a notation in the physical item.

2.0 Procedures for Gift Materials

  • 2.1 If material has signs of mould it should be discarded immediately by the gifts section.
  • 2.2 Brittle items that have been selected will be sent to PSD for treatment before technical processing.
  • 2.3 PSD staff will perform steps 1.2.1, 1.2.2.
  • 2.3.1 Brittle items not available in alternative formats will be scanned.

3.0 Procedures for Serials

  • 3.1 Brittle serials, not having barcodes at Robarts or Gerstein, will be manually entered into the Brittle materials file by the holding locations using the barcode assigned them by the 'item create' function.
  • 3.2 Taking into account that serials are more likely to be available in alternative formats, PSD will deal with serials according to the priorities established by the standing committee (committee described below in 7.1).

4.0 Collections (including heavily used Reference materials)

  • 4.1 Whole or partial collections deemed worthy of scanning may be brought to the attention of PSD who will deal with them when possible. Staff in various locations, in consultation with Collection Development, may develop collection proposals and submit them to the standing committee (see 7.1) for consideration.
  • 4.2 Taking into account the cost of digitally processing whole or partial collections and current budget restraints, grant funds for collection scanning will be pursued.

5.0 Cataloguing

  • 2.4 It is recommended that the cataloguing of the digital item be a priority. With the costs involved in creating a digital item, along with the promise of increased access, cataloguing should occur soon after file creation.

6.0 Quotas and Reporting Meetings

  • 6.1 PSD will hold an open meeting at least once per year to report on work done and receive feedback on priorities. Notification of the time and place of this meeting will be supplied well in advance on email.

7.0 Standing Committee

  • 7.1 The committee recommends that a standing committee be formed to advise the Head, PSD on priorities for scanning brittle materials.

8.0 Access

  • 8.1 During the consultation process, the need for access to monograph's in electronic form was continually stressed. Currently, there are several working models of online access of library monographic materials. Two examples are the University of Michigan's Making of America ( and the Bibliotheque nationale de France's Gallica (
  • 8.2.1 The committee recommends that the Information Technology Services Department investigate these and other options as soon as possible with a view to implementing an access solution for these materials.
  • 8.2.2 The committee also recommends an aggressive search for online project funding from sources which might include, but not be limited to, the Provostial Fund for Technological Innovation.

9.0 Training

  • 8.1 Following acceptance of these proposals by the Library Council and the issuing of a policy document, procedures and training plans for implementation of the policies will be drawn up by PSD in consultation with the relevant departments.

Reports and Draft Documents