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Enviromental Monitoring

Environmental Monitor Pic

The Libraries has participated in the Rochester Institute of Technology Image Permanence Institute's (IPI) Environmental Monitoring field trials and training since 2002. We use IPI's datalogers and software to monitor the environmental conditions of selected library collection areas.

Our goal is to document, monitor, and optimize collection storage environments to benefit the long-term preservation of the UW Libraries' collections. All library materials are subject to biological, chemical, and mechanical deterioration but research has shown that a stable moderate climate increases the life and usefulness of collections. For example, a book stored at 75°F and 55%RH is estimated to deteriorate twice as fast as a book stored at 68°F and 45%RH. Environmental Guidelines for the Storage of Paper Records (NISO-TR01-1995) recommends 70°F maximum and 30-50%RH (with a maximum daily fluctuation of +/- 2°F and +/- 3%RH) for combined stack and user areas. Optimum conditions for preservation are colder and drier (35°-65° 30-50%RH). Some inherently very unstable materials like photographs and film greatly benefit from cold storage.

In general, stable cooler and drier conditions slow the aging of materials and reduce the risk of insect and mold problems. Of course, light, dirt, dust and pollutants also play a role in deterioration. For more on environment and preservation, see these web resources.


Beginning in the early 1990's, IPI became interested in environmental approaches to preservation management. The first major development was a temperature and relative humidity recording device called the Preservation Environment Monitor (PEM). Next, IPI developed a Windows-based computer program known as Climate Notebook Environmental Analysis Software. Nearly 200 institutions from all over the US, including the UW Libraries, participated in a Field Trial of the PEM and Climate Notebook from 2000-2004. Development and testing of these tools and services was made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities Division of Preservation and Access, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Based on the success of the Field Trial, IPI received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities for a follow-up project entitled "Training and Implementation for Effective Use of Environment in Collections Preservation." The goal of this project is to offer basic and advanced training on the use of the environmental assessment tools previously tested. Thirty-five institutions from the original 200 Field Trial I institutions were selected to participate in the Field Trial II. Staff from the Libraries and UW Campus Engineering and Operations participated in the Field Trial II Advanced Training in April 2005 at the Newberry Library in Chicago.