COLUMBUS, Ohio -- About two-thirds of books in Ohio libraries that were published between 1851 and 1939 are in poor condition or worse, a new survey has found.

Another 11 percent are missing from library shelves.

The result is that less than a quarter of the books published in that time period are in good shape for regular use, said Wesley Boomgaarden, co-author of the study and preservation officer at University Libraries at Ohio State University.

"It's remarkable the percentage of books in our libraries that are falling apart or otherwise damaged," Boomgaarden said. "We face a daunting task in saving these books for the public."

The problems of book deterioration and loss faced by Ohio libraries are similar to those faced by libraries across the nation, he said.

Boomgaarden conducted the study with Edward T. O'Neill, consulting research scientist at OCLC Online Computer Library

Center in

Columbus. Their study was published in a recent issue

of the journal Library Resources and Technical Services.

For the study, the researchers examined the bibliographic records for 1,935 books held at a wide variety of academic, research, public, and special libraries throughout Ohio. They examined bibliographic records -- rather than actual books as most studies have done -- so they could examine different copies of the same titles and identify those books that have been lost.

Boomgaarden said he was surprised by the large proportion of books that was lost. The situation is worst in the public libraries, where nearly one-quarter of the books surveyed could not be found. By comparison, only 6 percent of the books in college libraries were missing. The study did not examine the reasons for the number of missing books. "In some ways, loss is a much more severe problem than either damage or deterioration," Boomgaarden said. "Damaged books can be fixed, but lost books are gone forever."

The books covered in this study were published in an era of poor paper quality, according to Boomgaarden. The paper was acidic, and the pages of many books have become brittle with age. The researchers rated the books they found for damage, wear and usability. Results showed:

A good way to save many of the at-risk books has been to transfer them to microfilm, Boomgaarden said. The study found that 39 percent of the titles that otherwise would be at risk, lost, damaged or deteriorated had been microfilmed. At-risk books are also being transferred to digital formats.

Contact: Wesley Boomgaarden, (614) 292-6151;

Written by Jeff Grabmeier, (614) 292-8457;

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