Murder in the Stacks (Library Preservation)
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Columbia University Libraries Preservation Committee
Copyright 1987 Columbia University
This film was made with support from the New York State Preservation/Conservation Program.
Tags: Library Preservation
Added: 2 years ago
A Sherlock Holmes Mystery
Columbia University Libraries Preservation Committee
Murder in the Stacks
[scene opens inside the Butler Library at Columbia University, as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson materialize out of thin air (and students continue studying as if they can't see them)]
WATSON: My word, Holmes! It is staggering! Huh, I am not unacquainted with the ... progress of modern scholarship, but this collection is enormous! What a treasure trove of our culture, huh?
[as Watson continues to look around the room in wonderment, Holmes maintains a stoic look on his face]
HOLMES: Yes, yes, Watson, but come along my good fellow ... We have work to do.
WATSON: Here? What is there for us here?
HOLMES: Crime, of course.
[Holmes starts to walk off, but Watson grabs him by the arm]
WATSON: Here? In the library?
[Holmes continues walking]
HOLMES: This library and every library, Watson. Serious crime ... murder.
WATSON: Murder! Good heavens, Holmes, who's being murdered?
HOLMES: The books, Watson. The books.
HOLMES: Forgive me, perhaps "murder" is too strong a word. But the books are being killed ... destroyed.
WATSON: Destroyed? I say, Holmes! That's ... a serious charge. Are you certain of this?
[Holmes takes out his magnifying glass and observes one of the bookshelves]
HOLMES: Very certain. It's happening now, in fact. Countless numbers of books are being destroyed every single day.
WATSON: That's terrible! Who'd want to do such a thing?
HOLMES: To discover that, Watson, is why we are here. Come ... Let us go to the scene of the crime.
[they disappear, then cut to a poorly-arranged bookshelf, as Holmes re-materializes with his magnifying glass honed on the display]
HOLMES: Good heavens! It's even worse than I suspected!
WATSON: What is, Holmes? There's nothing here but these shelves of books! I don't see any cause for your alarm.
HOLMES: I know. Neither you nor most other people. That's part of the problem.
[Watson reaches out for a book from the shelf]
WATSON: Say Holmes, here ... here's one that should interest you.
[he grabs for it, but accidentally tears the loose spine off]
[he takes the book, then tries to open it and the loose pages fall to the floor]
WATSON: Oh! Goodness!
HOLMES: Allow me, Watson.
[he bends down to pick up the pages, then smiles]
HOLMES: Ah yes, a monograph on alkaline toxicology. Perhaps it could be of use to me, even after your assault on it.
[as Holmes gets up, Watson has a shocked look on his face]
WATSON: Assault! Really, Holmes, I didn't--
HOLMES: Yes, Watson, I fear it is so. Not with intent, of course, but assault it you did nevertheless. Just as those to whom this collection is entrusted also wreak havoc upon these many volumes. And yet, prevention of such damage is simplicity itself, if those who work with books would only adhere to an axiom of mine.
WATSON: Which one is that, Holmes?
[Holmes reaches over and pulls a loose string off of Watson's coat]
HOLMES: The little things are infinitely the most important.
[he suddenly looks over and speaks directly to the camera]
HOLMES: And so it is with preservation.
[he holds up the magnifying glass and looks into the camera]
HOLMES: Let's look into the matter more closely ...
[he puts the magnifying glass into his coat pocket, then turns back to Watson and motions towards the bookshelves]
HOLMES: This section of books ... what do you deduce from it, Watson?
WATSON: Well, it ... all looks normal to me. But I shouldn't want to use it again, for fear of repeating my offense.
[he chuckles to himself]
HOLMES: Understandable, but it is not only you who has created the problem. Observe the shelves.
[cut to a closeup of one of the shelves (as the books are not placed straight up but rather leaning forward)]
HOLMES: This shelf which you first attacked, the books are simply not supported properly in an upright position. Now ...
[he places a book back on the shelf, evening out the rest so that they do not lean forward]
HOLMES: The shelving is correct, each book supported vertically by its neighboring volume and the bookend.
[he adjusts the metal bookend at the end of the row]
HOLMES: Notice they are snug, but loose enough to allow removal of a volume.
[he slides one of the books out before pushing it back, then cut back to the detectives (as Watson has an unimpressed look on his face)]
WATSON: Humph, yes, I see.
HOLMES: Now, what about the next shelf, Watson?
[he points to the next shelf, as Watson chuckles in self-satisfaction]
WATSON: Well, these books certainly won't fall over as the others did, eh?
HOLMES: It's true, but the shelf is too tight. The bookend has been used to disadvantage.
[cut to a closeup of the shelf, as Holmes moves the bookend slightly to give the books more "breathing room"]
HOLMES: A slight loosening, and the book can be removed without damage.
[he slides one of the books out to demonstrate, then moves on to the shelf below (where the books are leaning forward and nearly falling over)]
HOLMES: And this shelf is a potential disaster. The books are just perched there precariously.
[he moves the books so that they are standing upright again]
HOLMES: But, by returning them to their correct position, they are now properly supported and present neither hazard nor hindrance to removal.
[a young female librarian enters the scene, pushing a bookcart between the two detectives - oblivious to their presence - and then shelving the books in an incorrect manner (putting a book spine down, forcing an oversized book onto the shelf, etc.) as Holmes looks on disapprovingly]
HOLMES: This poor victim has been crammed into a space too small.
[as the librarian leaves, Holmes walks over and points at the oversized book]
HOLMES: It needs to be shelved the long way in, to save it from permanent damage.
[he takes the book off the shelf]
WATSON: Oh, I'll do it, Holmes.
[Watson takes the book from him]
HOLMES: Oh, thank you, Watson.
[he begins placing the book back on the shelf, but Holmes stops him]
HOLMES: But, it must go in spine down. Notice the volume next to it shelved fore-edge down.
[he points to another oversized book, shelved on its side with the spine facing up]
HOLMES: See how gravity pulls the textblock out of its case? If a volume is too tall to be shelved vertically, shelve it spine down ...
[he takes both oversized books and reshelves them]
HOLMES: So the textblock does not pull away from the cover.
[Watson smiles and points to another book on the shelf]
WATSON: Holmes, this book has been shelved incorrectly!
HOLMES: Yes Watson, I also observed her doing so.
WATSON: Well, it's obvious the problem can be solved merely by teaching people how to properly place books back on the shelf!
[he takes the book and reshelves it spine down]
HOLMES: That's only the half of it, my good man.
[he takes him by the shoulder, as they begin walking away from the shelves]
HOLMES: Correct shelving and storage are crucial, but one must allow for actual careful handling of the books.
[he stops and begins looking at another bookshelf]
HOLMES: Where is that toxicology tome?
[he reaches up and puts his hand on one of the books]
HOLMES: Here it is, the one with the recently torn headcap.
[he turns to Watson, who looks down in shame and mumbles apologetically]
HOLMES: No need to look abashed, Watson. If proper shelving techniques have been applied, then this simple procedure can be followed to remove the desired volume.
[cut to a closeup of the shelf, as Holmes puts his hand back on the book]
HOLMES: Gently push the volumes on either side back, grasp the book you want firmly at the center of the spine and pull it from the shelf.
[he gently pulls the book from the shelf]
HOLMES: Thus, no damaging strain is exerted on the weaker vulnerable portions of the binding. After removal, of course, the empty space is closed up by pushing the bookend snug to maintain vertical support for the remaining volumes on the shelf.
[he pushes the other books together]
WATSON: H-How did you know all that, Holmes?
HOLMES: Elementary, my dear Watson, elementary.
[Watson smiles and nods]
HOLMES: But, what if the books are packed a little too tightly, or if the desired volume is at the end of the shelf? How can the volume be removed without causing damage to the cover or binding structure?
WATSON: A moment, Holmes. Let me see, perhaps ...
[cut to a closeup of the shelf, as Watson reaches in and places a finger on the top of one of the books]
WATSON: Perhaps ... what if one were to press down on the pages on the top of the book, tilt the book forward, and then grasp the spine?
[he tilts the book forward, then uses his other hand to grab the book and pull it forward]
HOLMES: That's capital, Watson! You've surpassed yourself ... Yes indeed, this alternative method will serve the same protective function for safe removal of books.
[they begin walking away, then disappear again]
HOLMES: [in voice over] You see, preservation is quite simple ...
[cut to another part of the library, as the detectives re-materialize]
HOLMES: And now, Watson, please be good enough to hand me that volume up there.
[he points at a large book at the top of a bookshelf]
WATSON: Uh, this one?
HOLMES: Yes, that large folio volume.
[he reaches up to take it, and nearly drops it on the floor (Holmes is able to grab it at the last moment)]
HOLMES: Careful! All the right procedures, but you didn't give yourself an opportunity to apply them.
[he pushes a metal step stool towards Watson]
HOLMES: A step stool will give you an even chance to remove the volume and maintain support for those that remain.
[Watson climbs up onto the step stool]
WATSON: Seems like a good idea when ... reshelving a volume as well, eh?
[Holmes hands him the book, and he puts it back on the shelf]
WATSON: Well, is our ... uh, work here finished then?
HOLMES: Almost, there still remains several secondary problems.
[he points off camera]
HOLMES: Let us aim toward that area, there.
[cut to an overstuffed bookcart, as Watson laughs at the sight]
WATSON: I say, Holmes, this one looks as though the same chap loaded it as did the bookshelves back there!
HOLMES: Indeed, and I daresay it will topple over at some point, it's so badly loaded. It should have been loaded using the same principles I outlined for regular shelves.
WATSON: Mmm ...
[another young female librarian enters the scene, pushing a different (much tidier) bookcart]
HOLMES: Just as has been done with this one.
[he puts his hands on the neatly-arranged books on the new bookcart (again without the librarian seeming to notice their existence)]
WATSON: Yes ...
[as Watson studies the bookcart, Holmes wanders off camera]
HOLMES: [from off camera] Aha!
WATSON: What, Holmes? What is it?
[cut to Holmes standing in front of a study carrel, where some unknown person has left a banana peel and an open can of Sprite]
HOLMES: Yet another dangerous condition.
[Watson enters the scene, looking around in confusion]
WATSON: Where, Holmes? These shelves look properly done.
[he points at the refuse]
HOLMES: This empty soda can and the remains of a meal scattered across the desk.
[Watson simply laughs it off, and begins cleaning up the mess]
WATSON: Oh really, Holmes! When I was in medical school, sometimes we'd spend hours in the library! I imagine it's the same thing with these students here. One of them just didn't have time to go out for a proper dinner.
[he laughs while throwing the food into a nearby garbage can, but Holmes continues to give him a stern look]
HOLMES: Good heavens! I'm not totally without feelings, but preservation demands constant vigilance. It may not be possible to prevent deterioration caused by environmental conditions, pollution, or other factors beyond the library's control ... but those conditions that can be controlled, must be controlled!
[Watson gives him an confused look]
HOLMES: Yes, I can sympathize with wanting to satisfy one's hunger pangs, but not with the damage caused by doing so.
WATSON: Oh really, Holmes! It may be a little untidy, but--
HOLMES: Watson, eating and drinking in the stacks brings bugs and roaches just as surely as ants follow a picnic. And once insects are here in the stacks, their next meal is the paper and the glue in the books, totally destroying whatever they attack. Here ...
[he reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a damaged book]
HOLMES: An example of such damage.
[cut to a closeup of the book (covered in what appears to be mold), then to a male student studying in a nearby carrel]
HOLMES: And look at that fellow over there.
[Holmes and Watson walk towards the student, who (oblivious to their presence) picks up a large uncovered cup of soda and takes a sip while reading his book]
HOLMES: Not only has he brought his beverage into the stacks, if he spills it, the book will be soaked and probably destroyed, even if the liquid is only water.
[he puts his hand on the student's shoulder (who looks back in surprise, but still fails to notice him), then points at another young female librarian shelving books in the background]
HOLMES: This library employee should be practicing proper preservation techniques.
WATSON: How is that, Holmes?
HOLMES: By reminding anyone she sees eating or drinking in the stacks to please delay their refreshment in order to help preserve the very books they are here perusing. That's the best kind of preservation, Watson.
[Holmes turns and speaks directly to the camera]
HOLMES: Not only preventing the sorts of damage caused by improper shelving and book handling, but also trying to discourage the library's users from causing damage by their carelessness.
[he turns back to Watson]
HOLMES: Here, let me show you how simple that can be.
[they disappear, then cut to the front desk, where they re-materialize as another female librarian is checking in some books]
HOLMES: Even here, Watson, a little attention to preservation can eliminate yet another source of damage to the books.
WATSON: Here, Holmes? But all I see is ... people returning books to the library.
[a male student enters the scene, handing the librarian some books]
HOLMES: And some of those books may spend months in the stacks before they see the light again.
[he reaches into his coat pocket and takes out his magnifying glass
HOLMES: A paper clip left in a book for that length of time can rust and permanently mark the pages.
[cut to a closeup of one of the books, as Holmes uses his magnifying glass to highlight the rusty paper clip in the book]
HOLMES: As can a rubber band, or some other bookmark left too long in one place. But, if the circulation clerk were to make a brief observation of each volume as it is returned and remove the offending items, the eventual damage would be prevented.
[he takes one of the books (again without the librarian's knowledge) and flips through the pages before taking out a paper bookmark]
HOLMES: Preservation is as simple as even this.
[he straightens out a pile of books on the table, which the librarian does notice ... but simply shrugs it off before taking the pile off camera]
HOLMES: But enough of that, old boy. We can leave now.
[they disappear, then cut to another part of the library where the detectives re-materialize]
WATSON: But Holmes, aren't we going to solve this crime?
HOLMES: We already have, Watson. I know who is killing the books.
[he reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a pipe]
WATSON: Who, Holmes? Who?
HOLMES: Everyone, Watson. The people who use the library, and the people who work in the library. All people who come in contact with books, but who fail to give sufficient thought to the consequences of their actions. That's the problem.
WATSON: What's the solution?
WATSON: Yes, is that more than the ... seven percent solution, Holmes?
HOLMES: Yes, of course, Watson. If we are to keep books alive, preservation is the one hundred percent solution.
WATSON: Hmmm, preservation ... Huh.
[as Holmes places the pipe in his mouth, he disappears]
HOLMES: [from off camera] Come along, Watson. We've got to go. It's time.
WATSON: Preservation ... Ha!
[he disappears, then cut to a closeup of one of the bookshelves (where a copy of "In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes" by Michael Harrison can be seen)]
The Coordinated Preservation Projects Program Division of Library Development
New York State Library
and the Columbia University Libraries
This tape was made possible with support from
the New York state research libraries:
Libraries of the State University of New York at Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo and Stony Brook
the Libraries of Columbia, Cornell, New York, Rochester, and Syracuse Universities
the New York Public Library
and the New York State Library
Video Production by
Center for Biomedical Communications
College of Physicians & Surgeons
New York, New York 10032
(c)1987 All Rights Reserved
Title: Murder in the stacks [videorecording] / Columbia University Libraries Preservation Committee.
Other Title: Sherlock Holmes mystery.
Published: New York, N.Y. : Center for Biomedical Communications, College of Physicians & Surgeons, Columbia University, 1987.
Description: 1 videocassette (15 min.) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in. VHS.
Summary: Using a library setting, actors portraying Conan Doyle's characters Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson demonstrate and discuss how library materials can be mistreated and damaged, and how they should be properly cared for and handled.
Notes: Cataloged from credits and label on cassette.
"A Sherlock Holmes mystery."
"Funded by the coordinated Preservation Projects Program, Division of Library Development, New York State Library and the Columbia University Libraries."
Sherlock Holmes, Daniel Chapman ; Dr. Watson, David Bowman.
Library patrons and personnel.
LC Subjects: Books--Conservation and restoration.
Brought to you by the Columbia University Libraries Preservation Committee (they had a committee for this?!).
Inspired by Sherlock Holmes, "Do It In The Stacks," and that fairy dust sound at the Bacchanal concert.