New Wireless Technology Safeguards Collections

NEW YORK, February 11, 2005 - Columbia University Libraries is incorporating new wireless technology into its environmental monitoring program to protect the Libraries’ collections. The new equipment, manufactured by Hanwell Instruments Ltd., uses a radio signal to transmit real-time temperature and humidity data through the campus ethernet to work stations in the Libraries’ Preservation Division.

High temperature and humidity can speed the chemical deterioration of paper, causing yellowing and brittleness and, if left uncorrected, mold. The Hanwell system uses a unique, dedicated radio frequency secured for the Libraries through FCC licensing.

An important advantage of the Hanwell system over stand-alone dataloggers is the ability to see real-time data. Stand-alone monitors are typically downloaded once a month, so that a temperature or humidity malfunction could potentially go unnoticed for weeks. But the Hanwell system automatically transmits temperature and humidity information directly to librarians’ workstations, enabling staff to respond to problems faster.

Butler Library will receive 12 new Hanwell dataloggers to supplement the two that have operated successfully for six months in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library also plans to implement the Hanwell technology.

Organized in 1974, Columbia's Preservation Division is one of the five oldest library preservation programs in the United States. The division has primary responsibility for maintaining the Libraries' collections through proper care, housing, and disaster prevention. The division provides treatment of items to ensure their continued availability for use, and copying to new formats when use is no longer possible due to damage or severe deterioration. Materials in all formats and genres are cared for by the division, including digital resources created by the Libraries.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other nonprint formats. The collections and services are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students, and researchers in their academic endeavors. The Libraries’ website at is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.

02/11/05 JD