Even (or especially) in tough budget times, libraries should maintain a preservation budget. Gregor Trinkaus-Randall, Preservation Specialist for the MA Board of Library Commissioners, addresses preservation concerns for print, AV, and digital materials in active circulating collections and special collections. Learn about budget-minded training options, best practiced and archival materials.
- We have lots of material that deteriorate: print, microfilm, magnetic tape, etc.
- Material with inherent vice (they self-destruct over time)
- Brittle paper is a major problem (33% of materials are already brittle – fold a paper 4x – if it breaks apart, it is brittle)
Inherent Vice: weakness in the chemicals or physical makeup of an object introduced during it’s manufacture
Extrinsic Vice: (or “agents of destruction”): heat, light, and humidity; pollution, pests, disasters, poor storage materials and furnishing; rough handling, etc.
Why is preservation important?
It is our professional responsibility to care for the collections in our care. But it's a dual responsibility, balancing care/preservation with access.
- Preservation needs to be coordinated from a collection-overview point of view
- Need to prioritize what to collect: don’t collect what you can’t save, get best value for dollar, work to minimize damage but still accessible, encourage cooperative collections (local, state-wide, etc), seek grant funding)
Who is responsible?
- Short answer: everyone involved
- Much can be done by collection managers, curators, librarians, archivists, town clerks, etc, guided by published resources and advice
- Preservation must be an integral part of the organization to be effective
- Acquisition means purchasing quality materials and use library bindings
- Have (and know) a disaster plan – look to dPlan or dPlan lite
- Shelve materials properly: oversize books flat or spine-down; proper bookends to keep books upright
- Processing materials: non-damaging spine labels; proper attachment of dust jackets; manuscripts require special handing, description, folding, boxing and storage (attend New England Archivists workshops to learn how)
- Photocopying with an “edge” copier (allows books to hang off edge while copying, instead of being forced flat
- Exhibit materials, but do so properly (don’t use scotch tape, inadequate book stands, limit to 2-3 months at a time to limit light)
What can you do?
- Go to workshops
- Document deterioration and show damage materials to others to raise awareness
- Share preservation information with others
- Conduct a preservation survey as part of a formal preservation plan
- Monitor the environment: the facility, environmental controls, security/fire protection, housekeeping, pest management, storage materials, staff/user education
- Collection cart: reformat to preserve information (microfilm), basic repairs and conservation to preserve item (save conservation for most valuable materials)
Identify problems and goals so you can outline plan and course of action (both things you can do and things you can’t do).
- Preservation Survey: identify problems, analyze causes, and suggest actions. Address general state of collection/facility (sometimes the building is part of the problem, sometimes it is part of the collection), and the survey should provide rationale for actions
- Using a consultant is beneficial because they are impartial experts and more aware out outside available resources (sometimes an outside person can also say something a staff person can’t say, and lend credibility to the obvious) – also, this frees staff to work on their normal jobs, instead of trying to also squeeze in preservation work too. But it costs money, and consultant needs time to learn the collection
- Long-Range Plan: provides framework for goals, priorities and actions (determined by survey); serve as a working tool to lead project over time (even though staff turnover); must dovetail with rest of organization and collections (even non-preserved collections), and show that administration are behind it so that staff will commit to it (public service staff, tech staff, janitorial staff, managers, etc)
Preservation Long-Range Plan
Make it as short as possible, but still be effective. Include three important sections:
- Executive summary
- Action plan and timetable
- List of accomplishments to date
Have a non-involved person read it, to make sure it is clear.
Other sections: Table of contents, Introduction/Mission statement, Description of collections (summary of the collections’ condition, needs and actions, value, amount of time to be held)
Resources are always limited, so create phases. Identify the most important collections, then decide what is feasible and what’s not, which might mean the first few priorities cannot be done at present (but at least you’ve identified them so you’ll be ready in the future). Look for Impact (actions that will improve the collection or save time of the users and staff), Urgency of Action (does something need to be done now so that material is not lost?), how/how often is material used?, condition and value of materials (especially value to community)
Impact vs. Feasibility Matrix
|Feasibility||High||easily accomplished and will have significant impact||accomplish little but may be worthwhile because they are easy to do|
|Low||difficult but warrant consideration||little achieved and great effort|
The best way to mitigate problems is to be prepared for them. Planning helps you avoid problems, but also to know what to do when they do happen.