Monday, November 3, 2008

From the Preservation Lab

Last week I traveled to New Jersey to participate in week one of the Preservation Management Institute at Rutgers University. It was a packed week full of learning, field trips and meeting others in the preservation field.

The week started with presentations on preservation management, care and handling of library materials and the nature of paper. From there we moved on to a full day on HVAC and fire suppression systems; learning both how they work and which systems can work best for a specific type of institution. We were able to apply our newly acquired knowledge the next day as we toured Rutgers' Alexander Library. Library staff took us through the public areas as well as into the machine room and onto the roof to see the HVAC systems in action. It was great to hear the facilities staff speak about pre-action fire suppression systems and actually understand what that meant!

Our field trips continued the next day as we headed to Pennsylvania to the OCLC Preservation Services Center and the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA). At OCLC we got to see how preservation microfilm is produced as well as how digital images are made from both original items and from previously shot microfilm. Though I have dealt with microfilm in the reading room, it was so interesting to learn how it was produced and how it could be converted to digital images. (The photo at the top was taken at OCLC and it shows canisters of 16mm microfilm stored in the temperature and humidity controled print master storage vault). At CCAHA we were shown through all areas of the conservation lab and were able to see photographs, pastel drawings, oversized maps and many bound volumes being repaired by their trained conservators. It was such a treat to visit! The week ended on Halloween, with a fitting presentation on mold, bugs and rodents. I'll spare you the details, but will say that the entomologist speaking to us had a great sense of humor and provided numerous practical approaches for dealing with the smallest of library patrons.

The Preservation Management Institute is a year-long program, and last week was the first of three that I'll be spending taking classes at Rutgers. The information presented in week one provides a solid basis for my coursework, which involves writing a preservation survey for the State Library. This survey will provide an overall view of the library, its spaces and systems and how they relate to the preservation of collections. Once the survey is completed in early 2009 it will work to provide a structure for the preservation program and perhaps spur new grant writing opportunities. I look forward to applying everything I've learned over the past seven days to the preservation program at the State Library.

- Lacy Crews, Preservation Librarian