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Further Development of Preservation-reformatting Services at UIUC



Over the past several years, the Preservation and Conservation Program made strides in meeting the reformatting needs of general collections materials. The Brittle Books program largely succeeds through targeted work on materials identified as requiring reformatting through circulation, and we recently commenced discussions with several vendors about the procurement of marked-up digital files and OCR for print resources as an integral part of its current services. It also provides management for one federally funded reformatting grant and support in the form of training for the USAIN microfilming grant in Funk Agricultural Library. Yet, the Preservation and Conservation Program and the Digital Services and Development Unit (DSD) together face three great challenges - scalability of preservation-reformatting for print resources, support for the preservation-reformatting of non-print resources, and support for the bibliographic access needs of reformatted materials.


Scaling Reformatting Services - Brittle Books

As the Conservation Lab develops in the Oak Street Storage Facility and the Preservation Unit consolidates within the Main Library, organizational adjustments in the Preservation and Conservation Program will result in a Brittle Books and Replacement program of approximately 1.5 FTE support for budgeted Brittle Books reformatting. These personnel are Annette Morris and one-half of Connie Jasper-Pearson's appointment. Their efforts are mostly targeted toward deteriorated monographs. While most serials reformatting is being deferred currently, the reformatting of brittle serial runs is an area of targeted development as the Preservation Unit is consolidated. Indeed, discussions have already begun with members of the Humanities Division about several titles of interest.


Preservation Reformatting for Non-Print Resources

The issue of preservation reformatting for non-print material resources within the University Library remains a significant challenge. In addition to thousands of recorded sound and moving images resources within our collections (min. est. of 35,000), the Library holds approximately 800,000 fragile, and, in some cases, heavily used photographic materials. In a recent collection survey, a single collection of negatives within the University Archives consisted 23% of highly unstable (flammable) nitrate negatives. This becomes more troublesome when one notes that this collection previously received evaluation to isolate visually identifiable nitrate negatives. When added to the unstable cellulose acetate negatives that compose the other single largest portion of our photographic negatives, this emerges as a significant concern for both the University and the Library. To date, services have been very scattered. While discussions recently turned toward a more comprehensive project, progress in the University Archives is almost entirely dependent upon the labor of the University Archivist and the Head of Preservation or the occasional practicum student.


In contrast, the work completed as part of the Carl Sandburg Grant Project provides a partial model for developing preservation-reformatting operations for non-print resources. This project entails collaborative work between members of the Preservation and Conservation Program to secure reformatting services and the Digital Services and Development Unit to provide digitized access to this content. While it is relying upon a combination of digital and analog surrogates, the most appropriate reformatting options in other projects may involve digital access, analog surrogates, or a combination of the two. However, the absence of labor dedicated to surveying, evaluating, and contracting for the reformatting of these collections means that both the Preservation and Conservation Program and DSD are relegated to rather piece-meal efforts that meet neither the needs of the collections nor the sometimes conflicting demands of our patrons. With the recent move of DSD to the Main Library, this is an opportune time for the Library to reflect on our future needs and how our units might work together more.


Creating Access

The last challenge in this arena is creating access to reformatted content. This is quickly emerging as a major area of development for preservation and conservation programs and digital library operations nation-wide. The recent creation of a discussion group among preservation administrators and catalogers in the CIC member libraries and the obvious support for such services demonstrated by other programs [*] gives credence to the mantra: That preservation without access is meaningless, and access without preservation is equally troublesome. This is the situation that we currently face in furthering the development of our reformatting efforts - a lack of staff within both Preservation and DSD to adequately address the reformatting needs and a lack of personnel within Cataloging to provide access to this reformatted content. 


Next Steps

The continued development of the Library's Preservation and Conservation Program, the DSD's relocation into the Main Library, the approval of the Access Strategy Task Force Report, and the completion of the Digital Content Creation Team's recent report, provide an opportunity for the Library to jump-start several access-related initiatives and meet some of the preservation and access needs of our collections.


Envisioned as a collaboration between Preservation and the DSD, these preservation-reformatting personnel will primarily concern themselves with the reformatting of materials that we outsource to vendors. While print reformatting is developing apace, the work of our non-print reformatting personnel will include, but not be limited to: assessments of non-print collections, securing analog and digital reformatting of recorded sound and moving image collections, conservation services for photographic materials, analog reformatting of photographic collections, collaborating with DSD to secure contracted analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog reformatting services for extensive photograph and multi-media collections, and mounting digital materials online.


Some funding for outsourced services exists within the Preservation and Conservation Program's existing budget, and given the evaluative needs of the materials, it is anticipated that any significant projects would entail a year's planning. Examples include: portions of the Carl Sandburg Project, reformatting photographs in the University Archives and RBSCL, etc.... As resources are increasingly shifted from print to online serials, additional resources may be shifted within the Preservation and Conservation budget to meet the collection's changing needs, providing additional support for outsourced preservation reformatting.


Thus, the initial personnel requirements of this initiative require the retention of two individuals:


Funding these Positions

These are both requests for new personnel and, therefore, require new funding.

The Preservation and Conservation program currently has funding pending for a Rare Books Conservator and a Conservation Technician as part of the Mellon Challenge Grant, but these positions are specified as part of that endowment.


Justification and Long-term Programmatic Development

A significant long-term need for the Preservation Unit, the DSD, and the Library as a whole is additional support for reformatting operations. Several years ago, the Library ceased supporting in-house microfilming operations in light of the high costs associated with revitalizing that program and changing technological needs. At the time, it was acknowledged that support for outsourced brittle books reformatting would only serve part of the need.


The development of the Library's Brittle Books operations helped provide for the reformatting of print resources identified through circulation. However, this leaves two significant gaps within the Library - a means of supporting the access needs of preservation-reformatting, and a means of supporting the evaluation, assessment, and preservation reformatting of the non-print resources that populate our archives and special collections. Given the heavy emphasis on these resources by funding agencies such as the NEH, the challenges associated with technical and media obsolescence, the fragility of these media, their continued acquisition within the Library, the Preservation and Conservation Program's inability to adequately support the preservation needs of these materials within current staffing levels, and the DSD's current low staffing levels, these positions remain part of our unmet preservation mandate and will enhance our ability to provide access to rich collections.


Working closely with the Head of Preservation and the Head of Digital Services and Development, this specialist will directly oversee preservation-reformatting activities most appropriately handled through contracted services. It is our hope that we can establish a program that will support coordinated preservation reformatting services for non-print resources.



[*] Harvard University Library retains twelve Preservation Catalogers within its Preservation Department. Other institutions are increasingly integrating activities between Preservation and Cataloging Teams.