Library Committee Handbook

User Education Committee

User Education Committee Lunch Discussions March 27, 2002

March 27, 2002, Illini Union

Topic: Preservation and Conservation

Guests: Jennifer Hain and Tom Teper

Nine lunchers discussed a wide range of preservation and conservation issues, with an emphasis on end-user and staff education. Jennifer began by explaining the difference between Conservation (her area of responsibility) and Preservation (Tom's area). Conservation is concerned with the physical repair of library materials, while Preservation has a broader focus. Preservation begins with the entry of an item into the library's collection and encompasses its handling during processing and its use by readers. Preservation also deals with options for retaining the intellectual content of library materials (e.g. by microfilming) when the physical pieces are no longer useable or repairable.

Tom noted that library users need to learn about the proper care and handling of books. So do staff, because a good example is the best teaching tool. A case in point is the mouse problem in the Undergraduate Library, which appears to stem from food left in staff areas. Pests are everyone's problem because they can migrate between buildings via the steam tunnels. The UGL has developed a public and staff awareness campaign to combat problems from food and drink in the library.

Several ideas were tossed around for better service from custodial staff -- for instance, using liners consistently in waste baskets and emptying them more often. Jennifer reported, however, that O&M has experienced deep staff cuts due to the tight budget. Tom encourages library staff to take food waste to a trash bin outside the library, rather than depositing it in an office or bathroom waste basket.

The question was asked: Are there standards for packaging books that are shipped between libraries on campus? Jennifer and Tom haven't addressed this issue yet, though they have begun to investigate how books are handled in the Shipping Department. When packing books into boxes, it's best to lay them flat. Second best is to rest them on their spines.

Tom reported that he and Jennifer have been invited to meet with the GAs in the Education & Social Science Library, and they would welcome invitations to meet with staff in other departmental libraries. Visits to individual libraries are important because each unit faces unique preservation challenges. However, they are also planning open forums and training sessions for Library faculty, staff and GAs, which will get started after the Voyager implementation is completed (i.e. next fall). The topics may include basic book repair and a look behind the scenes of commercial binding. A field trip to a papermaker in Indiana is also envisioned in the future.

Although the UIUC Library lags behind most of its peers in addressing preservation and conservation issues, we are now "at a turning point" due to the creation of Tom's and Jennifer's positions and the construction of the Oak Street facility, which will include a state-of-the-art conservation lab. Staff and user awareness is a necessary element for moving forward.

The group discussed ways to alert library users to basic preservation concepts. The first priority is to raise awareness of the food and drink policy. The poster design contest currently underway is funded by the Library Friends. The Friends are also funding plastic bags for circ desks to give away on rainy days. Other ideas raised during the discussion included signs on copiers about how to copy books without damaging them and bookmarks that can be distributed during user education sessions. Jennifer and Tom asked for feedback on the usefulness of an electronic in-house newsletter containing preservation hints and spotlighting successful preservation activities at UIUC. Support was expressed for such a newsletter, provided it was "fun" and was distributed directly via email.

If you want a copy of the "Are YOU a Book Batterer?" quiz, just ask Tom. He explained that routine repetitive processes like date stamping inside book covers put stress on bindings. Mutilation is a troubling problem, and patterns of mutilation should always be aggressively investigated. Tom noted that 70% of the titles in the average academic library are no longer available for purchase after seven years from the date of publication, so damaged materials often cannot be replaced. A consultant who studied the UIUC Library's preservation situation recently estimated the worth of our collections at more than a billion dollars. This figure is a wake-up call to campus administrators and can be quoted to alert Trustees and other stakeholders to the importance of preservation.

The Mellon Foundation has given the Library $1million to address preservation and conservation needs. The grant will furnish the conservation lab in the Oak Street facility. Some of the money is contingent upon the Library raising matching funds, for a total of $2.4 million, which it has already begun to do. The goal is to establish an endowment for staff positions.

Tom and Jennifer noted that there are very few options for preservation education in the U.S. Most library schools, UIUC's included, offer only a course or two but not a full concentration. They hope to work with GSLIS to strengthen this area of research and teaching in the future.

Roxanne Frey announced that the next issue of Friendscript will be entirely devoted to preservation. Also, watch for a new web site that Jennifer and Tom are developing.

Notes by Sue Searing