Preservation education and training of staff and others is necessary to successful preservation efforts. However, this can be a challenge in cultural institutions, because most damage is caused not by malicious behavior, but by carelessness or lack of knowledge. The librarian, archivist, or curator has relatively little direct control over the behavior of users. The user is normally focused on his or her own needs (which all too often are contrary to the needs of collections) and must be persuaded that the way he or she treats collections has a significant effect on how long materials will survive.
Certainly all staff members with preservation responsibilities (e.g., digitization of collections, book repair, or shelf maintenance) must be trained in proper techniques. Likewise, facilitating preservation awareness for the institution's administrator(s) and/or trustees can be very helpful in encouraging institutional commitment. Staff members with management responsibility for preservation activities should also participate in professional activities, which will allow them to keep up with current preservation information and network with peers.
A rallying point for the education of staff, users, and administrators alike, and a way to raise preservation awareness in your community is Preservation Week. Coordinated by the American Library Association (ALA), libraries and other institutions use Preservation Week to connect to communities through events, activities, and resources to highlight what can be done, individually and together, to preserve personal and shared collections.
How can you implement effective preservation education programs for your staff and users, raise awareness among your administrators, and tend to your own continuing preservation education? You will explore some possible activities in this section.
Education of users can be done informally or as part of a specific program or event. Staff should model good preservation practices and correct users in a positive way whenever possible. Signs, posters, handouts, bookmarks, bookbags, and even videos can all be effective means of conveying preservation information. More formal programs such as websites, temporary exhibits, and special events (e.g., a Preservation Awareness Week, book repair demonstrations, question-and-answer sessions) involve more work but can be very effective in raising awareness of preservation.
To learn about different types of user-education activities, explore the links provided on the University of Southern California's Preservation Education and Awareness for Library Users website. While these activities are geared toward libraries, many of the principles could be adapted for other cultural institutions that hold paper-based collections.
For fun, check out these tongue-in-cheek outreach videos created by libraries to reach users on preservation issues:
- Murder in the Stacks (14:10 - Columbia University Libraries, 1990)
- The FUNdamentals of Book Care in Five Easy Lessons (9:18 - George Mason University Libraries, 2009)
- Preservation Faux Pas (2:34 - Kansas State University Libraries, 2008)
One of the most important steps an institution can take is to support the ongoing education and training of staff members with preservation responsibilities. Some preservation projects such as weeding and shelf maintenance do not require a large investment in equipment or supplies, but they do require that staff members have knowledge of preservation principles and proper procedures for care of collections. Likewise, targeted training is key: facilities personnel and administration do not need to know specifics of handling collections, while library paiges do not need to be convinced of the need for improved climate control for the collection.
An investment in training for those who carry out preservation activities will serve to extend the useful life of the collections. The staff member or committee in charge of preservation should coordinate this training.
There are a variety of ways that staff members can be educated about preservation. Workshops presented on general or specific preservation topics by outside agencies may be useful. These tend to be half- or full-day offsite workshops. Offsite training has its advantages: staff may concentrate better when removed from the regular workplace, and training from an outside "expert" may make more of an impression than in-house training.
Administrators and board members or trustees may be interested in attending half- or full-day workshops on general preservation topics. A presentation by the preservation manager at a board of trustees meeting, or a preservation exhibit within the institution, may also be effective at setting the stage for training or raising awareness.
In-house training, however, has the benefit of focusing on issues specific to your institution. You might include short presentations as part of a regular staff meeting, hour-long orientations for new staff, or hands-on training sessions for student workers. Handouts summarizing good preservation practices may also be helpful.
The concept of preventive preservation should always be stressed, perhaps by drawing analogies to preventive maintenance of a car or a house. Real-life examples of damaged items or other visual aids can be very effective. It is very important to keep the subject matter relevant to the audience, to keep presentations from being too technical, and to encourage discussion of concerns that staff members may have.
Pointing out that most of your institution's activities have a preservation component (e.g., the decision to acquire collections, cataloging and processing, shelving and storage, circulation and use, digitization, and exhibition) can make participants think about preservation in a new way. Depending on the audience, specific subjects covered might include handling books, book repair, disaster planning, preservation microfilming, and/or environmental control.
Also remember that staff members are not just being educated so that they themselves will treat materials correctly, but also so that they in turn can educate users in the proper care of collections. Suggestions for instructing users in a positive way should be presented. Sample scenarios in which staff members discuss how they would respond to different situations involving users might be helpful.
While holding training sessions and attending workshops is a relatively straightforward activity, you may find that it is much more of a challenge to get staff members and administrators to fully implement and support a preservation program when it involves changes to the status quo. Staff members may be resistant to changing the way they have always done things, and they may see the change as a threat to their position(s).
How can you make the case for change and handle the transition to new policies and procedures? First, you must be sure that you understand your institutional culture (i.e., how your institution operates). Is the institution's mission formal or implied? Is the organizational structure hierarchical or lateral? Rigid or more flexible? What is the institutional style of communication? Oral or written? Interpersonal or by committee? E-mail or memos? The answers to these questions will help you figure out how to effectively persuade staff and administrators and build consensus.
When introducing new activities or changes to existing preservation activities, try to be aware of how specific staff members may be feeling about the change. Who is having the hardest time with it? Try to acknowledge the difficulty, provide lots of information, and give everyone a part to play in the new arrangement. It is usually a good idea to make the actual change quickly, rather than dragging it out. In managing the change, it may be helpful if you can find out how transitions (e.g., automation, building renovation) have been handled in the past within your institution.
Ongoing preservation education and professional activities will help you carry out your preservation management duties more effectively. In particular, interaction with other preservation managers can provide encouragement and reinforcement, especially if you are the only person responsible for preservation in your institution.
You can update your skills and knowledge (and network with other preservation managers) through workshops, other continuing education programs, and participation in professional organizations and listserv discussions.
Many workshops are given by regional or state preservation organizations. There are a number of regional organizations throughout the United States that have joined together to form the Regional Alliance for Preservation (RAP). Statewide preservation programs began during the 1980s and 1990s in a number of states throughout the country, based on a number of different models. Many of these have provided grants and workshops, often through the state library or archives. Examples include the New York State Library Program for the Conservation and Preservation of Library Research Materials and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners preservation advisory services, workshops, and grants. Consult your state library or archives to determine whether or not similar programs exist in your state.
Connecting to Collections, the IMLS initiative launched in 2007 to raise public awareness of the importance of caring for cultural heritage collections, tracked the impact of its forums, grants, and training sessions in each state. Explore how institutions in your state made use of the Connecting to Collections program.
Both the American Library Association (ALA) and the Society of American Archivists (SAA) provide resources for preservation professionals:
- ALA's Association for Library Collections and Technical Services division (ALCTS) includes the Preservation and Reformatting Section (PARS). PARS has a number of preservation committees and sponsors workshop and conference programs. PARS also sponsors two e-mail discussion groups: the Preservation Administrators Discussion List and DigiPres, a digital preservation listserv.
- SAA's active Preservation Section provides opportunities to get involved with the professional archives preservation community. SAA also maintains the Archives and Archivists Listserv.
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