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Session 9: Building a Preservation Program


preservation planning

2 Preservation Strategies

Developing a Preservation Strategy

You explored the basic components of a systematic preservation program in Session 1: Introduction to Preservation. While the basic elements of a preservation program are fairly straightforward, the emphasis placed on each of these elements will vary according to the institution and situation. The relative importance of each component for your institution will depend on the type, value, and condition of your collections; the importance of specific collections to your institution's mission; the type of access you need to provide (open stacks, closed stacks, offsite storage); and the amount of use the collections receive.

You will need to develop an appropriate preservation strategy for your institution. In general, preservation program elements that benefit all collections (such as environmental control, disaster planning, and proper storage and handling) should be thought of as the basic "umbrella" components of a program. Other strategies, such as reformatting or conservation treatment methods, may be additional considerations.

Strategies for Different Types of Institutions

Preservation needs and responses are specific to a particular institution and each collection within that institution. Some repositories may see their primary responsibility as preserving unique and/or comprehensive collections over the long term, while others may place more emphasis on serving academic teaching and research needs, or services to the general public.

In collecting archival records and artifacts, cultural heritage organizations assume an obligation to preserve those collections over the long term. These institutions will place a strong emphasis on strategies to stabilize the collections as a whole (e.g., holdings maintenance/collections care, environmental control, security, emergency preparedness), with a secondary focus on preservation reformatting (usually digitization) and/or conservation treatment for the specific collections that require it.

The primary mission of small- to mid-sized public or academic libraries, on the other hand, is to provide access to collections for as long as the materials are needed. These libraries tend to have a high level of use and collect basically rather than comprehensively. In these libraries, reference collections and materials related to current courses receive the most use. These institutions will need to focus on umbrella issues such as storage and handling, environment, security, and disaster planning—but in addition they will undertake library binding, basic book repair, withdrawal of brittle titles that are no longer needed, and replacement of brittle titles with reprints or digital versions. Preservation reformatting and conservation treatment will generally not be a priority, unless the institution also holds historical or other unique collections.

Like smaller academic and public libraries, large research libraries strive to provide users access to collections for as long as the materials are needed. In addition, they assume responsibility for building and maintaining research collections that are meant to survive over the long term. For these institutions, an even wider range of preservation options will be needed, including umbrella strategies such as environmental control, storage/handling, and disaster planning, as well as preservation reformatting, replacement, library binding, book repair, and conservation treatment.


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