Even in the smallest institutions, a preservation program needs administrative coordination in order to be effective. In the absence of an overall plan, individual preservation projects may neglect certain needs, or duplicate efforts by different departments.
The process of development and ongoing review of a preservation plan helps ensure that preservation is considered an integral part of institutional activities, rather than in competition with other activities (such as collection development) for time and resources.
"Planning provides a rational process to analyze needs systematically to minimize the problems and maximize the opportunities."
—Jutta Reed-Scott, "Planning for Preservation in Libraries," in Preservation: Issues and Planning
In her article, Jutta Reed-Scott sets forth the basic components of the preservation planning process:
- identify and assess preservation needs (through some type of survey)
- set priorities among preservation needs according to the institution's mission
- evaluate existing preservation activities
- decide what preservation functions are needed within the institution and how they will be organized
- allocate resources for preservation
- write a plan and determine how the plan will be implemented
Identifying and assessing needs is an information-gathering process: what collections does the institution hold and what is their condition? How are collections housed? What are the environmental conditions within the building(s)? Is there a disaster plan? Are collections protected from fire and theft? Are repair, binding, and/or conservation treatment undertaken regularly? How much funding and staff time is allocated for preservation?
Once you have discerned your preservation needs, you must consider potential solutions to the problems you have identified. What methods are most appropriate for your particular institution and situation? What existing activities already have a preservation component, and how should existing preservation activities change to meet the needs you have identified?
As part of this process, you will need to assess your institutional mission and goals (discussed in Session 1: Introduction to Preservation) and the personnel and monetary resources currently available, as well as potential future resources. See Program Management and Program Funding for further discussion of these issues.
Once all the relevant issues have been considered, you should set preservation priorities and pull together a preservation strategy that includes an action plan and timetable (see Preparing a Preservation Plan). A systematic preservation plan will allow you to respond effectively to preservation needs and take advantage of preservation opportunities that might otherwise have been missed.
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.
Copyright© 2015 Northeast Document Conservation Center