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Monday, April 23, 2018

April 22 – 28 is Library Preservation Week

By Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian & College Archivist

     Did you know that libraries in the United States hold over 3 billion items? Library collections include books, obviously, but also manuscripts, sheet music, recorded music, art, historic objects, photographs film, textiles, natural science specimens - just about anything you can think of, really. Our books aren’t always of the usual kind, either. Sure, we have a lot of words printed on paper, bound between two covers. However, we also have clay tablets, scrolls, parchment, illuminated medieval tomes, artist books that look like an apple (until you take a ‘slice’), and the occasional e-reader. Libraries house information in all shapes, sizes, and incarnations.

     Keeping library items in usable shape isn’t always easy (or cheap). According to a 2005 study, over 1 billion library items are in need of treatment of some kind in order to be stable enough for use. Treatment can include common issues like fixing a binding or reattaching a ripped-out page. Other times, however, this means the library itself needs a major overhaul to have a new HVAC system installed to maintain temperature and humidity levels. Proper climate control is vital to libraries in order prolong the life of our collections. Exposure to high humidity levels can cause mold growth in books, microfilm, and photographs. However, if the humidity is too low, those same materials become brittle and are easy to rip, chip, and break. It’s a balancing act and, if successful, our patrons reap the benefits of being able to use the materials we house and our more delicate items survive to thrill researchers for years to come.
     The same holds true for our personal collections. We all have items of value - monetary and sentimental. After Hurricane Harvey devastated our community, I have become much more concerned about those items that are valuable to our families. What can we do to preserve our stuff for our children and grandchildren? Library Preservation Week is not just about libraries – it’s about preserving memories and family treasures, and doing our part to help the members of our community who might not know where or how to start the process at home.
     The Association for Library Collections & Technology Services, a division of the American Library Association, has a list of tools, resources, and preservation know-how available to the public on their Preservation Week website. Some of my favorite resources from other organizations are below. Are you ready to save your stuff?
Low cost ways to preserve Family archives, http://www.ala.org/alcts/confevents/upcoming/webinar/042914
Northeast Document Conservation Center Preservation Leaflets: https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/overview
Galveston Historical Foundation: DIY heirloom recovery http://www.galvestonhistory.org/blogs/flooded-wet-diy-heirloom-recovery