Preservation: LIS 556, Spring 2006, Tuesdays 3:10-5:50

This class is scheduled to meet in SCILS Building room 203. [The assignment to Hardenbergh Hall has been changed.]


Welcome! This class is about preservation, but at a high level: planning, organizing, and understanding the issues. Although the general class topics are sketched out I'm deliberately not assigning them to days until the dates of the visits to actual laboratories are settled. We may also, in addition to the off-site visits, have a few class meetings entirely online. [The reason is that if we could get this course into the online format then the teacher could come from anywhere and we wouldn't have so much trouble finding an instructor.] This is not a class in book repair: there are specialist programs in becoming a conservator.

Libraries are about both preservation and access. We collect and preserve for the next generation; we provide access for the current users. Unfortunately these goals are sometimes in conflict: the more some things are used, the more likely they are to be damaged. And preservation of an object divides roughly into conservation and copying; that is, we can either try to repair a physical object or we can try to find a substitute. Repair is expensive; but buying a copy of an old book means, typically, that you buy one fewer new book. To the extent you can, you want to take preventive measures, so that fewer books will fall apart.

So the themes of this course are:

  1. How should you manage your holdings to minimize loss?
  2. How should you mitigate loss when it happens?
I do not expect to have a final exam. (Just as well, since the last class meeting is in the official exam week). Each student will choose some library and take on the problem of designing a plan for preservation and discussing what their plan would cost. We'll be looking for different pieces during the semester: inventory, assessment, plan, budget, funding possibilities. There will also be weekly assignments to discuss some of the topics below.

There is no textbook, since I am a great believer that everything is on the web. A particularly informative website is the site of the Northeast Document Conservation Center. But you should know that ALA publishes a book by Paul Banks and Roberta Pilette, Preservation: Issues and Planning, which is pretty much the most commonly used text in the field.


  1. Overview and history
  2. Paper; deacidification
  3. Storage, environmental controls
  4. Mold, insects and vermin
  5. Microfilming
  6. Digital scanning (i.e. digital to preserve analog)
  7. Care of photographs, sound recording, cinema and video recordings.
  8. Digital preservation (how to keep digital around)
  9. Saving the Web
  10. Ephemera and other special materials
  11. Duplicating a book
  12. Exhibition techniques
  13. Physical security
  14. Disaster planning
  15. Selection
  16. Retention schedules
  17. Funding sources
  18. Summary
  19. Visit to Monmouth College preservation lab
  20. Visit to Princeton preservation lab
  21. Visit to Rutgers preservation lab
  22. Visit to Ocker & Trapp bindery

Some topics, such as retention schedules, are likely to be relegated to exercises or stuffed into multiple-topic lectures.


The activities above will happen on the following days:
Date (2006)LectureAssignment
1January 24Introduction
2January 31PaperChoosing acquisitions
3February 7Environmental issues; Mold, insects and verminBuilding issues
4February 14Visit to Ocker & Trapp bindery, 1 p.m.No assignment due
5February 21Visit to Princeton preservation lab, Firestone library, 3:20pmReading
6February 28Microfilm and watch the film Slow Fires; perhaps EphemeraNon-book materials
7March 7Scanning and digital copying Your collections
not March 14(spring break)
8March 21Visit Monmouth County Archives, 3:30pm
9March 28Theft. Early start 2pm (Judith Gelernter). Probably in 201.Copying a book
10April 4Fund-raising techniques (Karen Novick)Grant reviewing
11April 11EconomicsNext step on your project
12April 18CopyrightDisaster plans
13April 25Visit Alexander library preservation lab. Meet Pane room, 3:30pm
14May 2Photographs, Museums*, and Saving the Web
15May 9Student presentations?Final project
* For more detail on museums, see this talk by Jennifer Mass (from Winterthur).


Grading statement: Grades will be based approximately 1/3 on weekly assignments and 2/3 on the final project proposal. Grading will be based mostly on the content of the work, including coverage, correctness, detail, and organization, but also on the quality of the writing and on timeliness. [Sorry about this legal nonsense but apparently everything now has to be stated explicitly.]