Baker, Nicholson. Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper. New York: Vintage Books, 2002. Print.
Cline, Nancy M. “Stewardship: The Janus Factor,” in Library of Congress, To Preserve and Protect: The Strategic Stewardship of Cultural Resources. Washington D.C.: Library of Congress, 2002. pp. 3-17. Print.
Cloonan, Michèle Valerie. “Conservation and Preservation of Library and Archival Materials,” in Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, Third Edition. 2010. 1:1, pp. 1250-1268. Online resource. Retrieved from
Cox, Richard J. “The Great Newspaper Caper: Backlash in the Digital Age.” 4 December 2000. First Monday 5 (12). Online resource. Retrieved online at http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/822/731
Cunha, George Martin and Dorothy Grant Cunha. Library and Archives Conservation: 1980s and Beyond. Metchuen, N.J.: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1983.
Department of the Interior, Bureau of Education. Public Libraries in the United States of America: Their History, Condition, and Management. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1876. Online resource. Retrieved from http://www.archive.org/details/pt1publiclibrarie00unituoft
Field, Jeffrey M. “Building a National Preservation Program: National Endowment for the Humanities Support for Preservation,” in Library of Congress, To Preserve and Protect: The Strategic Stewardship of Cultural Resources. Washington D.C.: Library of Congress, 2002. pp. 71-81. Print.
Gertz, Janet E. “Preservation Microfilming for Archives and Manuscripts,” in Advances in Preservation and Access, Volume 1. Barbra Buckner Higginbotham and Mary E. Jackson, eds. Westport, CT: Meckler, 1992. pp. 160-173. Print.
Gould, Sara and Marie-Therese Varlamoff. “The Preservation of Digitized Collections: Recent Progress and Persistent Challenges World-wide,” in A Reader in Preservation and Conservation, Ralph W. Manning and Virginie Kremp, eds. IFLA Publications 91. Munich, Germany: K.G. Saur, 2000, pp. 1-12. Print.
Gundersheimer, Werner. “Learning to Blush: Librarians and the Embarrassment of Experience,” in Library of Congress, To Preserve and Protect: The Strategic Stewardship of Cultural Resources. Washington D.C.: Library of Congress, 2002. pp. 18-29. Print.
Gwinn, Nancy E. “Politics and Practical Realities: Environmental Issues for the Library Administrator,” in Advances in Preservation and Access. Volume 1. Barbra Buckner Higginbotham and Mary E. Jackson, eds. pp. 135-146. Westport: Meckler, 1992. Print.
Higginbotham, Barbra Buckner. Our Past Preserved: A History of American Library Preservation 1876-1910. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co, 1990. Print.
________________________. “`To Preserve the Best and Noblest Thoughts of Man’: [sic] American Beginnings,” in Advances in Preservation and Access. Volume 1. Barbra Buckner Higginbotham and Mary E. Jackson, eds. pp. 2-17. Westport: Meckler, 1992. Print.
Nichols, Stephen G. and Abby Smith. The Evidence in Hand: Report of the Task Force on the Artifact in Library Collections. Washington, D.C.: Council on Library and Information Resources, 2001.
Tour of Northeast Document Conservation Center for students in Simmons Preservation Management Class, held November 16, 2010.
University of California, Southern Regional Library Facility. Microfilm – A Brief History. No date. Online resource. Retrieved from http://www.srlf.ucla.edu/exhibit/text/BriefHistory.htm
While collection-wide preservation practices improved throughout the 20th century, item-level conservation remained limited mainly to the occasional rebinding of an important work; but in general, deterioration of a book required either its disposal or replacement. There were exceptions – for example, Michele Cloonan points out that “In the Netherlands, Japanese papers were used for document repair as early as 1858.” (Cloonan 2010, p. 1251) Things began to change quickly in the late 1960s and early 1970s, however, when several librarians, most notably Frazer Poole, Assistant Director for Preservation at the Library of Congress, commented on the widespread brittleness of books in their collections, with Poole going so far as to predict that “almost all of the nonfiction published between 1900 and 1939 would be unusable by 1999.” (Cunha & Cunha 1983, p. 1) In 1965, the Library of Congress (LC) and Association of Research Libraries sponsored a National Preservation Planning Conference, which was “asked to develop a national program for the preservation of deteriorating books. LC agreed to do so and the program known as the Preservation Directorate celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2007.” (Cloonan 2010, pp. 1260-1261)
The late 1970s and early 1980s saw strong efforts to stem the tide of paper deterioration, by development of methods of mass deacidification. “The purpose of deacidification is to neutralize and buffer slightly acidic paper. The buffering agent leaves an alkaline reserve in the paper that helps protect if from further acidification.” (Cloonan 2010, p. 1261) It was seen as the only method by which “the library profession can ever hope to keep usable in codex form the tens and even hundreds of thousand of books in single establishments and the hundreds of millions of books in libraries throughout the country that will otherwise crumble to dust.” (Cunha & Cunha 1983, p. 48) Many of the methods developed at that time showed promise, but “proved to have serious problems … Thus most libraries shied away from mass deacidification.” (Cloonan 2010, p. 1261) By 2000, however, “the nation’s research institutions finally [had] a dependable way to arrest the acid deterioration of paper-base materials.” (Field 2000, p. 78)
Also in the 1970s, library schools slowly began to offer courses in preservation outside of bindings. A preservation course taught by Paul Banks at Columbia University developed into a four-week institute and later a preservation and conservation program which started in 1981. “The program remained there until Columbia closed its School of Library Service in 1992; it then relocated to the University of Texas at Austin.” (Cloonan 2010 p. 1262) This remains the only preservation program in the country focused on book preservation. It is still a career path which relies heavily on apprentice-type learning. Other learning opportunities exist – for example, the Northeast Document Conservation Center provides regular training sessions. There is no certification system for conservators, however. Anyone could set up shop and declare themselves a conservator; it is up to librarians and collectors to research the backgrounds of those who claim to perform conservation work.
This is by necessity a brief overview of preservation, conservation, and restoration. No full history of the topic has been written, but for anyone further interested, review Michèle Cloonan’s article in the 2010 edition of the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences and Barbara Higginbotham’s 1990 book which looks just at a narrow time range (see bibliography).
The last several years have seen a move away from microfilming towards digitization. For example, the Northeast Document Conservation Center no longer provides a microfilming service. (Tour of NEDCC, November 2010). Digitization presents its own problems as formats and machinery change quickly. “The threat of obsolescence to digital information is twofold, since there is a risk of obsolescence to both the hardware and the software. What increases the threat is the speed in which technology is changing.” (Gould & Varlamoff 2000, p. 2.) A high level of maintenance is required. The balance between preservation through format migration and conservation of the artifact is a delicate one and one of which librarians need to weigh the positives and negatives on nearly a case-by-case basis.
Outside of preservation by reproduction, most preservation activities arouse little criticism. Increased levels of security, environmental controls, and management of pests are generally seen as a good thing. At the turn of the 20th century, “books and periodicals described all manner of beetles, moths and their larvae, book lice, cockroaches, silverfish, and termites, which might attack book covers, gnaw paper for use in building their webs, devour glue and pasteboard, and attack the starch present in paper and cloth.” (Higginbotham 1990, p 21). All manner of chemicals were used to attack the problem, among other methods. “Suggestions for ridding books of insects included scraping and brushing the volumes and applying heat, either by baking them in an oven … or placing them in watertight boxes immersed in hot water… . In the end, vigilant custodianship was American librarians’ only real tool against the ills of dust, dirty air, temperature, moisture, and insects.” (Higginbotham 1990, p. 26)
It took time to come to this realization, however. Dangerous chemicals were seen as the solution to many issues for some time.
The use of chemicals, such as ethylene oxide, to fight insect infestation and mold or fungus growth has been eliminated largely because of concerns with toxicity. In its place is Integrated Pest Management, a renewed effort to practice good housekeeping methods and the use of insect or rodent traps or other non-toxic deterrents. Similarly, some time ago librarians hailed the development of Halon, a gaseous fire suppression chemical that, even though costly, would eliminate the need to use water. Now it appears that Halon 1301 is a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), which destroys the earth’s protective ozone layer, and it is being phased out. (Gwinn 1992, p 142-143)
Much of the work of modern-day preservation then, is a return to the old system of careful custodial measures – keep the books and the stacks clean and free of items that attract pests. However, it also includes keeping all possibilities in mind and preemptively planning for them.