Information is recorded in a variety of formats, including books and journals, film, magnetic media, and optical disk. Print collections line the shelves of academic and research libraries, threatened by premature deterioration from being published on poor quality paper, careless handling, or inappropriate storage conditions. Electronic resources are also at risk, especially from software and hardware obsolescence and a lack of much needed standards to help ensure files are maintained for the long term.
Student and staff make phase boxes and other enclosures, perform simple repairs, and assist with reformatting projects. The University community is encouraged to contact the Preservation Department with questions about collections care.
With special state funding the University at Albany Libraries established its own professionally staffed Preservation Department in 1987. The Department is charged with coordinating efforts to prolong the useful life of the University Libraries' collections and the information they contain through in-house programs, vendor services and special cooperative projects with the ten other major research libraries in the state. Preservation Librarian Karen E.K. Brown is a professional paper conservator/librarian who joined the Library faculty in the summer of 2001.
It is the responsibility of our research libraries to acquire information, organize it, make it available, and preserve it, regardless of format. The University at Albany Libraries have a well established preservation program that is effectively dealing with resources in traditional formats and is currently working with others in the University community and beyond to provide, organize, and preserve scholarly electronic materials with the same long-term commitment.
As books begin to deteriorate physically, they are inspected by the staff of the Preservation Department. Those having only minor structural damages may be rebound by a commercial bindery or repaired in-house. However, more sophisticated preservation treatment differs depending on whether an individiual item is valuable primarily for the information it contains or has significance as an art object or historical artifact.
Those with intrinsic value are likely to be transferred to the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives to insure proper storage and handling.
If the paper on which a book is printed has deteriorated to the point where its pages are too brittle to use without loss of information, or if a book is irreparable due to mold or vandalism, a decision is made by a library subject specialist about its value. Books which no longer have value for teaching or research are withdrawn from the collection. Those still useful for research and study, but which have no historic or artistic value, may be replaced, or reformatted as a microfilm or preservation photocopy. Photocopied material that is no longer protected by U.S. Copyright law is now scanned and made available as .pdf files through the Libraries' online catalog. Some volumes may be simply enclosed in a custom-made phase box or portfolio and returned to the shelf.
Futher information can be found on our Staff FAQs page.
The longevity of books, even those printed on acidic paper, can be extended considerably by reducing the amount of physical stress to which they are subjected. Some ways of doing this include providing adequate shelving; using bookends where necessary for support; maintaining stable temperature and humidity levels; and keeping the library clean. Every library user can help prolong the useful life of the University Libraries' books by observing a few simple measures:
Click here for care and handling guidelines for digital capture.
If you have questions about preventing damage to our collections, or should damage occur when you have materials checked out, our Patron FAQs can help.
The Preservation Laboratory is located on the third floor of the Science Library, SL310. The staff is happy to assist if you have questions or problems regarding care of the collections.
The Preservation Department offers workshops and other programs on a broad range of subjects for the Univerisity and the wider Albany area community. We will also organize staff training opportunities as problems or challenges arise.
In May 2013 Emily Holmes from Columbia University gave in introductory seminar on the "Fundamentals of Digital Preservation", attracting almost 60 archivists, curators, librarians, and students to the University at Albany campus to explore the issues and challenges. A pdf copy of her slides will be made available until June 1.
One of our most recent programs focused on first response to water emergencies in the Libraries, "The Preservation Poseidon Adventure". We invite you to contact the Preservation Department if you have ideas or recommendations for future workshops.
These selected resources are recommended to assist research of preservation-related topics.
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Last Updated May 1, 2013 KEB