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Subject: Trend toward closing university library conservation labs

Trend toward closing university library conservation labs

From: Lisa Fox <<-at->
Date: Monday, July 23, 2012
Maureen K. Sharp <msharp [at] purdue__edu> writes

>I have been told my supervisor that there may be a trend starting
>toward closing university library conservation labs as the materials
>requiring physical treatment dwindle in the age of e-books, digital
>preservation, etc. ...

Your question was directed toward universities, especially those
with labs treating circulating collections, and I don't fit into
either of those categories. I manage a conservation lab for a state
archives.  We deal exclusively with primary documents.

I can tell you that the demand and perceived value of our lab's
services has increased greatly as our agency's drive for
digitization has grown. Many items in our collection desperately
need conservation treatment before they can be digitized and put
online.  Some of those needs are mundane, such as documents that
need to be humidified and flattened so the Imaging Lab can get a
good image.  Some need separation of pages, such as those that have
been attached by glue or starch wafers that cover text.  Some have
hideous tape stains or tears, and the agency wants them treated
before putting the images online. Some are original records that
have been bound with impossibly tight gutters, and they need us to
disbind them by hand.

Some of those problems are cosmetic; the agency wants the documents
to look better before digitizing them. That's mostly the case for
high-profile documents from our collection.

But most of them are not just cosmetic, but structural.  Many
documents have glued attachments; or tip-ins that have obscured
text; or wrinkles that have obscured text; or the binding makes
gutters impossible to capture and the only way to get a good, clean
image is to route the item through the conservation lab.

Unfortunately, there's another category, too: Some series of
documents are deemed safe enough to run through our rotary scanners.
When some of them are shredded in those scanners, staff bring them
to the conservation lab for repair.

In the early orgiastic race toward digitization, I feared it might
spell the death-knell of our conservation lab.  In fact, the
opposite has been the case.  The agency has seen that the
conservation lab can fix problems for the camera/scanner.  To my
pleasure and surprise, one of the high priorities here now is to add
another conservator to our lab--not another digital technician or
camera. We have managed to make our work indispensable to the goal
of providing clear images available on the website.

That's my $0.02

Lisa Fox
Preservation Administrator
Missouri State Archives/Local Records Preservation Program
600 West Main Street
Jefferson City MO 65101

                  Conservation DistList Instance 26:10
                   Distributed: Sunday, July 29, 2012
                       Message Id: cdl-26-10-001
Received on Monday, 23 July, 2012

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