Related product Collections Management

Communicating the Value of Preservation - The Preservation Elevator Speech

Jamie Nelson, DePaul University

Previous installments in this Communicating the Value of Preservation series have been connecting the dots between conditions, planning, policies, rules, and training, and the impact those have on individual items and library collections.  The thread running through the series is that these activities--from tinkering with HVACs and lighting and monitoring environmental conditions, to developing disaster recovery plans, to thoughtful handling of materials, to labor intensive digital preservation, to seemingly onerous handling instructions for users-- all contribute to successful outcomes demonstrating responsible stewardship of resources, and making library materials (investments) accessible to users now and in the future.  There is value in this work.

How this value (either in principle or in monetary worth) is communicated to administrators may vary, with one or several methods employed or blended, based on the disposition of the administrator and the setting.  I’m fond of math, and have found numbers to be persuasive. This may be in the form of statistics and measurements that break down outcomes achieved for money spent.  I’ve also written equations to demonstrate value, such as the percentage of a staff person’s time at a certain rate of pay spent on an activity, compared to an alternative (e.g. vendor solution price) or the consequence (such as replacement costs).  These analyses may work best in year-end reports, requests to maintain or increase staffing levels or materials budgets, or other structured situations.  This math can be time-consuming, but there is value in having concrete examples of value ready when you need them.

If your setting is more informal, such as that elevator ride of career-advice lore, that one make-or-break moment, how can you distill the value of preservation into something articulate, relatable, and done in under one minute?  Luckily, our colleagues at the Society of American Archivists created an infographic to walk you through the process of writing an elevator speech.  The basics could be categorized as who, what, how, and why.  Swapping archivists/archives to be preservation specific, one adaptation with possible examples could be:

[Insert type of preservation staff] are trained to:

- care for and repair library resources [specific resources if you like]

that are:

- fragile or expensive or in high-demand or are rare or becoming obsolete, etc.
- the legacy and heritage of the institution.
- the product of x years of university investment in the library.

[Preservation staff] are specially trained to:

- create ideal environmental conditions.
- stabilize or reinforce bindings to keep books in circulation longer.
- make sure digital and audiovisual content can be accessed and viewed now and in the future despite how it was first created.

So that:

- the library’s investments are well cared for.
- students, faculty, and researchers can access what they need.
- unique, rare, valuable original historical documents are available well into the future.


- [insert a super neat fact or statistic specific to your work]!
- [insert why it is YOU do what you do – what motivates you]

Examples and directions for elevator speeches are plentiful, from the generic business type (with directions to use index cards to prioritize and organize information) to library-specific (with the advice to answer the questions, “What do you do and why should I care?” in your speech).  The infographic created by the Association for Library Service to Children stresses value and outcome over function and processes.

The best way to have a compelling elevator speech that flows when the moment arises is to invest the time in crafting your speech, and variations of it, before you actually need it.  Make it easy for administrators to see that you value their time and attention by being brief and to the point.  We all have a role to play in preservation; know your audience and connect those dots.


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