Related product Collections Management

Communicating the Value of Preservation - Staff Training

Mary Burns, Special Collections Catalog Librarian, Northern Illinois University

Dollar Value of Preservation Training for Library Staff

Preservation training for staff at all levels of an organization can help reduce costs for libraries. Staff who are trained to be sensitive to preservation issues and to properly handle different types of library materials can help slow their deterioration. Prolonging the life of physical materials can save libraries replacement and repair costs. For example, it is important that staff and library users know how to take books off a shelf without damaging the spines and pick up a CD or DVD by the edges so they do not touch the laser reading side. Staff should be aware of the damaging effects of food and drink.  Proper handling is especially important for rare books and special collections that have artifactual value and cannot be replaced. The process of digitization means that fragile or unique library materials are handled more than in the past. It is difficult to balance the need for access with the need for preservation because displaying objects and handling them increases the risk of damage or deterioration. The benefits of training staff to handle materials in a thoughtful manner that preserves their shelf life should be a priority in the library. In addition to reducing replacement costs and repair costs it may help staff feel a sense of ownership of their library. Staff may then feel comfortable bringing up preservation issues when they see them in their daily work to library management.  

It is interesting to note that the 1966 flood that damaged vast quantities of library and archival material in Florence, Italy helped spur the development of conservation techniques and the need for disaster preparedness. Libraries now plan for small and large scale disasters and communicate these to staff through their disaster plans. Ideally staff members should be trained to know how to respond in the event of a disaster. Although it may not be a topic to pop into everyone's mind, care of the library's collection can include having it insured. Insurance rates can be affected by the library's level of disaster preparedness like the presence or absence of sprinkler systems.

Four Levels of Staff Training

Kastaly lays out a four-tiered preservation training plan for library staff based on their job responsibilities and the types of knowledge they need. The first level includes Library Deans and Directors and Associate Deans. Their responsibilities include being aware of the importance of preservation, preservation policies and cost savings associated with them, and the need for disaster planning.

The Department and Section heads, who make up the second level, need more in-depth knowledge to plan and make decisions about preservation. It is suggested they understand the factors that contribute to the deterioration of library materials and preventative measures to take to slow the process of deterioration. They need to know the ins and outs of making preservation copies of library materials as well as understanding the mechanics of a disaster plan.

The third level staff are those who do not have a management role but handle library collections on a daily basis. It is suggested they understand how to properly handle materials to slow their deterioration process and train users to do the same. They need to be able to identify materials that require repairs or need to have preservation copies made. Other responsibilities include monitoring environmental conditions, checking for mold or insects, making simple repairs and enclosures and being prepared to respond in the event of a library disaster.

The fourth level includes specific groups that need different and more specialized knowledge. This level includes staff with specialized knowledge and skills in conservation and preservation. It also includes the libraries housekeeping staff, newly hired library staff and users of library materials.  

Preservation Training and Resources for Staff

There are opportunities for preservation training for library staff in Illinois even though higher education is experiencing an era of tightened budgets. Institutions with minimal resources for preservation activities and training can use free or low cost resources that help library staff be more aware of preservation issues as they go about their daily work in libraries.  The CARLI Preservation Committee hosts workshops that are sometimes free and lists preservation resources on their website. The Library of Congress Preservation Directorate offers preservation information on their website and lists training options. The Northeast Documentation Conservation Center (NEDCC) website is a rich source of information about preservation.  The NEDCC offer a series of free preservation leaflets  in addition to preservation training services. Other sources of information and preservation training include:

Preservation Training and Resources for Staff complied by Bonnie Parr, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and Mary Burns.


Arthur, Jan. "Survey on Preservation Training Requirements." Research Libraries UK, British Library Preservation Advisory Centre (Oct 2009): 1-18.

Cady, Susan A.  "Insuring the Academic Library Collection." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 25 no. 3 (1999): 211-215.

Cuming, Jocelyn. "Promoting Preservation Awareness in New Zealand: the Role of the National Preservation Office, Te Tari Tohu Taonga." IFLA Conference Proceedings (2006): 1-7.

Drewes, Jeanne. "Preservation Partners: Engaging Staff in Preservation Efforts."  IFLA Conference Proceedings (2006): 1-6.

Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals. "Need for Preservation Training Even More Pressing in Digital Age." Library & Information Update  (Dec 2009): 13.  

Kastaly, Beatrix. "Changing Attitudes and New Demands In Preservation Training." Liber Quarterly 9 (1999):329-229.

Niziers, Guillaume. "Preservation and Conservation Training in the French National Library." IFLA Conference Proceedings (2006): 1-5.

Novotny, Deborah. "Ink Causes a Stink: Preservation Advocacy in the UK." IFLA Conference Proceedings (2006): 1-13.

Page, Julie A. and Mary Ellen Majors. "Catch the Preservation Wave: Preservation Orientation for Library Staff." Serials Librarian 40, no. 3-4 (June 2001): 211-215.

Page, Julie A. and George J. Soete. "Preservation Orientation for Library Staff." College & Research Libraries News 55, no. 6 (June 1994): 358-360.

Roosa, Mark. "Some Thoughts on the Race Against Time and Inherent Vice: Preservation Program Development in Late 20th Century America." IFLA Conference Proceedings (2002): 1-9.

Urschel, Donna. "Facing Monumental Challenges: Preservation Education Symposium Looks to the Future."  Library of Congress Information Bulletin 67, no. 7-8 (July-Aug 2008): 134.

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