When I first arrived at the library the repair unit was considered the place where “things went to and never came back.” That, of course, wasn’t true then and it certainly isn’t true now. Here are a few lovely repaired items going back to the general collections thanks to Mary and Tedd.
Kevin Driedger, author of Library Preservation 2, had a brilliant idea to ask institutions with preservation and conservation responsibilities to post at least one picture a day this week on the theme, “This is what preservation looks like.” Everyone tagged their posts with #5DaysOfPreservation. Search the hashtag on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and you will see hundreds of images from across the country. He’s also collected the entries on a Tumbler.
For our contributions we divided the post responsibilities between Conservation, Preservation and the Digital Production Center. On Monday, we visited Conservation as they made custom enclosures for some very old pin cushions.
On Tuesday we visited Winston Atkins, Preservation Officer, as he was working on reconciling the just-ended fiscal year budget. As he reminded us, “What we do is administration, after all.” That is one of the hidden secrets of library preservation, we do a lot of paperwork, research, writing, program administration and attend a lot of meetings to gather information to help form our vision for the preservation program’s future.
On Wednesday, we went over to the Digital Production Center to see Zeke digitizing the Duke Chronicle, our campus student newspaper. This digital collection has proved to be one of our most successful projects, and more issues will be available soon.
Thursday we were back in the conservation lab with our student, Wolfgang, who was putting CoLibri (TM) covers on books from our New & Noteworthy collection. These covers protect the publisher’s dust jacket, are non-adhesive and take just a couple minutes to complete.
On Thursday we got two more posts from the Digital Production Center. Mike was working on preparing digital files for transfer into the Duke Digital Repository.
And Alex was working on reformatting videotape to preservation standards.
Friday was a flurry of activity. We found Beth and Rachel changing out the board shear blades in the conservation lab.
And finally we visit the not-so-attractive but vitally necessary job of insect monitoring.
Overall I think Kevin’s idea was a huge hit, and we should all do this again. So often preservation and conservation are hidden in basements or offsite, and I sometimes thing that even our own colleague may not know what we do every day. #5DaysOfPreservation demonstrates the wide variety of services we provide for our institutions and how we contribute to the accessibility of our collections. Let’s go see what Parks Library Preservation’s contributions were this week. What did you do post? Put your links in the comments.
This month on the 1091 Project we discuss an essential part of almost every conservation department, student technicians. Without our students we could not keep up with the sheer amount of materials that come to the lab. This week is spring break, so I can’t show you pictures of our wonderful students, KellyNoel, Kaiti and Jessica (on loan from ERSM for a project), but I can tell you about the work they do and what we look for in a good student assistant.
Our students start out learning how to bind pamphlets, make simple enclosures, create CoLibri book jackets, make pockets and do simple repairs such as tip ins, cut pages, and binding musical scores. They also help with the tracking and physical moving of materials.
If the students have the abilities and interest they can learn more complicated repairs and enclosures. These might include recasing or rebacking books, or making four-flap or corrugated clamshell boxes for fragile materials. We have had a couple students who stayed for several semesters and because they had the skills and interest, they were able to learn multiple conservation rebinding techniques and cloth-covered clamshell boxes.
We currently have students helping specifically with renovation projects. These students are primarily getting the newspapers ready to go to the Library Service Center. This involves jogging brittle paper into place, fitting the bindings into pre-made boxes, and making spacers in the boxes so the brittle papers don’t shift around during transit. This is a very labor intensive, dirty and repetitive project but all of our students are working hard to meet our fast approaching deadline.
What We Look When Hiring Student Technicians
Most of our students are undergraduates, but every now and then we hire a graduate student. We of course like it if they have state or federal work study, but that isn’t a requirement. We prefer to get the right student with the right skills regardless of their funding. Occasionally we will get a UNC-SILS student who wants to intern with the department and we will work with them to develop a project that fulfills their school requirements but also helps us move our department forward.
There are basic job requirements that are listed in all of our positions including being able to use sharp instruments and large binding equipment safely, lifting heavy boxes and moving full book trucks, and being able to work in a potentially dusty or moldy environment.
Beyond that, what I look for when I interview students is the ability to learn quickly and be productive, to work independently but to know when to ask questions, and to have a good attitude and work well with a diverse staff. It is rare that we find students who have bookbinding experience, so I look for interests or past work history that involve eye-hand coordination and attention to detail. It might surprise you that gamers have very good eye-hand coordination, students with musical backgrounds are excellent at following instructions, and research science students are amazingly skilled at detail-oriented work. If you are a student, you don’t need to be a crafty person or an art major to work here. We can teach you the skills you need to be successful if you have the ability to learn the craft.
Let’s head over to Parks Library Preservation to read about their students.
I’m often asked how you become a conservator and what we need to know to do our jobs. Here’s a short list of the skills all good library conservators have:
- Knowledge of the history of the book and printing
- An understanding of organic chemistry, especially as it applies to paper, leather, parchment and pigment manufacturing and deterioration mechanisms
- Knowledge of historic and modern materials (paper, thread, cloth, inks, pigments, skin, etc.)
- Skills in mending and housing a variety of archival formats (books, paper, audio-visual, felt dolls, early codices, etc.)
- Understanding of libraries (mission, language, organization, etc.)
- Critical thinking, decision-making, communication, and research skills, not to mention computer and photographic skills.
But there is one skill that every conservator needs that we use almost every day…
These are particularly useful for when you drop your scalpel on the floor.