Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Preservation Activities at Pitt-Johnstown

At the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown’s Owen Library, we have largely concentrated our preservation activities on prevention, in order to eliminate damage before it happens or catch it early when still minor and easily repairable in-house. Such activities, which include educating both staff and library users on the best practices for handling & caring for library materials and improving our stacks maintenance efforts, are relatively inexpensive and provide a lot of bang for the buck.

A training session on the proper care and handling of books was held for full-time staff. Elements of this session have been incorporated into the training program for the Library’s new student assistants. Making staff more aware of preservation issues and the integral role they play in preservation is a very important aspect of preservation management. After all, staff handle library materials more than the users do.

A post-circulation examination has been added to the discharge procedure for borrowed items at the Circulation Desk; damaged items are pulled for repair and borrowers are assessed charges for any damage beyond normal wear and tear. Student shelvers are instructed to take extra care when shelving and shifting library materials. The use of book supports is emphasized and overcrowded shelves are discouraged. Books that don’t qualify as “oversize” (i.e., taller than 29 cm), but are too tall to stand upright on the shelves, are shelved on their spines. This better supports the text block, preventing it from pulling away from its boards at the hinges. Shelves and books are dusted at least once a year -- definitely during the summer.

To encourage library users to be more careful with library materials, a user awareness bookmark – Are You a Book Batterer? – was created based on Jocelyn Foster’s quiz of the same name. It is available at the Library’s service desks and has been distributed in freshmen-level library instruction sessions. A display on library preservation that featured common book damage caused by users (e.g., highlighted text, handwritten marginal notes, dog-eared pages, food/beverage stains, and torn spines) was exhibited in the Library.

Additional preventative preservation efforts include: primarily purchasing hardbound books rather than paperbacks, which generally do not hold up as well; covering books with polyester jackets; placing due date slips on the back flyleaf rather than the boards whenever possible; protecting collections from the sun’s harmful rays by closing window blinds; and providing users with plastic bags at check-out, especially during inclement weather.

Cultivating an environment in which library materials are valued and cared for is a great way to stretch a library’s preservation budget.

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