Monday, April 7, 2014

Keep your hands off my books: Preservation and Access: Digital and Analog

I attended the Converge and Ingest colloquium this weekend put on by the Wayne State Unviersity NDSA student chapter. (The event was quite enjoyable and warranted more attention than it got.)

My attention was particularly grabbed by a presentation by Wayne State digital publishing librarian, Cole Hudson. (He was supposed to have presented with his colleague Graham Hukill who unfortunately could not attend due to a family emergency.)

Part of Cole's presentation looked at the relationship between preservation and access. The glib gist of what he said was that with digital materials we need to rethink the relationship between preservation and access. He then when on to tell of their involved work constructing an access system for WSU's digital collections. Their work was entirely access focused. Near the end of their work they thought they should probably think about preservation too. They looked at the NDSA Levels of Preservation (which may just be replacing OAIS as the obligatory digital preservation presentation reference) and realized that much of their access focused work achieved many of these preservation tasks.

In the Q&A I did the annoying thing of making a comment. I began my comment hoping that a question would form but by the time I got to the end of my talking there was no question. My comment, and the purpose for why I am writing this, was a thought that I've been toying with for a while is that

With digital material, access improves the likelihood of preservation,
but
with analog material, access decreases the likelihood of preservation.


Instead of "likelihood of preservation" I might use "length of life."

My thinking is that accessing a digital object increases its likelihood of preservation, or a long life, because often access can involve creating a copy - like when I save an article on my computer thus duplicating and distributing the object. Also, a digital object that is regularly used is likely to undergo processes to ensure its future use. For e.g. you will likely migrate a text document that you regularly consult from an old file format to a new one, whereas old files that you seldom use will not likely be migrated.

With analog materials, all use causes damage, or at least increases the likelihood of damage. The obvious example to me is my work library's city directory collection. Man of these books are much newer and better made than much of the rest of our collection, but because of extremely high use, these directories are in very poor shape.

I know my little preservation and access forumla for digital and analog materials isn't a universal truth, but it seems pretty true. I'd be curious to hear if there are people who think that it isn't very true. I'm certainly open to that argument.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Michigan Scene

(I had written most of this post when I noticed a post pop up today on The Signal by Kim Schroeder also about some of the organizing in Michigan. This wasn’t coordinated but I think just reinforces that Michigan is THE happenin’ place.)writtne ne

It’s a great time for the preservation-minded to be in Michigan (well, at least in the lower peninsula of Michigan – sorry Yoopers.) Opportunities to learn from others, share your own knowledge and questions, and just get to know other preservation practitioners are popping up all over the place. There has been a recent move towards smallish gatherings of preservation practitioners.

A couple weeks ago the Michigan Collection Network (a very loose network of library and archives folks interested in preservation) hosted their 2nd Conservation and Collections CareCamp where nearly 20 conservators and others with collection care responsibilities and interests gathered at Western Michigan University to share different projects, or techniques, or challenges they had worked on.

Last week was the 2nd gathering of theMid-Michigan Digital Practitioners at Grand Valley State University. This gathering is headed by Ed Busch of Michigan State University Archives and brings together digital collections/preservation practitioners into a fairly informal setting to share tips, tools, projects, questions.  About 30 were in attendance.

This group was inspired/influenced by the Regional DigitalPreservation Practitioners where the Region is southeast Michigan (Detroit/Ann Arbor). They meet about quarterly.

And finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the National Digital Stewardship Alliance’s Student Chapter at Wayne State University’s School of Library and Information Science and their upcoming 2nd Converge and Ingest  digital preservation colloquium. These events encourage presentations and posters by both working professionals and students. The program for April’s gathering looks quite engaging.

While I’ve not participated in the RDPP gatherings I can boldly state that these gatherings have been a huge success. I think there are a few reasons for their success. 1) They are cheap. Cost to participate is the cost of travel and time. For the MidMichDP and Conservation Camps the host institutions have covered lunches. No major travel expenses or conference fees. 2) They are practitioner based. These gatherings are really about “This is what I did and this is how I did it.” The events are filled with concrete examples of ongoing activities. These gatherings really diminish the whole expert/audience separation. 3) They are human-scaled. These gatherings are reasonably local and reasonably small so participants don’t just witness examples of preservation activities but participants get to know the people and the projects happening at the institutions just a few miles from yours. They are building very real human networks which benefit from being physically together in one place.

So, folks who are unlucky enough to not live in Michigan – let this be a call and a challenge to you to build your own local networks of preservation practitioners. In Michigan it is proving to be a great opportunity for professional growth, and a good bit of fun.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Conservator job in Michigan

I don't usually post job ads on this blog, but this one serves some personal self-interest. Just down the street from where I work, the Michigan State University Libraries is looking for a special collections conservator. We've got an active and growing conservation community in this state and I would love to have a cool new conservator neighbor.

https://jobs.msu.edu, posting number 9201

Position Summary:
Reporting to the Head of Conservation and Preservation and working closely with staff in the Wallace Conservation Lab, Special Collections, and other library units, as well as with partners at other institutions, the Special Collections Conservator is responsible for the conservation treatment of rare and unique library materials in the Michigan State University Libraries. Duties will include:
  • Complex conservation treatments on rare books, maps and special collections materials from throughout the library including, but not limited to: re-sewing; leather and vellum rebinding and binding conservation; gold and blind tooling; conservation of paper and vellum, including aqueous and chemical treatment; and the creation of custom protective enclosures for a variety of rare and archival materials.
  • Assisting the Head of Conservation and Preservation in managing and planning the conservation program, including: establishing conservation priorities within the various special collections libraries; managing and planning treatment methods and procedures for a wide range of library materials; training conservation technicians, volunteers and student workers; condition assessments and the management of preventative care.
  • Preparation of rare and special collections materials for exhibition.
  • Consulting with other library staff on conservation and preservation issues and providing training for library staff in minor repairs for their collections.
  • Assist with disaster preparedness and recovery and serve as a member of the Disaster Recovery Committee.

Minimum Qualifications:
Master’s degree in information or library science from a program accredited by the American Library Association. Knowledge of current conservation principles, practices, and procedures as evidenced by a graduate degree in conservation, or the completion of a conservation apprenticeship with an established conservator, or a verifiable certification of advanced training and education. Excellent oral and written communication skills; outstanding interpersonal communication skills including the ability to be flexible in a dynamic and changing environment; exceptional commitment to customer service; ability to work enthusiastically and effectively with diverse faculty, students, and staff; ability to work collaboratively and independently; ability to prioritize and balance various unit needs; attention to detail; preparation and commitment to conducting independent scholarly and creative activities consistent with a library faculty appointment; capacity and commitment to engage independently in continuing professional development.
A portfolio of work will be required at the interview.

Desired Qualifications:
Experience in a conservation program for rare materials and special collections; experience in treatment decision-making; advanced knowledge of hand bookbinding techniques and principles; working knowledge of chemistry as it applies to conservation treatments.