Thursday, May 26, 2011


The words under my name on my forthcoming business cards will read "Librarian/Conservator". I don't know that my employer has ever supplied me with an official title, so when it was time to order business cards those were the words I chose for myself.

These words and their order reflect how I perceive myself in my work. I am a librarian and I am a conservator, but librarian comes before conservator. Or, I'm a librarian who conserves and not a conservator who works in a library. My work is first and foremost about the library - it is about helping the library fulfill its mission. This may explain why, though my hands (and my job description) are all about object conservation, my head is more and more about the broader issues of preservation. By its very nature preservation seems more institutionally focused than is conservation.

I'm sure this self-perception is in part due to the fact that I've worked in libraries longer than I've done conservation,. I've also worked (and continue to work) in a variety of areas within the library giving me an understanding/appreciation for the library as an institution with diverse functions and a broad mission.

I suspect that my library-first approach is also due to the fact that the objects I work on generally do not have the same degree of distinct value that museum/art objects do. The library object derives more of its value because it is part of a collection held within an institution. (The whole of the library is greater than the sum of its parts.)

While I am obviously interested in the issues and techniques of book conservation, I approach these issues and techniques through the lens of the library. I am not a member of AIC or ALA, but if I were to invest in membership and meeting attendance my first choice would be ALA. (My main motivation for attending either organization's meetings would be to meet people - an "in-the-flesh" Facebook experience.)

I'm not suggesting that my work "orientation" is the preferred orientation for everyone who does conservation in a library setting. Others in this field are stronger on conservation and they add a lot to the profession that I can't.

I do think it is important to understand and appreciate the larger institutional context of the items we work on, and the stuff I work on is in a library, and I am a librarian.


  1. Hello!
    I would like to ask advice from you. I have recently become chief librarian of medical college library in Pakistan. All the time here has been quite light minded attitude towards conservation and preservation of books. And result of that is that books have been kept in totally improper conditions – in some storage area where they had direct impact of rains and heat, so you can imagine what has happened with those books.
    Now new administration of college has gave me an order to clean those storage areas and to decide what to do with those books, Problem is in that aspect that there are quite many books that are not totally destroyed but still they have some mold and fungus spots on them and of course also smell. I want to ask your opinion and maybe advice, as in this region I can’t find any conservator.
    Is it worth to keep those books and try to clean them somehow? I am afraid that if we will add destroyed books to collection than they will affect also new books.
    If it is worth to clean, what should I do? As immediate action already is missed is there anything I can do now to save books? Or better to destroy them all?
    Thank you in advance for any kind of information!
    Baiba Awan

  2. Greetings
    It seems you've been put in a very challenging situation. One of the first places I turn to is the preservation leaflets of the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) and they have a leaflet dealing with mold.
    Dealing with an already moldy collection is much more difficult than trying to prevent the mold in the first place.
    If the mold is just on the outside of the book then the try to brush, vacuum, or wipe off as much of the surface mold as possible. (best to do this outside) Leaving the book outside in the sunlight should help with slowing or stopping mold growth and may help with the musty smell.
    Mold growth on the pages of the book can be more challenging. If the mold is dormant - it doesn't rub off on you finger and no mold odor - then you might be able to keep them in your collection if you can ensure a constantly dry environment. If it is acceptable to discard or replace these volumes then that might be your safest option.
    If you choose to keep any of these moldy books, it would probably be best to keep them in a separate location for several months to see if the mold growth resumes or not.
    Good luck with your library.

  3. hi, Every one, Kevin you are right, but my Suggestion is, first clean the books one by one, i know its hard but it should be if you wanna save your collection, they arrange a Document Scanner, open a binding of book one by one and make a digital soft copy of your collection it would be good, and safer way to secure your collection in soft format

    Good Luck

  4. Dear Baiba Awan,

    I was not able to find a direct e-mail to You.
    Right now my last paper: "Microbiological control of library collections - a tool for preservation and disaster response" on the IFLA site (, session 88 or directly: is not active, but if You contact me - I'll send it to You and answer all Your questions. My e-mail is

    Best Greetings,

    Bogdan Filip Zerek
    (The National Library, Warsaw, Poland)

    The narix's idea of digitizing has pretty high costs: cleaning costs are comparable to digitizing, so it is better to chose: to clean or to digitize.


  5. its not much expensive as you think, first you need to buy the equipment then you need simple staff , who know how to scan and use the Open Source Document Management System software, which make full archived data as per your need....!