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Life support for print materials

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

While many/most libraries are decreasing the number of print materials they maintain, news reports indicate that the current economic woes are leading many users back to libraries to borrow books rather than buying books online.  Another effect of the financial crises affecting our institutions is that there is often no funding available to replace damaged or lost print materials. 

Just recently when we met with NN/LM Pacific Northwest staff and their State Coordinators for emergency preparedness, we heard a story of a hospital librarian who had recently reported to her State Coordinator about water damage to a book truck of new books.  This one book truck held her major print purchase for the year, and there would most likely not be money to replace the books that got wet.  Considering all these indicators of the “long tail” of the need for print materials in libraries,  I’ve been reviewing the resources we list to aid in preserving print in the event of water damage, fire, etc.  The right side menu bar here lists many of them and there is a wealth of great information available.

Here is a document I found today from the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) that deals specifically with caring for print books.  The brochure is well written, and gives a good overview of information that has been de-emphasized in many libraries these days, but might well come in handy as librarians and volunteers with limited or no training for conservation or preservation try to keep their paper resources alive as long as possible.

Much of the AIC website is intended for professional conservators, but the “Caring for Your Treasures” series of publications contains lots of helpful information for the public, sort of the “Consumer Health” portion of their site.  AIC’s Disaster Response & Recovery page is also worth a look for information on a wide range of types of materials and web sites of interest.