Staffing the Preservation Function
Q: Lars mentioned that with an increase in scope of
preservation, we are seeing more people (outside the
preservation department) involved in preservation. Can you
give examples of new approaches to staffing and organizing
preservation activities to mainstream it within our libraries?
Deborah Jakubs: One example, which may not be all that new, is to involve
subject specialist librarians in decisions about what to reformat and what to
digitize, and to involve digital collections and technology/digital production
people in developing the “business plan” for costing out a given strategy.
Lars Meyer: Preservation, particularly for digital content or carrier-dependent
technologies (e.g., VHS tapes, CDs, motion picture film, etc.), should not be an
afterthought. Libraries should develop documented strategies or business plans
that address what to preserve, when to preserve, and what technologies to use.
The staff involved in this work will differ from library to library and from
collection to collection. Preservation staff should contribute to the effort by
providing knowledge about the costs, benefits, and risks of alternatives, based
on their knowledge of the technology (be it deacidification, digitization,
conservation, etc.) and the vendors who we might use.
Furthermore, preservation staff can ensure that the right resources (people
and tools) are in place in appropriate stages of the work, regardless of whether
the work occurs in the preservation department or elsewhere in the library or on
campus. Preservation staff may need to rely on others in the library to provide
needed expertise. For example, if there’s expertise in digitizing sound recordings
in a music library, it’s probably best to continue to use that staff, but align their
efforts with a greater preservation initiative. The challenge for each library will
be to determine when preservation is playing a leading role or a supporting role.
Q: What does the educational, professional development,
and career trajectory of the modern/future preservation
professional look like? What will libraries need as we staff
the future of preservation?
Jim Neal: The challenge, of course, in research libraries is that we carry a very
significant legacy responsibility for conserving and protecting the rare and special
RLI 266
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Evolving Preservation Roles and Responsibilities of Research Libraries
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OCTOBER 2009 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
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