Ensuring Continued Access to Library Collections Through a Program of Specialized Expertise

The Department of Preservation Services’ mission provides both the preservation and conservation needs of UNC Greensboro’s University Libraries collections. With its long history of apprentice-style training for conservators, the department continues to provide book and paper conservation training opportunities, including intermediate and advanced workshops and consultancies for students, faculty, staff and the broader community. The department also utilizes interns and student workers, who are majoring in a variety of fields from across the curriculum to help carry out the day-to-day functions of the unit. 

Preservation Services Manager Audrey Sage, along with Preservation Services Specialist Suzanne Sawyer are responsible for a variety of activities that ensure the collections remain in working condition. These activities focus on preventative measures such as the commercial binding of monographs and serials, environmental monitoring, education and awareness in the care and handling of collections, collection assessment and disaster preparedness. Although primary research has changed over the years and items have become digitized, preservation and conservation procedures are a necessity in today’s academic library. 

When they are not providing training to students, faculty and staff, Sage and Sawyer have taken their knowledge and skillset on the road presenting at conferences for librarians, such as the North Carolina School Library Media Association (NCSLMA) conference held in Winston Salem. Participants in their three-hour workshop learned a variety of book repair techniques, including paper mending, loose cover restoration and book spine repair. 

The department has also made great strides in partnering with local organizations and providing training to their staff. In 2018, Preservation Services held a workshop, “Book Repair on a Budget” in partnership with Guilford County Schools (GCS) Media Specialists for a hands-on training to aid in extending the life of their school library collections. 

“With the understanding that the Media Specialists are working on a limited budget and with very full schedules, our goal was to focus on treatments that are relatively quick and easy to perform and that require materials already on hand or that can be acquired inexpensively,” said Sage. 

Additionally, Sage and Sawyer teach instructional classes on preservation and conservation to students enrolled in the Department of Library and Information Science’s undergraduate and graduate courses throughout the academic year, all while advancing the bindery profession to the next group of future librarians, archivists and media specialists.  

While the conservation of the collections is important, so too is the preservation of the special collections housed in the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives. Considerable time and conservation is provided for these collections in to preserve the past. The special collections and archives contain fascinating relics, such as textiles, rare books, manuscripts, photographs, scrapbooks, music scores and artist books. 

“We take a number of steps daily as part of our overall preservation program to aid in preventing damage and to prolong the life of our collections,” said Sage. 

What does temperature, UV light filters, humidity levels and emergency management planning all have in common? Each one is a factor that goes into the planning and managing of the day-to-day operations of the collections. The department even houses mobile disaster kits that are staged across Jackson Library just in case they are needed during an unforeseen event or disaster. 

For many of these items in the collections, specialty acid-free archival boxes are required for storage. One such type of specialty box is the Clamshell ― a sturdy custom-built box, made from archival materials, creating a micro-climate enclosure, protecting the item from environmental fluctuations and airborne contaminants. Inside the box, the contents can easily be slid from the base to the lid without ever taking any of the items out of the box, reducing the amount of handling, and protecting especially fragile items. 

Preservation Services is also home to the famous and much beloved Doughnut, which has received a lot of press in the last year for hitting middle age, inspiring its own UNCG-themed Dunkin’ Donut and raising money for the Spartan Open Pantry. 

Legend has it that the Doughnut was left behind at a staff meeting in 1980 and it has been in the Jackson Library ever since. Early on, the Doughnut was taken out at events inside the library and always made an appearance at employee get-togethers. But these days, it lives outside of the limelight and its home is a glass-enclosed box inside of Preservation Services’ work area, where it can be preserved for meet-and-greets with future Spartans.  

Want to know more about the Department of Preservation Services? Visit their libguide located at https://uncg.libguides.com/preservationservices. It is full of information and resources on DIY book repair, supplies and tools, conservation resources and disaster preparedness planning.