In the fall of 1989, the Commission on Preservation and Access established the Task Force on Preservation Education, and charged it with determining the current status of preservation education, establishing the requirements for the next decade, and identifying the means for enhancing the current programs and developing new programs to meet the challenges ahead.
Made up of library school deans and library educators who specialize in preservation, the task force worked over a period of two years to gather information, discuss the many possibilities for action, and reach consensus on what should be included in its final report.
The substance of the task force's work and recommendations follows. Papers by individual members, supplemental to the final report, are available from the Commission upon written request.
Librarians have produced dozens, possibly hundreds, of reports on preservation in the last decade. Their message, more directly stated by some than others, is the same: library and historical collections are in jeopardy. Various pleas, exhortations, and threats have concluded the reports, but too often, the task forces and committees felt their jobs had been completed when the problem had been described. Library directors, funding agencies, and national commissions must do something, they told us. Unfortunately, few of these reports laid out the strategy for accomplishing what virtually everyone agreed was desirable.
The Commission On Preservation and Access recognized early in its history that a preservation strategy required long-term effort. Not only is it necessary to think in terms of a twenty-year calendar for microfilming that portion of the nation's printed collections that must be saved, it is also important to plan for a future that will forestall adding to the already staggering preservation burden. As part of its looking toward the future, the Commission determined the need to address the matter of education. How could the Commission influence the thinking of the next generation of librarians so that preservation would be, simply stated, a natural part of librarianship and archival enterprise, not a special project?
The Commission's charge to the education task force challenged us to think as broadly as possible, but as library educators and preservation specialists, we found it difficult to ignore an opportunity to write elaborate specifications for incorporating preservation into the required courses of library schools and to outline topics that should be included within specialized preservation courses. We agreed that preservation is at the very core of librarianship and archival studies, and we wanted to insure that it would be addressed in library school curricula. As the attached reports from task force members show, we sometimes felt it necessary to elaborate on the details that would help schools incorporate preservation into core courses or plan a basic preservation course.
Still, we recognized the need to rise above detail. We wanted to look at preservation in a more global way. After our work was nearly completed, the highly readable and thought provoking report on "Preserving Harvard's Retrospective Collections," issued in April, 1991, forced a reformulation of our ideas. The Harvard report carefully describes the situation of today's research libraries: mountains of material must be preserved and there is no single approach to preservation that will work for everything. The Harvard task force acknowledged that priorities for preservation are in the eye of the scholarly beholder. The task force also pointed out in a most persuasive way that book collections are only a portion of the problem. Today's research libraries are responsible for serial publications, archival materials, manuscript collections, visual materials of many different kinds, and other non-book items. Preservation strategies for each category are necessarily different.
Harvard's preservation task force identified six activities that must become an integral part of routine library procedures: preparation for use, mass deacidification, library binding, replacement/reformatting, physical conservation, and environmentally-controlled storage and the buying of time. In other words, preservation is both a discrete set of activities within the library, but also an attitude toward stewardship of collections.
The question for our task force, then, was how do we instill this attitude, this set of values, into the next generation of librarians? Preservation must be a consideration included in every aspect of library education. And if the Harvard analysis is accepted, that is, if we believe that preservation is about choice, the most important thing library educators can do is to equip students in their programs to make sound, informed decisions. Instead of training each student to conserve library materials, we must instead arm them with the analytical techniques they must draw on to decide what should be preserved; what method or methods should be used; when to take responsibility for preservation and when to support another institution that is better prepared to assume the responsibility; when to enter into cooperative agreements; and how to evaluate new technologies as they emerge and promise to ease the preservation problem.
Boiled down to its essence, the only solution we see for preservation education is to go beyond the techniques of preservation to a thorough grounding in managerial decision making that reflects the reality of today's research libraries.
Such an approach does not encourage every librarian to learn the nuts and bolts of book and flat paper conservation. Indeed, it is more important that librarians and archivists learn that not all books, not to mention other formats, can be saved, and the role entrusted to them by society is to make the best possible decisions about what will be saved and by whom.
In light of our acknowledgement of preservation as a primary obligation of librarianship and archival enterprises, our
1. Acquaint every student with broad issues encompassed by preservation in the core curriculum.
2. Design faculty development programs that introduce current faculty members to a more holistic view of preservation.
3. In cooperation with state and regional networks, or other appropriate agencies, design and conduct continuing education programs that will acquaint practitioners with the fundamental tenets of preservation. Specialized courses should be offered to help skilled library managers develop expertise in preservation techniques so they might bring their management experience to bear on one of the library world's most significant problems.
4) Stimulate research among the library school doctoral programs that will address preservation issues.
5) Encourage library schools to think of preservation not only as a set of techniques, but also as an attitude.
In addition to our fundamental recommendations, the task force also encourages library schools to consider the following secondary recommendations:
6. Present case studies and problems to library science students that use preservation decisions as an example, with the purpose of enhancing analytical skills generally.
7. Include information about cooperative programs in the curriculum. Make sure students know how to assess the benefits as well as the costs of cooperation.
8. Support specialized instruction in preservation administration and library conservator training at a limited number of library schools.
9. Encourage the use of model preservation reports produced by research libraries as texts in library schools so that the complexity of the problem and the necessity for multiple approaches will be appreciated by the next generation of librarians.
Commission on Preservation and Access 1400 16th Street, NW, Suite 740 Washington, DC 20036-2217 (202) 939-3400
The Commission on Preservation and Access was established in 1986 to foster and support collaboration among libraries and allied organizations in order to ensure the preservation of the published and documentary record in all formats and to provide enhanced access to scholarly information.