Book Repair Boot Camp One important part of my job is to train new student employees, but one of my highlights is to teach book repair skills to others such as Gloria Diez, one of our 2014 Lennox Interns. Gloria…
ALCTS Web Course: Fundamentals of Preservation Session 1: February 23 – March 20, 2015 Four-week online course that introduces participants to the principles, policies and practices of preservation in libraries and archives. It is designed to inform all staff, across divisions and departments and at all […]
I’m currently working on my Master’s in Library Science and ultimately hope to work in conservation with rare books. Dream job is Preservation Administrator. However, I have little to no hands-on training preserving materials. Do you have any recommendations? Certification? Second Master’s? Community college courses I should take in the meantime? I’ve looked at the Gemini conservation program in Italy, but I’m just curious if you have any other advice. Thanks!
Okay, so first things first – a preservation administrator typically has a different set of job duties than a conservator. This of course, comes with the caveat that all libraries are different, and in some libraries a conservator may have many of the job duties of a preservation administrator, too. That said..
Preservation Administrators tend to be involved with such things as managing a conservation lab and it’s staff (i.e. buying supplies, hiring staff, making sure chemical safety equipment is up to date with safety standards, tracking statistics of treatments), being involved with large-scale collections care projects like digitization or mass de-acidification, collecting and analyzing environmental monitoring data, monitoring for pest management issues, writing grants to get funding for special projects, and working closely with other departments in the library to make sure that library policies promote, rather than hinder, the continued existence and preservation of the collections.
Conservators tend to be involved with the direct treatment of collections materials, with making enclosures, helping to install (or deinstall exhibits), making supports for items going on exhibit, doing documentation (photographic and written) of treatments, and training student workers (or other staff) in conservation techniques.
AGAIN, there ARE EXCEPTIONS. I have a sort of “hybrid” job myself, where my actual job description is mostly for treatment work (bench work), but over time I’ve also been incorporating other tasks into my responsibilities that are more administrative, such as helping to develop a digitization workflow, or implementing a weeding system for books that are damaged to fix and keep circulating. In a large library, the roles of administrator and conservator are often very separate, but in smaller libraries you may wear many, many hats. Understand too that the field of library/archives preservation/conservation is fluid and ever changing, and that these seemingly neatly defined roles of “preservation administrator” and “conservator” continue to blend into each other, particularly as libraries shift more into the digital age and special collections become an increasingly important part of a library’s identity.
It’s important to know just what it is about these jobs you find most appealing, because while some preservation administrators get some conservation treatment training, the work of a PA is really about managing – people, projects, the building itself, money, and the collections as a whole. In a library that has BOTH a preservation administrator (or preservation librarian) and a conservator, it’s the conservators (and conservation technicians) who typically do the lion’s share of the “hands on” work. They do the sewing, the gluing, the washing, the tape removal, the mending, the box making, etc. If that kind of hand work is what really interests you, I would suggest focusing on getting conservation training and bookbinding experience through one of the conservation degree programs, through an apprenticeship (which are rare but do exist in some places still), an internship, or a bookbinding/craft school like The North Bennet Street School.
Now, on to your question about where you could get training in preservation administration or conservation. The University of Texas at Austin used to be the gold standard for both preservation administration and library conservation education, but since they disbanded their Kilgarlin program several years ago, I am not sure if they even still offer the Preservation Administration Certificate of Advanced Study. If your current library science program doesn’t offer a preservation administration track or preservation related coursework, there are other places that offer training without a degree attached. These include:
- Rare Book School
- Campbell Center
- Online training through the Northern States Conservation Center
- Webinars and the online community at Connecting to Collections
- ALA’s Preservation Education Directory (a bit old, from 2012)
- ALA/ALCTS Preservation Resources list
If conservation sounds more like your thing, I encourage you to read the American Institute for Conservation’s (AIC) “Become a Conservator“ page.
Finally, my last piece of advice is to scroll through the job postings on various preservation and conservation list-servs, to see what kinds of jobs there are, and how the duties may differ between a PA and a conservator, or someone in a hybrid position like mine.
Here are links to the archives of the list-servs I regularly follow:
Also, if you haven’t seen the video of Chela Metzger’s lecture about “Rare Skills for Rare Books”, I definitely recommend taking the time to watch it.
Hey there! I’m starting to look for grad schools and I’m interested in museum studies/conservation, what would you recommend to keep in mind when looking at schools?
themindofaconservator-blog: Hey the-wayfaring-stranger! Thanks for your message. The things that I would keep in mind when looking at Grad schools and courses would be: 1. Interest, do they teach a specialty that you have an interest in? For random example: textile conservation, or the study […]