Preservation and Conservation of Library Materials

Preservation and Conservation of Library Materials: The library houses the document by considering the long-term preservation of the items while still allowing the end user to access the material easily. But all library collections experience damage from use and decay from aging. So there is a need of preservation and conservation of library materials.

            Books and other materials suffer damage or deterioration because of several groups of factors, some inherent in the materials and others beyond the control of the library. Library holdings may begin to deteriorate because of the organic materials from which they are made. Each type of material - paper, glue, plastic, etc. - that goes into the manufacture of a book, recording or optical media has its own combination of physical and chemical properties, and a life span. The other factors include all of the conditions surrounding the processing, storage and use of the materials. 

Preservation is the task of minimizing or reducing the physical and chemical deterioration of documents. Conservation is the maintenance of documents in a usable condition through treatment and repairs of individual items to slow the process of decay or to restore them to a usable state. Conservation includes study, diagnosis, preventive care, examination, treatment, documentation using any methods that may prove effective in keeping that property in as close to its original condition as possible and for as long as possible. The conservation actions are carried out for a variety of reasons including aesthetic choices, stabilization, needs for structural integrity or for cultural requirements for intangible continuity.

a) Need of Preservation and Conservation: When an important, often used book is found in a poor physical condition that restricts its future use and denies the borrower the pleasure of its reading, then the need arises for its preservation and conservation. The need of preservation and conservation are-

i) Compendium of Information: Books, journals, newspapers are the sources of information. They reflect social, economic, political and cultural life. They also depict the latest trend on all subjects or topics and, as such, they are a valuable asset of our society.

ii) Raw Materials of History: The old reading material constitutes the raw materials of our history and provides background information about an event in history. Nostalgia for such works is another point of consideration.

iii) Wide Range of Users: Everyone from a child to an old man, from layman to researchers, turns to information even after hundred years of the publication of the material.

iv) Future and Heavy Use: Hard copies of the old as well as new materials are prone to decay. So, to provide continuous and wider access to the collection preservation is a must.

v) Rare Materials: Manuscripts and other materials are of immense value from the cultural and historical point of view and therefore they need to be preserved. Priority should be given to high-value, at-risk materials of national interest. The purpose shall be to serve preventive preservation, as well as security, goals by reducing the handling of the originals.

b) Strategies in Preservation and Conservation: The strategies in preservation and conservation of library material can be viewed in the form of following points-

i) Document Selection: If preservation and conservation practices will be followed then the goal should be to bring as many worthy collections as possible for the document at risk to improve access.

ii) Options: Choosing the options that will be followed to meet the requirements of the custodial function of the library as well as its current use.

iii) Budget: Preparing a budget for the preservation and conservation of the reading materials, including cost in procuring equipments, and others.

iv) Procuring Necessary Infrastructure: According to the option chosen for preservation necessary infrastructure should be developed. In case of digital preservation necessary hardware and software should be procured. If possible the archive or library can go for automated management systems that will manage digital resources for acquisition, use, and archiving automatically.

v) The Conservation Laboratory: Conservators routinely use chemical and scientific analysis for the examination and treatment of the works. The modern conservation lab uses equipment such as microscopes, spectrometers, and x-ray machines to understand better the objects and their components. The data thus collected help in deciding the conservation treatments to be provided to the object.

c) Types of Preservation and Conservation Techniques: The preservation and conservation techniques can be of the following types:-

i) Preventive Conservation: Many cultural works are sensitive to environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity and exposure to light and ultraviolet light. Taking sufficient measures to protect materials in a controlled environment where such variables are maintained within a range of damage-limiting levels is called preventive conservation.

ii) Interventive Conservation: Interventive Conservation refers to any act by a conservator that involves a direct interaction between the conservator and the cultural material. These interventive treatments could involve cleaning, stabilizing, repair, or even replacement of parts of the original object or consolidation such as securing flaking paint.

d) Ethics in Conservation: The conservator applies some simple ethical guidelines, such as:

i) Minimal Intervention: It is essential that the conservator should fully justify the intervention for conservation if necessary before the work is undertaken and if necessary after the work is over.

ii) Reversible Methods: Using appropriate materials and methods that aim to be reversible to reduce the possible problems with future treatment, investigation, and use is one of the guiding principles of conservation. It means, that all interventions with the object should be fully reversible, and the object should be in a position to be returned to the state in which it was, prior to the conservator’s intervention. This principle nowadays has been widely criticized within the conservation profession itself.

iii) Complete Documentation: Complete documentation of the work carried out before, during, and after the treatment is necessary. It is a must for all kinds of documents as it will provide what was done with the document in the past and accordingly it helps in taking the right decision in future treatment process.