Appendix B contains the interview protocol used during the 20 site visits. Responses to each of the questions asked during the interviews have been reviewed and distilled to the following summaries.
Questions and Summaries
1. What is your role in preservation here?
Many job titles fall under the rubric of “preservation.” Some role descriptions emphasize activities; others focus on objectives. Some staff members involved in binding and other functions considered basic to preservation by many in the broader preservation field do not identify themselves as working in the preservation area.
2. Preservation priorities
a. What are the current priorities, in terms of collections and user groups, for preservation resources?
b. Do you foresee the emphasis shifting over the next five years? In what directions?
Library staff members strongly agree that general collections come first, with service to students as an additional major concern. Future concerns include digital matters, although this change may be an add-on rather than a shift in priorities.
3. Contemplating changes in resources
a. If resources currently directed toward preservation were to increase by 30 percent tomorrow, where would you put the additional resources? Why?
b. If resources now used for preservation were to decrease by 30 percent tomorrow, where would you apply the cuts? Why?
Increases in funding would be directed first to staff and next to structures. Collection care would rank third. Cuts in funding would affect binding most radically; staff and collection treatments ranked second and third, respectively. Funding is already short, and cuts would be devastating to most preservation programs.
4. Training of staff
a. If staff throughout the library receive preservation training, how is that done? Who are trained?
b. If not, what kinds of staff training would be most beneficial?
c. What aspects of your own training have proved particularly valuable on the job from a preservation perspective? What skills would you like to acquire?
d. Do you see a role for regional or national organizations in assisting with your training activities or that of other staff in your library?
Most libraries report that they train staff. Programs range from structured situations to ad hoc instruction. Interviewees expressed a strong preference for hands-on experiences. They particularly value their own training in treatment methods, although other aspects of preservation were mentioned. Their training has taken place largely in workshops, short courses, and private study.
5. User education
a. Does your library conduct user education in the care and handling of materials?
b. If so, what is the focus of this training?
c. Has this training helped?
d. How might national or regional organizations assist you with user training?
Very few libraries conduct formal user education programs, although many make use of one-to-one encounters when problems occur. Problems most often have to do with bringing food and drink into the library, photocopying, and treatment of materials. Staff members are skeptical about the utility of user education efforts.
6. Information sources about preservation
a. Do you think there is a need for additional information about preservation beyond what is currently available?
b. In what forms should it be delivered?
Preservation information exists in abundance, but gaining access to the right kind of information at the moment of need can be difficult. Available information should be repackaged for specific needs, audiences, and objectives. Preferred formats begin with electronic communication but also include also workshop demonstrations, print materials, and conventional audiovisual modes.
7. Cooperative ventures in preservation
a. Is your library engaged in any cooperative activities that have had an effect on preservation?
b. Which cooperative ventures have had the largest effect on your preservation work here?
c. What kinds of cooperative projects or organizations should exist to help you with preservation work here?
The record on cooperative activities is mixed. Specific activities that were suggested were highly varied. Some people are frankly skeptical about cooperative activities; the high level of cooperative activity that marked past decades seems to have waned. The “wish list” for cooperative activities is diverse. There is at least tempered interest in sharing skills and experience.
8. Best practices and standards
a. Have you identified best practices or standards that have proved helpful to you in preservation activities here?
b. Have any generally recognized best practices or standards been adopted in policy statements here?
Although they may not think of them as “best practices and standards,” many interviewees report, albeit tentatively, that they have adopted solutions that are generally approved in the preservation field. Practitioners seem to think more in terms of specific procedures than of conceptual approaches in this area. Policy documents rarely include references to best practices or standards.
9. Collection preservation issues
a. If you have conducted any preservation surveys of your collections, please describe them.
b. What are the most serious challenges or concerns for you now in terms of preservation collections?
Asked about major challenges relating to collection preservation, interviewees had ready responses: digital concerns, space/buildings, basic collection management issues, time, staff conscious-raising, non-print materials, and training of selectors. Large-scale, formal surveys are rare these days, but surveys are occasionally undertaken to examine a particular area or problem.
10. Suppliers of materials and services
a. If you purchase preservation supplies or services, are you satisfied with the suppliers that now exist?
b. What materials, supplies, and services would you like to see developed or improved?
Interviewees are quite satisfied with their suppliers and supplies, especially with binding services and materials. Nonetheless, interviewees readily named improvements that they would like to see. For example, materials are not always archivally sound, although they are advertised as such. Many expressed concern about the cost of supplies.
a. In what areas have you developed policies that affect preservation?
b. Can you describe your experience in implementing these policies?
c. How might outside organizations assist you in improving the implementation of locally defined policies?
Although most libraries in the sample have de facto policies affecting preservation, they may not have a written record of them. The list of areas with “agreements,” if not formal policies, is long. Implementation of these “policies” or “agreements” has generally gone smoothly.
12. The common needs of special collections, archives, and manuscript collections
a. What are the preservation needs in this library for special collections (broadly defined)?
b. Do you foresee a shift in the preservation needs of such collections over the next five years? (In what directions?)
Special collections needs center on environmental/building concerns, non-print materials, and staffing. ARL and ULG libraries anticipate expansion in the digital realm, although this development will represent an expansion of activity, not a shift from the essential focus of special collections on original materials. All libraries anticipate funding needs.
13. Digital technology
a. Do you consider the preservation of digital information to be a significant concern at your institution?
b. How does the existence of digital technology affect your preservation activity?
c. For unique, local information, how are you approaching preservation? Frustrations? Ideas?
d. What kind of external help would you find helpful?
Concern about digital technology is high in ARL and ULG libraries, and is developing rapidly in LG and OG libraries. The definition of pertinent digital technologies, however, varies considerably from one institution to another, making the extent of development difficult to determine from interview data. In general, libraries consulted here are not yet very active in this area, beyond routine maintenance of basic digital subscriptions and other services provided from the outside. Projects do exist to transfer locally held information to digital form (e.g., scanning), but frequently these are unique initiatives that are unrelated to an overall strategy. Lack of funds, service organizations, and standards are holding back progress in this area. The tone of responses indicated cautious enthusiasm.
a. Is shortage of space a current preservation concern to you? Is it a concern to any other segments of the staff?
b. Will space be a problem, in terms of preservation, within five years?
c. If so, how is your library planning to address these concerns?
d. Is there a role for regional or national organizations in assisting you with this problem?
Shortage of space is a serious concern for all libraries. It is more acute for ARL and ULG libraries than for LG and OG libraries. Space problems are intimately bound up with funding issues. Most libraries anticipate that space will be a concern five years hence. Many libraries are turning to remote storage, with its many variations, as a solution. Some interviewees believe that digitization will offer some relief.
15. How do you think preservation is regarded in your library?
a. Has this exercise engendered significant discussion or action thus far?
Staff members who are conscious of preservation generally hold it in high regard. Many staff members, however, are not particularly conscious of preservation. Among the reasons for this lack of awareness are speculation that preservation is so pervasive that it has become invisible and a feeling that staff members are simply not oriented toward it. Administrators are more likely to describe preservation as essential than are staff members on the front lines. This exercise raised awareness of preservation among those directly involved in the study and, in some cases, others in the libraries.
The following additional topics related to preservation emerged from the data as important to interviewees.
Heating and air conditioning
Staff members frequently expressed concern about local environmental controls and worried that future cuts in funding could reverse recent progress. Relationships with physical plant staff members are seen as critical to achieving appropriate conditions. The awareness of environmental concerns often arises in reaction to an accident or incident. Interviewees believe that environmental controls are fundamental to preserving collections.
Food and drink
Formerly forbidden in most libraries, beverages and even food are commonly allowed in at least some portions of library buildings. This is a vexing preservation problem with complex public relations implications. Enforcement is difficult. Some libraries try to educate readers in the least harmful approaches to satisfying their desires for food and drink and upholding their responsibilities to the library collections.
Care and handling of library materials
Seen as one of the most basic and effective preservation tools, proper techniques for care and handling enjoy universal support from library staff members. Training in these techniques is common for almost all staff members. The point of circulation is viewed as critical for proper care and handling, but there is less consensus-and little hard evidence-on what constitutes the best techniques from a preservation perspective. Care and handling are most important at the point of circulation.
Staff members seemed preoccupied with particular treatment procedures and areas of activity. Prominent among these are binding and microfilming. Interviewees seemed comfortable with the topic of treatments and often lingered there, at the expense of the more conceptual topics of the study. Needs in this area are highly specific, front-line staff see them as critical to the preservation effort.
Interviewees frequently mentioned interacting with outside agencies that have preservation programs and activities. The list of such agencies is long. The kind of help that is wanted from outside agencies begins with money; it also includes information, standards, disaster assistance, repositories, and more. Staff members welcome visitors who can tell them what is happening in the field. They also welcome training institutions; there is particular need for materials addressing basic issues in appropriate language and modes of presentation.