Special collection preservation

When I enrolled at the University of Michigan, I had every intention of specializing in both Library and Information Services (LIS) and Preservation of Information (PI). I knew I wanted to be a librarian, but I also love rare books and working through digital preservation access issues. Despite scholarships, it was still in my best interest to finish my 48 out-of-state hours sooner rather than later, so I crammed everything into 3 semesters and ended up graduating with what I thought was the more pragmatic LIS, only 3 credit hours short of the second PI specialization.

TL;DR – I really, really like preserving information, and I was >thisclose< to having the paper to prove it.

This past semester, I did my first real preservation assessment since leaving grad school, and I focused on the special collection that we have here at the college library. Many research hours and pages and citations later, I had an assessment in my hands – and while the finished product is great for us to have in the library, I think I personally got just as much (if not more) out of the process of writing it.

When professional development budgets are limited, as they are at my workplace, you have to create your own activities and motivation. This year, I am unable to go to ALA or SLA, but I feel good about making sure that I am continuing to challenge myself professionally. While I was writing up the assessment, I went through research that I did in grad school, but I also had the opportunity to read up on all of the scholarship that has happened since I graduated.

I have a lot of different duties in my current position as Assistant Librarian. I head up access services, collection development, and bibliographic instruction – it’s great experience in a lot of areas, and I’m a better librarian for it. One of the best perks of this job, however, is the freedom that I’ve had to pursue projects like this preservation assessment. It’s easy to get caught up in day to day activities, but I’m remembering how much nerdy joy I derive from analyzing environmental conditions and books’ physical compositions.

Side benefit: I got to use the assessment in a grant application, and with any luck, this time next year we will have additional resources to help me preserve these books even better!

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