The mission of the Preservation Department is to ensure that information resources collected in support of research, teaching and learning at the University of Chicago remain available for long-term use.
The Preservation Department is responsible for a Library-wide program for the care of collections in all formats. It consists of three units: Binding & Shelf Preparation, Conservation, and Digitization. Services include commercial binding, rebinding and rehousing of materials, in-house conservation treatment, preparation of materials for circulation including labeling and attaching security strips, and in-house and vended digitization of a wide variety of library collections. The Preservation Department also engages in emergency planning and preparedness, provides staff and user education, and consults on a wide range of preservation, conservation and digitization issues.
The Preservation Department was established in 1985, bringing together previously distributed preservation activities under one administrative unit. In 1994, the Photoduplication Laboratory, in existence since the 1930s, was closed and gradually replaced by digitization as the Library's preferred method of preserving and reproducing collections. The Digitization Program has grown considerably and now includes the digitization of both paper-based and media collections. In 2001, the Library received an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation challenge grant to build an endowment for conservation. In 2005, the Library hired its first Head of Conservation and began expanding its capabilities to provide in-house treatment for both general and special collections materials. A Library reorganization in 2008 combined Library Binding with Shelf Preparation activities into one unit under the Preservation Department. In March of 2011, Preservation moved to new expanded quarters in the Joe & Rika Mansueto Library with the Library's first purpose-built Conservation Laboratory and Digitization facility.