Mission and Overview
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, preparing items for shelving and circulation, 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.
Brief History of the Preservation Department
The Preservation Department was established in 1985, bringing together preservation activities under one administrative unit. In 1994, the microfilming lab, 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 obsolete media collections. With the assistance of an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation challenge grant, the Library established a conservation endowment, and in 2006, hired its first Head of Conservation and established its conservation program to provide care and in-house treatment for both general and special collections materials. In 2011, Preservation moved to new expanded quarters in the new Joe & Rika Mansueto Library which contains the Library's first purpose-built Conservation Laboratory and Digitization facility.
Binding and Shelf Preparation
The Binding and Shelf Preparation Unit encompasses all aspects of commercial binding for the Library’s general and circulating collections and the end-processing to make physical items ready to be shelved and circulated. Binding activities include first-time binding of newly acquired items or damaged items from existing collections, as well as the rebinding and boxing of damaged items from existing collections. Shelf preparation activities include the production and application of labels for book and media collections, placement of security detection strips, and edge stamping of books for identification. The Binding and Shelf Preparation Unit engages in projects throughout the Library system to obtain commercial enclosures for selected older materials and newly acquired gift collections and to address labeling needs.
Other units in the Library which perform binding and shelf preparation tasks include D'Angelo Law Technical Processing and the East Asian Collection within the Regenstein Library.
Conservation encompasses actions taken toward the long-term preservation of cultural property. The Conservation Unit is responsible for planning and managing an inclusive program that provides an extensive range of physical treatments for the Library’s collections. These activities include basic stabilization, intermediate repair, and complex conservation treatment for paper-based materials in both general and special collections.
Conservation contributes to outreach and preservation awareness efforts for Library staff and users by providing consultation, serving as a resource on a range of conservation and preservation issues, overseeing disaster preparedness and recovery activities, and providing environmental monitoring.
For an example of the work we do, watch this video featuring our Head of Conservation working on a Civil War-era map.
Digitization encompasses the full range of activities to review, analyze and convert the Library’s materials in a variety of paper-based and media formats to stable and useable forms. The Digitization Unit is responsible for planning and managing both in-house and vendor services that add content from the Library’s general and special collections to the digital resources preserved and made available to users on the Library’s web site.
The Digitization Unit works closely and collaboratively with several Library units on digital library-wide initiatives that develop digitization projects and that support web access and long-term archiving in the Library's Digital Repository.
For an example of the research digitization supports, see this article and short video on the digitization of maps.