This blog is NOT an official publication of the Virginia Association of Law Libraries (VALL), but it acknowledges the dedication of VALL to preservation and applauds the work VALL has done. VALL was one of the first chapters of the American Association of Law Libraries to work for preservation. VALL has offered at least three book repair workshops, has sponsored a preservation copy of the Virginia Reports housed in the Virginia Historical Society, and has championed the preservation of Commonwealth of Virginia websites long before preserving websites was on the radar (Kudos to Gail Zwirner who first brought this idea to VALL’s consciousness). I blog as a maverick without being sponsored by VALL; but I have been inspired by VALL, a truly fine Chapter of AALL!
Preservation can sound romantic and idealistic. The truth is that preservation is hard work. It is also a hard sell. Its priority is low until books get wet or there is a disaster. At that time, preservation becomes mandatory. Making information available includes preserving it for future generations. Digital preservation is exciting. It opens possibilities for sharing information with people who cannot view a treasure on site. Note well that making digitally-preserved titles available in the future requires coordination with new forms of hardware. Note well that preservation is hard work.
There are simple ways to extend the life of books, like Kapco covers which reinforce a paperback for more circulations. This is not preservation. Eventually those paperbacks will have to be retired or turned into altered book art. Still, this life-extending work is also valuable. Note well that it is easier than saving water-damaged books; it also requires less time.
The really demanding work is called conservation. Conservationists restore books and artifacts as closely as possible to their original state. This work is time-consuming. Problems, sometimes enormously challenging problems, must be solved. Note well that great skill is a requirement for a conservationists.
So, here is a summary: Extending the life of books is related to preservation. Preserving a book means that it lasts as long as possible, not simply for 25 or more extra circulations. Conserving a book is almost like giving the book rebirth.
I hope this blog will help libraries and other collections stay well preserved.