Preservation Tools

In large libraries and research institutions, preserving, organizing and protecting collections falls to conservators (for high-value items), collections conservators (for items with informational value within a larger collection), or preservation administrators (who are responsible for the health of the entire set of collections held by an institution).

Preservation in Action (Some archival humor.)
(Smaller institutions, like your local historical society or community museum, who do not have access to the above personnel, yet still need to assess the safety of their historic collections, may apply for grants through the National Endowment for the Humanities Preservation Assistance Grants for Smaller Institutions, the Heritage Preservation Conservation Assessment Program, or through consulting services provided by the California Preservation Program.)

For Home Users:

Some of the professional techniques and tools used by archivists and conservators can be adopted by home users who wish to preserve their family books, comic books, documents, audio visual materials, photos, scrapbooks and albums.

Preservation techniques also extend to preserving personal digital memories and saving your personal email, plus digital movies, photos, voice files, and Web sites, then adapting those digital files so they work with emerging technologies and remain accessible with tomorrow's software and new electronic devices.

(See the section on software to organize your book titles, below.)

Common Enemies of Your Preserved Heirlooms:

Because libraries have been active in preserving collections for so many years, many organizations have specialized in various aspects of preservation based on the common enemies of most collections, which are listed below. (The links in each bullet point lead to more information on how to protect your treasures from damage.)

Fortunately, many large libraries and preservation organizations have placed tutorials online with information which can be applied to our personal, family, and local historical society collections. I have listed some of those free tutorials below.

Online Preservation Tutorials and Resources: 

BookCat - Tracks your books, creates reports, and plays well with LT:

Last year I worked with a small library which had only $300 in its annual budget, yet a passionate group of volunteers who created a fairly varied collection, and, who effectively ran the entire operation (and got others to donate a lot of books to grow their collection.)

I recommended that they use LibraryThing as their online catalog, then use BookCat (which would download their entire collection directly from LibraryThing into a BookCat database), to handle their in-house circulation functions and reports. (They would just need to do a monthly download of any future books added to LT, to keep the BC database up-to-date.) Altogether, with the purchase of a CueCat, I think they spent under $75 to fully automate their small library. Last I heard, they were all having fun adding comments and reviews to their LT collection online. Victory!

(Note: I am not affiliated with either of these products, but am so grateful that they provided a solution for some small libraries who operate, basically, on the best wishes of others and almost non-existent budgets.)

More options and reviews:

For more software choices, I particularly liked a Web page by Ellen Bosman, Director of Technical Services, New Mexico State University Library, entitled, "Software Choices for Church Libraries," in which she reviews price ranges and options, with an honest assessment of the needs of small libraries almost anywhere, in any type of institution. I think she is right on the money and offers good counsel on her site.

---Catherine Alexander Bright,