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Collection Maintenance and Preservation

This online course is no longer being updated online. It's only available through the Canvas website for the current course offering. 

After completing this session, you'll be able to:

Begin by viewing the class presentation in Vimeo. Then, read each of the sections of this page for more detail.

Explore each of the following topics on this page:


Collection Maintenance

From processing a new book to rebinding an existing work, collection maintenance in an ongoing activity.

ODLIS defines collection maintenance as

"measures taken on a routine basis or as needed to preserve the materials in a library collection in usable condition, including mending, repair, binding, rebinding, and reformatting, usually the responsibility of the technical processing and serials departments."


The photo below is by Marie-Lan Nguyen from Wikimedia Commons.

Many online resources can be used to assist in maintenance and preservation. Explore the following materials for ideas.

Collection Preservation

repairIn the past, preservation often involved issues ranging from humidity in the library to selecting appropriate book covers. Today, a wide range of issues are involved in preservation of both physical and electronic records.

The photo on the right is from the National Archives.

ODLIS defines preservation as

"prolonging the existence of library and archival materials by maintaining them in a condition suitable for use, either in their original format or in a form more durable, through retention under proper environmental conditions or actions taken after a book or collection has been damaged to prevent further deterioration. Former Yale University conservator Jane Greenfield lists the factors affecting the condition of books as light, temperature, relative humidity, pollution, inherent vice, biological attack, human error (including improper storage and handling), deliberate mutilation, and disasters (The Care of Fine Books, Nick Lyons Books, 1988).

Single sheets may be encapsulated or laminated for protection. Materials printed on acid paper may be deacidified if their value warrants the expense; however, when the original has deteriorated beyond the point of salvation, reformatting may be necessary. Publications with soiled or foxed leaves are sometimes washed in rebinding. Materials infected with mildew or mold may require fumigation. Insects and larvae can be eliminated by freezing the infested item. Rare books and manuscripts are usually stored in a darkened room, with temperature and humidity strictly controlled."

ODLIS defines film preservation as

"the fact that nitrate and acetate base films decay under normal environmental conditions has created a preservation imperative of a magnitude matched only by the use of acid paper in printing. Ideally, motion picture preservation involves the creation of surrogates for public use and one or more film masters that can be used to create new copies without subjecting the original source to further wear and tear. Masters are usually copied on film and access copies on videotape, DVD, or some other digital medium. If the original is in poor condition, restoration may be required. Whenever possible, preservationists use carefully documented measures that are reversible and do not damage the original. Because film preservation is an expensive, time-consuming process, cold and dry storage is often used to retard deterioration while copying is prioritized to be accomplished over an extended period."

ODLIS defines digital preservation as

"the process of maintaining, in a condition suitable for use, materials produced in digital formats, including preservation of the bit stream and the continued ability to render or display the content represented by the bit stream. The task is compounded by the fact that some digital storage media deteriorate quickly ("bit rot"), and the digital object is inextricably entwined with its access environment (software and hardware), which is evolving in a continuous cycle of innovation and obsolescence. Also refers to the practice of digitizing materials originally produced in nondigital formats (print, film, etc.) to prevent permanent loss due to deterioration of the physical medium."

try itRead!
Spindler, Robert P. (2011) Electronic records preservation. In Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, Third Edition, 1682-1688.

Real World Issues

My backpack fell in puddle.
My dog ate the book.
The server crashed.

In the real-world, stuff happens. From war and natural disasters to soda spills, librarians need to be prepared for disaster.

A collection maintenance plan and policy can help guide collection activities before, during, and after emergencies.

In addition, it's important to have a plan for prevention and preservation. Book jackets save books. Digital preservation activities can ensure that historical photos aren't permanent lost.


Spindler, Robert P. (2011) Electronic records preservation. In Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences, Third Edition, 1682-1688.

Portions of this page were adapted from Collection Development & Management by Irwin and Albee (2012).

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