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Preservation Interest Group

Guide to provide a forum to learn and share ideas about the various aspects of preservation.

Meeting Notes

14 people representing a variety of types of libraries attended the program.

Marietta Carr of the Schenectady County Historical Society gave a presentation of changes and adaptations the Society has made since the beginning of the pandemic. These include: 

  • Research by appointment only.
  • Staff and volunteers must also schedule their hours ahead of time.
  • No more than 6 people total allowed in space at one time.
  • Clean surfaces and make sure they have time to dry between uses so material is not damaged.
  • Set up two quarantine stations: one for donations and new materials, and one for materials that have been used by staff or researchers. Have carts with separate shelves for day 1, day 2, and day 3 of quarantine.
  • Ready reference materials are now closed to browsing and must be requested for use. Researchers use the web site to request, which has been one of the biggest changes to workflow at the Society. This new procedure made the staff realize that the web site needs updating and clarification. Staff is providing more help to researchers, especially before they even arrive at the Library. They are now focusing on strengthening the web site, which will also help protect material in the long run because less handling of material needed to find what researcher is looking for.
  • Have clearly labeled all spaces and boundaries so people keep distance.
  • If people want to look at items, the must contact the library at least one day ahead. If someone else has used within three days of visit, they will need to schedule another time.
  • Some of these procedures may be more than is needed, but if it makes staff, volunteers and visitors feel more comfortable, it is worth it  this time.

Hannah Cox, Librarian at the Albany Institute of History and Art made a presentation on their procedures during and after their shutdown: 

  • The building supervisor was in the building every day during the shutdown to check for security, leaks, etc. Hannah was in once a week to do a more thorough check of library space.
  • Reopened to the public in July. Previously the library was open every Thursday, but are now open by appointment. Appointments are made at least three days in advance so staff can pull the materials desired. No more browsing.
  • Each department only allowed one volunteer in the building at a time, which has modified projects. Volunteers clean their work space when they are done.
  • The library has an isolation room, but it was already full with newly donated material and material with possible contamination issues, so library had to set up a separate quarantine space.
  • Doing more virtual reference now, and are being more flexible with remote research fees.
  • People need to make an appointment to donate material. Staff can meet people in the parking lot to do donation paperwork. The Collections Committee has been meeting over Zoom.
  • The library is in the new part of the building with good air filtration, which is good for the material, but now also a reassuring thing for people.

Anne Kearney and Karen Kiorpes of University at Albany outlined some good preservation procedures that are especially important during shutdown.

When a building is closed, whether seasonally or unexpectedly, as during a pandemic:

  • Check the building regularly. Focus on problem places, which you may have identified through disaster planning. Empower people who don't normally have these duties, such as security staff, to do these checks.
  • Prioritize looking for water issues. They are the most common problem and are damaging.
    • Make sure facilities staff or staff who will be checking these things during closure know who to alert and what to do if they find a problem.
    • Look for stains on the ceiling, which are clues that there are leaks.
    • Dataloggers sometimes have plug-ins that monitor for water.
    • Inexpensive water alarms ("water bugs") are alarms that people in the building will hear if they get wet. Note the the device itself must get wet to set off alarm, so place them carefully. (See Resources box below for information on water bug.)
    • Schenectady County Historical Society marked area that had a leak with an X so staff knows where water problem more likely to occur.
    • Union College noted that it can be hard to detect leaks above compact shelving when closed, so be sure to check above for signs on ceiling and periodically move shelving to detect leaks.
  • Concern that some institutions are trying to save money during shutdowns by reducing ventilation, turning down heat, AC, and other environmental controls that may do damage to the collections. You can alert your superiors or board to the issue, but may be a hard sell.

Other points and concerns:

  • 70% alcohol is the best disinfectant. Leaves no residue. Let air dry. Avoid cleaners with gels, fragrances, and other additives, as they may damage material.
  • Ask people to use soap and water rather than hand sanitizers before handling material. Hand sanitizers don't reduce oils on the hands that may harm material, and they also may have additives that are damaging to material.
  • Although studies show that the virus lives for a shorter time on paper than other materials, it is too complicated to have varying lengths of quarantine, so repositories are quarantining everything for the same amount of time.
  • Air quality - in room devices can help small organizations. HEPA filters also remove dust. Cleaner air helps both people and collections. Humidification systems can spread dust, so be aware of this and clean more often if humidification system used a lot.
    • Resource list (see box below) has information on how to choose the correct size of device for your space.
  • During this time, HVAC system should be set up so there is more exchange of air than usual. Keep the system fans running when people in the building even when temperature and humidity is where you want it.
  • May want to consider adding/keeping windows that can open even though they were sometimes discouraged in the past to be able to better able to control environment.
  • University at Albany Preservation Lab short staffed at this time, no work study students, so they are sending out more material to vendors for repair.
  • Bleach solution can be used to clean shelving, BUT it needs to be used carefully. Do not use old bleach, as it weakens over time. Alcohol, left to air dry, is safest way to clean archival spaces.
  • Soap and water kills COVID-19, but be careful around material. It is good for general cleaning, places like handrails, door knobs. A gentle soap like Ivory liquid is safest.

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, December 8, 9:30-11:00 am. The topic will be Response and Recovery from Unwanted Water Events.


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