Two thousand eighteen has been a year of change for the Preservation Lab. I’ve come aboard as the Preservation Technician, we’ve reopened our renovated lab space, updated or created new workflows and policies, and we’re rocking our way through the backlog of repairs.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Amanda Richards and I’m the new Preservation Technician for the University of Tennessee Libraries. I earned my MLIS in 2012 from the University of South Florida, and I trained under the Book Conservator at the University of Central Florida.
The short version is: I help to make sure the materials the Libraries own last as long as possible. The slightly longer version is: I mend broken circulating items, build protective enclosures for fragile or rare items, monitor temperature and humidity, assess materials for treatments, complete condition reports for exhibit items coming in and going out on loan, assist with collection surveys, and assist with pickups for new collections. There’s a ton more, but I’ll stop there. It isn’t really a clear-cut answer; my daily duties change constantly.
What goes on in the Preservation lab?
Always something! This year we have been working through the backlog that accumulated while my position was vacant; so there have been many book repairs. We mend the damaged circulating books returned by patrons or found in the stacks. My students are trained on repairing tears, cleaning books, replacing the book spine, and making various kinds of book boxes; and they do the bulk of these repairs.
For the Archives and Special Collections materials, it’s a little different. Our focus is on Preservation instead of Conservation. What this means is that we look at how best to prevent future damage instead of how to repair what has already been damaged. This can entail building custom boxes, encapsulating items in mylar; and in some very rare cases we do extremely minor repairs or cleanings.
Any interesting projects going on?
Currently I’m working on monitoring the collection’s health. This is done by tracking temperature and humidity changes throughout the library, checking for leaks or mold, and following up on weird smells or spots (such as smelling vinegar, mothballs, mold, chemicals, etc.).
Current projects involve:
- Film reels
- Wooden objects
- Clothing objects
- Stained glass
- Circulating books
- New archives collections
- New manuscript collections
It’s a lot to keep up with, but I find it fascinating and exciting.
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