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From Beijing to Ithaca, extending the lives of vulnerable books

ITHACA, N.Y. (Oct. 4, 2012) – Starting in November, Cornell University Library will help preserve valuable books and prevent damage from natural disasters thousands of miles across the ocean.

Thanks to a $180,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, the Library is beginning an internship program that will allow representatives from four libraries in China come to Ithaca to study with experts in the Library’s Department of Preservation and Conservation.

Cornell’s preservation experience, facilities and expertise will show the eight interns how to mitigate the immediate physical risks that threaten some of China’s most significant historical collections and greatly extend the life of their valuable books.

“Knowledge creation is global. With fewer barriers to cross-border research, the well-being of collections in other countries is directly linked to the research we do at Cornell and around the world, and it benefits from their accessibility,” said Xin Li, Associate University Librarian for Central Library Operations. “Helping Chinese librarians preserve these materials ensures they’ll be around for the long run, which is part of the global mission of a land-grant university.”

Four leading academic libraries in Beijing— Renmin University Library, Peking University Library, Tsinghua University Library and the China Agricultural University Library — will participate in the program. Its first session begins Nov. 1, with two interns coming to Cornell at a time. Over the course of two years, each of the interns will attend two six-week workshops.

Interns will learn conservation of Western bindings, non-damaging exhibition practices and care and handling of collections, as well as how to prevent mold and mitigate water damage.

By the end of the program, interns will not only be able to implement preservation and disaster plans at their own libraries, but also help train other librarians, archivists and technicians at other institutions in China. An enhanced online preservation tutorial translated into Chinese will also allow library staff members to continue mentoring and advising the interns even after the project is over.

“Our ‘train-the-trainers’ model, combined with our online tutorial, means we can reach far beyond the people we’re training in person,” said Barbara Berger Eden, director of preservation at Cornell. “This program requires a combination of specialized skills that our Library can offer: singular expertise in traditional conservation skills and the innovative use of cutting-edge technology.”

“The preservation of endangered materials will benefit scholarship,” said Helena Kolenda, Program Director for Asia at the Luce Foundation.  “This training program will also serve to build bridges between the library communities in the United States and China.”

To learn more
Visit the Library and the Department of Preservation and Conservation online.