Building Relationships

Support for preservation depends on building relationships with those in positions of power. The more the preservation unit is brought to the attention of influential people, the more likely it is that funding will follow. Recognition begins within the institution; it is crucial to have the backing of inside administrators and leaders so that a broader network of support can be created. Occasionally, however, national or regional attention attracts support for the preservation program first, convincing the internal administration of its importance.

Inside the institution

Regular communication with administrators is key to keeping the message alive. Administrators need to be constantly updated about any news favorable to the program. Copies of letters of thanks and appreciation to preservation professionals should be routinely forwarded to administrators.

Outside the institution

More generally, the practice of letter and report writing is a simple way to keep the institution in the news and to argue for or against impending legislation that affects preservation. Though they don't always directly seek advice, government officials may wish to know the pros and cons associated with local and global preservation issues. Recognition often results from an institution's willingness to stand up and speak out on issues related to preservation. Moreover, if such issues are not being discussed at all, it is in the institution's best interest to bring them to the public table.

Speaking to government officials over the telephone or in person can be useful, but great discretion should be used. Care must be taken to support the library or archive administration while highlighting the preservation perspective. The key to personal interaction is to remain tactful, professional, and patient, especially in response to technical questions, criticisms, or complaints. It is important to convey the impression of expertise.

In most institutions, there are opportunities to make personal contact with decision-makers and possible donors by attending social and cultural functions, such as exhibitions and performances. Networking can be invaluable, especially when some connection can be established between the event and preservation activity.

Giving advice on preservation or working on projects with other preservation units is another way to stay in the news. Achievements of national or international scope generate favorable publicity that may prove invaluable. For example, volunteering the preservation unit's services to mount a display in a prominent government building is a means of "selling" the activities of the preservation unit.