Case Studies

Note: Though the problems and solutions presented in these cases studies are very real, the libraries and people represented are fictional.

1. The Albatross Library
2. The Metropolitan Library
3. The Hangon Institute Library

The Albatross Library

The fictional Albatross Library is the main library of the University of Booster. The university is considered important and progressive. The library has around 2 million volumes and a local on-line catalogue system. Special collections has a good general collection of rare books and manuscripts, but its crowning glory is the ornithology collection, which contains many older manuscripts, hand-colored prints of birds, several thousand recorded bird songs, and many of naturalist Thomas Heron's early-20th-century papers and field manuals. The library has his entire collection.

The Thomas Heron collection has been rather neglected, but appears to be in generally sound condition with the following exceptions: the bird books are soiled from unmonitored handling and clumsy exhibition procedures; the bindings have cracked, crumbling leather; the bird sounds are recorded on a wide variety of media from numerous sources; the collection is still stored in Heron's original boxes and paper portfolios; the field manuals are on fragile paper; and none of the collection records is in machine-readable form. The bird books are catalogued, the recordings are inventoried, and the Heron papers have a list.

The preservation program, quite new, is limited to a preservation administrator, Penny Wise. Penny's field managerial experience is limited, as she was appointed directly from a library school that offered extensive courses in preservation but little practical experience. However, she has a good theoretical grasp of general preservation issues and is eager to build the program. Penny's staff consist of five technicians: three for the preparation of materials for commercial binding, book plating, and call number marking, and two for the repair of damaged books. The technicians are at the lower end of the library's pay scale and have little library experience beyond their immediate work assignments.

The problem
Wise has located George Heron, grandson of Thomas, and he has expressed an interest in supporting the preservation of the collection. However, as a fervent believer in self-help, he insists that the library obtain funding from an outside source first. When outside funding has been awarded, Heron will match dollar for dollar what the funding agency has provided. Penny Wise must devise a strategy that will develop the preservation program, preserve part of the collection, and take advantage of Heron's offer. How should Wise proceed?

Possible solution
There are a number of ways Wise could respond to this challenge. Ideally, she should develop a long-term plan for preservation, identifying where she expects the preservation program to be in five years. The five-year plan would cover all aspects of preservation, from basic collection care to remedial treatment, and microform to digital imaging. The plan should lay out requirements in terms of space, equipment, and staffing.

She should share the five-year plan with a funding agency and George Heron, and try to come to an agreement over what parts of the preservation program to focus on. A conservation facility, for example, could be built and named in honor of Mr. Heron or his grandfather.

The external funding agency could be asked to either share the cost of the facility with Heron or fund a different portion of the preservation program, such as a reformatting operation. The need for the conservation operation must be justified in terms of the value of the Heron artifacts and/or the need for a reformatting operation. A compelling case can be made that accomplishing portions of the five-year plan will result in conservation of the Heron collection.

The Metropolitan Library

The Metropolitan Library is the main public library of a large city, with smaller branch libraries spread throughout the urban area. The library plays a mentoring role in the region, its professional staff providing training in cataloguing and electronic access. The library director, Susan Green, provides general leadership to all the librarians in the region.

The Metropolitan Library has staff engaged in preservation activities in its technical services department. The library has a modest microfilming operation, with an old but reliable Recordak MRD2 camera, and various processing equipment provided years before by UNESCO. This unit microfilms city newspapers, but production is low, as equipment is constantly breaking and spare parts are difficult to find. The library has had agreements to provide copies of newspaper microfilm to libraries overseas on a cost-recovery basis, but orders have fallen off because of inconsistent quality and an inability to provide film in a timely fashion.

The problem
Green feels that the library is not fulfilling its responsibility to preserve newspapers and engage with overseas libraries in an activity that will directly benefit the library. She knows that the microfilming unit needs to be improved and the equipment updated, but the government has been reluctant to provide needed funds. What should Susan do?

Possible solution
Green is in a good position to establish a regional cooperative preservation center, the heart of which would be a modern microfilming operation. A good strategy would be to conduct market research among libraries nationally and overseas, to prove the need for such an undertaking. Regional libraries would be invited to have their local newspapers filmed centrally at the Metropolitan Library along with city newspapers.

Green would develop a proposal that would articulate the size of the new microfilming operation, the type and cost of equipment, and the size and composition of staff. Some thought would be given to the purchase of hybrid microfilm/scanning cameras so that newspapers could be accessed remotely. The proposal would be bolstered by endorsements from scholars as well as regional, national, and foreign libraries. An important part of the proposal would be providing assurance that, once established with modern equipment, the operation would be self-sustaining through cost-recovery sales of microfilm.

The Hangon Institute Library

The Hangon is a research institute dedicated to the study of traditional manuscripts. During the colonial period, the institute was a philological society made up of foreigners, and the present-day library is the result of the active collecting of the society's scholars during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is regarded as the most important manuscript collection in the country. When the colonial period came to an end, the philological society's members withdrew to their native land, but to this day the society maintains a continuing relationship with the Hangon Institute, which provides access to its collections for visiting scholars from overseas.

The problem
The government has begun final planning for a new building for the Hangon Institute, and the library director has indicated that space should be set aside for a conservation facility. The government has agreed to provide the space but refused to support the high cost of conservation equipment and furniture. The building is slated for occupation in two years. What strategy can the library director use to secure funding for the conservation effort?

Possible solution
The Hangon Institute has an opportunity to organize a funding campaign for the conservation facility during its planning and construction. The institute can amply demonstrate that the new building represents a substantial effort on the part of the government to preserve unique research collections. Possibly with the active support of the overseas philological society, a campaign could be launched that would seek private and institutional donations, as well as contributions from funding agencies.

The target amount should be clearly and reasonably demonstrated based on size, projected equipment, and utility costs. Appeals could include requests for funding of specific pieces of expensive equipment.