In this Training section, it is generally useful to understand and assess the resources that are available and the topics on which information is provided.

The World Wide Web

The World Wide Web is a valuable resource for disseminating preservation information around the world. Preservation professionals may find it useful to have a list of websites on hand as a reference for themselves, other staff, and interested users. The preservation professional must ensure that the sites present acceptable and accurate information. In particular, a user should be able to find who wrote the site, what authoritative body backs the information, whether the information is fact or opinion, and when the site was created and updated. More in-depth discussions of these points can be found at Cornell University Library and New Mexico State University Library. Familiarity with and participation in list-serves may help users find answers to preservation questions and stay current with relevant publications. The web also provides numerous sites for suppliers in book repair, disaster response, packaging, and storage. See, for example:


Exhibits are an informative, visually stimulating way to educate the public about a variety of preservation issues. Displays of damaged, brittle, and repaired materials can be located in entrance lobbies, dispersed throughout the floors and hallways of a library, or placed in specifically designated gallery spaces. Exhibits of rare materials should follow appropriate conservation and security standards which let staff and patrons know the value of the materials.

"Less is more" is a useful axiom to follow when arranging an exhibit. While it is tempting to include all noteworthy materials in one display, this can overwhelm the viewer and detract from the significance, value, and importance of each item on display. Staging a number of smaller exhibits with selected materials is more effective. Exhibit themes (see example) quickly capture attention while illustrating important preservation points.

The availability, number, size, location, and types of display cases can help to narrow down potential exhibit candidates. The preservation professional should be involved in mounting exhibitions and should ensure that all guidelines on light exposure, environment, physical condition, and security are implemented. Materials in poor condition should never be exhibited, as this not only exposes the material to more damage but sends a negative message to the viewer.

Environmental conditions play a large role in determining which exhibit materials to display. Light streaming in on a display case, whether from the sun or interior sources, can raise the temperature within the case, discolor paper containing lignin, fade sensitive media, and subject materials to unnecessary ultraviolet light. To reduce risk, the case should be moved out of strongly lighted areas or shades should be installed over the case or over windows. If there is a light source inside the case, it should be removed to reduce heat and light. Low-wattage lamps and lights on timers can be used to decrease the amount of light reaching a display case.

Particulate and gaseous pollution should be kept out of display cases, and cases should be constructed from materials that do not emit harmful vapors. Fabrics used for case lining, for example, those with fire retardant and light-sensitive materials such as silk, may result in color loss or may contain undesirable finishes that migrate to the artifacts. Using natural fabrics like cotton and linen, and washing fabrics before use, will prevent these disadvantages. Additional information can be found at the National Information Standards Organization's website. The standard ANSI/NISO Z39.79 - 2001 Environmental Conditions for Exhibiting Library and Archival Materials is particularly useful.

Loans and packaging

A formal loan policy is strongly recommended for any institution that considers loaning artifacts to other institutions. The policy should address the amount of time needed for an item to be considered for loan, the time needed for the preparation of materials, and any restrictions that apply to loan items. Once materials are agreed upon, the length of time for the display and security measures should be discussed. Perhaps the most important aspect, and the hardest to control, is the environment in which the materials will be displayed. Ideally, the display will mimic the daily environment in which loaned materials are housed—lighting, temperature, relative humidity, and pollution controls—but this is rarely the case.

Other points to be stated in the policy include payment for treatment, insurance coverage, means of transportation, and specific packing instructions. Packing materials should insulate against sudden temperature and humidity changes, vibration, pests, shock, and water leaks. Many institutions require that especially valuable materials be transported by a conservator who also supervises the display of the artifact. The State Library of Victoria in Australia has a website that provides information on packing. See also the ACRL's Guidelines for the Loan of Rare and Unique Material and Guidelines for Borrowing Special Collections Materials for Exhibition. Detailed condition reports should accompany loaned materials as they leave an institution and should be filled out before and after an exhibit by the borrowing institution. It is also a good practice to maintain an exhibition log for materials that are loaned out or on display frequently, as this helps to track the condition and/or overuse of materials. The borrowing institution should be firm but not too unrealistic in their wishes.


Photocopying is useful for a number of preservation functions. In replacing overused reference materials such as index or dictionary pages, photocopies are an instant solution for damaged materials in demand. Archivists often choose to have photocopies of original materials in clipping files or finding aides. In the case of valuable or rare material, a facsimile may be substituted for the original.

The Library of Congress lists requirements for preservation photocopying and describes how to determine if an item is a candidate.

The handling of material to be copied is important to consider. Oxford University's Bodleian Library provides valuable information on copyright issues related to photocopying and criteria for self-service copying.

Regardless of the reason for choosing to photocopy, staff should be familiar with how to operate the photocopy machine in their facility. Of course, a higher-grade toner and paper will make for a better copy.

Microfilm readers

As noted in reformatting, microfilm has a life expectancy of approximately 500 years. However, if the film and equipment are mishandled, the film may be damaged or destroyed.

There are many options when buying microfilm readers, and the preservation professional should be included in all pre-purchasing discussions concerning equipment. Magnification, lens interchangeability, and screen characteristics are all points to consider when choosing a microfilm reader. This is illustrated in South Carolina's Department of Archives and History information leaflet (opens a pdf), Choosing Microfilm Readers and Reader/Printers. The Northeast Document Conservation Center also features information on reader equipment and suggested handling protocols.

A properly maintained microfilm reader is important. Daily cleaning will reduce scratching of film and lenses. Easy-to-follow instructions on how to operate microfilm and fiche readers should be posted, along with information on whom to ask for help if needed. Directions for handling the film itself will prevent unnecessary damage. Step-by-step instructions and illustrations for loading and operating a microfilm viewer can be found at the National University of Singapore's website.

Disaster-response techniques

Disasters such as floods or fire can happen unexpectedly in any library, and it is up to the staff to minimize damage by acting swiftly. The International Federation of Library Associations provides a website directory on disaster preparedness. As it is not known which staff members will be present when disaster strikes, it is highly beneficial to train the staff at large. All staff should receive some level of disaster-response training and be familiar with the institution's disaster-response plan. Training in operating fire extinguishers, and in handling and moving damaged materials, is important for all staff. Mock-disaster workshops can be helpful, not least because they involve emergency personnel such as firefighters and police. A number of websites provide useful guidance on disaster planning, including the following: