Space and Location

Typically, a large research library has the following in-house preservation units: book repair for circulating materials, bindery preparation for liaison work with the commercial binder, plating and labeling unit for new books, microfilming, and conservation. Small to medium-size libraries are not likely to have microfilming or conservation units unless they house rare or unique materials. If possible, the institution should appoint a preservation professional to reorganize the units into a consolidated preservation department. If this is possible, the plating and labeling unit should be transferred to technical services, as it is not, strictly speaking, a preservation function.

From the managerial standpoint, it is best to group preservation operations close to one another, enabling more flexible staff assignments, greater managerial control, common use of equipment and supplies, and a more cohesive set of operations.


If the library installs a stiffening operation for the in-house binding of new paperbacks, this should be located adjacent to the main conservation operation but not too far away from technical services. A stiffening and pamphlet-casing operation will need a space of approximately 60 square meters with good access to bulk storage areas and the loading dock. The space should have good lighting and air circulation, with no harmful fumes released in the work area. Because some power equipment will be needed, this unit should not be placed near a reading room or study area, or on the floor above. A good water supply and sinks are essential to this operation, as are sufficient electrical power to service a power paper cutter and a gluing machine.

Book repair

For smaller libraries without conservation operations, a book repair unit can be located in any space within a reasonable distance of storage areas. Generally, the amount of space dedicated to book repair should be between 20 and 30 square meters. It is useful to have this unit enclosed unless it can be part of the larger conservation operation. Usually, only hand tools or small power tools will be used in this unit; noise is not likely to be disruptive. A water supply and a sink are important.

Commercial binding preparation

The bindery preparation area is essentially an office space, but proximity to the loading dock is advisable to prevent the transporting of materials through other library areas on their way to and from the commercial binder. Proximity to the preservation operation is less crucial. For most libraries, the space will need good shelving, room for book trucks and packing, desks and computers, with the amount of space depending on the volume of materials being processed and the staff needed. Power should be sufficient to support computers with Internet and catalogue-searching connections, and a future automated binding system. Generally, the space should range between 40 and 60 square meters.

Microfilm preparation

If the library does not have a microfilm unit but works with a microfilm vendor, it may be important to establish a greater measure of control on the final product by setting up a more advanced preparation and inspection unit. Ideally, this would involve a pre-filming staging area with space for a collation inspection station, where staff would ensure that the item to be filmed is in the correct order and would issue special instructions to the camera operator (missing pages, damage, image problems, special handling concerns, etc). The space would also include a layout and header/target area; this would be equipped with a computer, a high-resolution printer, and connectivity to on-line bibliographic records in order to produce item-specific targets to be sent with the items for filming. A post-filming area should be established and should include apparatus such as a microfilm reader and resolution/density equipment for inspecting returned film. The space for this unit should be from 40 to 60 square meters.

Microfilming operation

If the library has a microfilming operation, it should incorporate all the functions of microfilm preparation plus those needed to capture and process the microfilm. The camera area should have space for at least one high-quality camera large enough to permit the filming of different-sized books, newspapers, and periodicals, and should be equipped with rulers, cradles, blocking-out fabrics or paper, and a supply of standard targets.

The film-processing area could be separated from the camera area but immediately adjacent, and would include a deep tank processor, other smaller processors, and a duplication inspection station. This area should be dedicated to developing film, conducting methylene blue tests, and duplication. The entire area should be properly ventilated, with any fumes vented outside the building. Similarly, there should be proper disposal of developing solutions. Water should be filtered, and tested and upgraded if it does not meet standards for processing. Space for this operation should be close to other preservation units and approximately 100 square meters.


In most libraries, the conservation operation will focus on books and paper treatment, usually for rare/unique research material. Sometimes the facility will incorporate a bindery designed to process materials similar to the work performed by the commercial binder (periodical, monograph rebinding, etc). Perhaps one of the most important requirements for an area dedicated to conservation treatment is that the level of security be just as stringent as for the rare book room. Generally, this area will be equipped with benches and some power equipment. There should be at least two sinks: one for washing hands and utensils, and one for the aqueous treatment of rare/unique materials. The space should be well lit and clean, and should have good access to the loading dock. More space should be allowed than is immediately needed in order to accommodate future project work funded from external sources.

If the area does accommodate a sizeable binding operation and a paper/photograph conservation operation, some separation may be necessary to prevent the transfer of dust from books and supplies into the paper/photograph conservation area. The space for book conservation should be from 100 to 200 square meters, for paper/photograph conservation from 40 to 60 square meters. A space of 200 square meters should accommodate the work of eight book conservation staff.