Preservation Week @ your library

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By Steve Zalusky

During the week of April 22-28, libraries will celebrate Preservation Week @ your library.

It will be a time for libraries to highlight what all of us can do to preserve our personal and shared collections.

The week will be highlighted by events and activities, as library patrons receive valuable tips on how to handle everything from home movies to old letters and newspapers.

Last year, more than 65 events took place nationwide.

Across the country, libraries are doing important work to promote preservation.

In 2005 the first comprehensive national survey of the condition and preservation needs of the nation’s collections reported that U.S. institutions hold more than 4.8 billion items.

Libraries alone hold 3 billion items (63 percent of the whole). A treasure trove of uncounted additional items is held by individuals, families, and communities. These collections include books, manuscripts, photographs, prints and drawings, and objects such as maps, textiles, paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, and furniture, to give just a sample.

They also include moving images and sound recordings that capture performing arts, oral history, and other records of our creativity and history. Digital collections are growing fast, and their formats quickly become obsolescent, if not obsolete.

Some libraries, like Duke University Libraries’ preservation and conservation program, use groundbreaking techniques. The Duke University program is among the first of its kind to use social networking technologies for outreach and education in preservation.

Under the leadership of conservator Beth Doyle, and with help from Preservation staff members, this program has built a Web presence using Flickr, Twitter and Facebook. They are also highlighted regularly in the library’s digital collections blog (and the library Web pages), which shares information about the work of their department and preservation in general.

Topics include digital project tips, ideas for boxes and other preservation strategies, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of the libraries’ collections and conservation program.

Although current wisdom says social network technology is a great way to reach young people, their Facebook statistics show 66 percent of their fans are aged 35-54.

The sites play an important role in spreading the word, since more students arrive at the libraries’ Web pages from their social networks than from the home pages.

See Duke Preservation on Twitter @DukePresDPC; Duke Preservation on Facebook, and the blog of the Duke University Libraries Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The Devil's Tale (Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library), for ideas for your own social networking for preservation. The large commercial sites are user friendly (easy to use), and Doyle has found that once you’re set up, postings require minimal time.

Libraries also play a pivotal role in preserving parts of our cultural heritage.

Ruth Shasteen, librarian at the Central Assumption and Moweaqua High School (A&MHS), created an extraordinary partnership to mine Moweaqua’s cultural memory. A&MHS, Gregory Elementary School, Moweaqua Public Library, Moweaqua Historical Society, and the Moweaqua Coal Mine Museum collaborated to preserve community and family history and to make them available to a worldwide audience.

Mowequa MineThe 1932 Moweaqua Mining Corporation tragedy was a defining moment in the social, economic, and emotional stability of this community. The generational memory of the event and the supporting physical evidence were at risk of disappearing forever with those who experienced it. Using oral history and videotaped interviews, along with locally owned historic documents, photographs, and artifacts uncovered by the project, Mining More in Moweaqua explored how this single explosion represents a microcosm of coal mining history, in Illinois and elsewhere.

Mining More in Moweaqua used funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services State Program Grant to Illinois State Library, along with local funds and other resources, to enable 21 students in A&MHS’s honors English class to interview 10 Moweaqua elders about the explosion, which killed 54 miners on Christmas Eve, 1932.

The project created a website, a permanent exhibit at the public library and a 4-DVD set including photos, interviews, and a moving 30-minute video of the culminating project celebration with the interviewed, their interviewers, and their families. Purchasers in and outside the state have generated enough demand to produce another run of DVDs. Fifth graders now use a local history curriculum volunteers produced for the project, and visit the coal mine museum (created by survivors’ families).

The tangible records, themselves to be preserved by the museum and historical society, may be the smallest project results. Students and interviewees realized the power of hearing and sharing memory. Young people connected to their community’s history, and built bridges between adolescence and age. One interviewer discovered a song about the disaster published by her aunt. The library, historical society and museum now have the capacity to digitize collections, which are accessible and on their way to strengthened care. Cooperating organizations built trust for other partnerships. The public library, historical society and museum of this town of fewer than 2,000 residents are on the map—the Springfield PBS affiliate and other media provided coverage of the project, increasing visitors.

Preservation Week @ your library is an initiative, the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS), a division of the American Library Association (ALA).

New York Times best-selling author Steve Berry has been named the first national spokesperson for Preservation WeekBerry is the author of nine novels, including his most recent book, The Jefferson Key, the seventh in the Cotton Malone series. His newest work is the forthcoming The Columbus Affair (Ballantine, May 2012), featuring as protagonist Tom Sagan, a disgraced Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

Berry’s works have been translated into 40 languages with more than 12 million books in print in 51 countries worldwide. Other titles include The Emperor’s Tomb, The Paris Vendetta, The Alexandria Link and The Venetian Betrayal.

A devoted student of history, Berry and his wife, Elizabeth, founded History Matters, a nonprofit organization dedicated to aiding the preservation of the fragile reminders of our past. Since then, they have traveled the world raising much-needed funds for a wide range of historic preservation projects.

In a recent Wall Street Journal interview (Nov. 2, 2011), Mr. Berry notes, “What are we losing when that [on being told of the rapid loss of our historical record] happens? We’re losing windows to the past, thoughts to the past and ideas to the past, and that really affected me.”

A native of Georgia, Steve Berry graduated from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. You can learn more about Steve Berry and History Matters at

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