Caring for America's Library: A Brief History of Preservation and Conservation at the Library of Congress
Kenneth E. Harris and Susan E. Schur
One of the early Librarians of Congress, in transforming the Library from a good facility serving the needs of U.S. legislators into one that would become the largest and most complex universal library in the world, realized that the acquisition path did not have to be hampered by limited funds. Several new approaches were utilized whereby large quantities of free materials were and still are being channeled into the Library. With collections growth thus proceeding in astonishing steps, questions arose regarding proper maintenance of the holdings. Not only did space become a problem, but also collections care.
Although the Library has a tradition of concern regarding minimizing the deterioration of printed matter and improving handling and care procedures, its preservation activities have been organizationally centralized only since 1967. In 1965, a national preservation planning conference jointly sponsored by the Library and the Association of Research Libraries led the Library to re-examine its preservation activities and the need for application of scientific and sound management principles to its program. Following these developments and awareness of preservation needs resulting from international response to the disastrous flood in Florence in 1966, the Library consolidated its preservation activities into an organizational unit that would be responsible for protecting the collections and extending their useful life. A concerted program is now carried out by components of the Preservation Directorate -- the Office of the Director for Preservation (which includes the Mass Deacidification Program) plus four divisions: the Binding and Collections Care Division, the Conservation Division, the Preservation Research and Testing Division, and the Preservation Reformatting Division.
More about the history of preservation at the Library [PDF: 551 KB / 30 p.]