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The Field Services program serves as the Preservation Division’s outreach center for The New York Public Library’s staff and public. Preservation staff collaborate with Library colleagues to provide safe and stable conditions for the Library’s collections and to minimize damage that can be caused by disasters, pests, accidents, or other challenges. Field Services educates staff and public; designs and conducts collection preservation needs assessments; manages the environmental monitoring program; coordinates the disaster preparedness and response program; facilitates integrated pest management; coordinates related research projects, assists project planning and design.
Education is an important component of the Field Services program, with a goal to train both Library staff and the public in preservation practices used to extend the life of collection materials. In 2010, the Preservation Division used the national Preservation Week initiative as a kick-off opportunity for public events, which both educate our public in caring for their own collections and showcase how the Library cares for its diverse materials. The New York Public Library Preservation Week series and other events can be found on the Library’s programs calendar.
Preservation assessments and surveys
Preservation assessments and surveys enable the Library to identify threats and reduce risks to the collection, prioritize recommendations, and appropriately allocate its resources over time. Field Services staff works closely with collection staff to develop the project goals and parameters to assess the our diverse collections. Field Services will then perform the assessment, training and directing additional staff as needed, package the relevant information, and make prioritized recommendations to reach or exceed the goals.
Field Services performs two of the three types of assessments commonly in use by Preservation staff. Needs assessments are used to gain a broad overview of a collection, identifying and prioritizing opportunities for improvement in collection care. Collection surveys are more refined by using statistical sampling to gather data relevant to the collection (example: 30 percent of the volumes are sufficiently damaged or fragile to require protective enclosures). To determine specific treatment needs, conservators from the Preservation Division’s Barbara Goldsmith Conservation Lab may perform an item-level survey (examining individual items) to determine the extent of physical or chemical treatment needs, prioritize collection items or activities, and provide resource estimates.
Maintaining a stable environment is a core component of long-term collection care, doing the most amount of good for the most amount of materials, uniformly over time (in other words, it provides the biggest bang for buck, and utilizes a minimum of staff resources). Field Services has installed dataloggers throughout collection spaces, accumulating temperature and relative humidity data. The data loggers are routinely monitored, and Field Services disseminates data upon request or when issues arise, such as a heat and relative humidity increase sufficient to promote mold growth. Staff then collaborates with facilities and curatorial staff to locate and troubleshoot the issue and resolve the challenge.
Disaster preparedness and response
Field Services coordinates disaster preparedness and response efforts by maintaining active and current documentation such as the emergency call chain; managing and maintaining the emergency supply kits that have been distributed across the Library system (“MESS kits” - Minor Emergency Salvage Supply); and participating in response and recovery efforts.
Integrated pest management
Preservation works with facilities staff throughout Library buildings to take a proactive approach to pest management in order to safeguard Library collections.
The Field Services program is the key liaison in a number of preservation-related research and development projects. Many projects not only aid the Library’s preservation efforts, but also significantly impact practices in the cultural heritage field, such as the following examples of an ongoing partnership with the Image Permanence Institute (IPI). Sponsored by a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Preservation and Access Research and Development grant (2007-2008), the Library and IPI defined best practices for monitoring, evaluating, and optimizing storage conditions from an environmental management perspective: Developing Data Models and Best Practices for Diagnosis and Improvement of Preservation Environments. In continued partnership with IPI and funded by an Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) National Leadership grant (2009-2013), the Research on Energy Saving Opportunities in Libraries project investigates managed methods to obtain savings in energy usage in collection storage environments without compromising preservation goals.
Project planning and design
In routinely managing and coordinating programs and projects that cross divisional lines and forging strong working relationships with related staff, Field Services gains a broad understanding of the Library’s activities and goals. Field Services often develops the implementation plans needed to achieve the recommendations outlined in the assessments and surveys. As a result, staff are also well positioned to assist other Library units in the planning and design of their own projects, especially when there is a missing expertise component in the existing project staff or in the case of “orphan” projects.