Our staff spotlight this month is Andrea Rolich, Preservation Librarian at Memorial Library. Although the nature of her work does not typically put her in the spotlight, Andrea was happy to share a wealth of knowledge about the Preservation Department and had some fascinating items to show off. Read on to learn more about Andrea and the vital role preservation plays in the libraries.
News: Can you tell me a little bit about what goes on here in the Preservation Department?
Andrea Rolich (AR): Preservation should be taken into account in every aspect of library and archives operations. Materials in disrepair, mostly from circulation, come to us for treatment. In other cases, materials are chosen for treatment based on their subject matter or their rarity.
When an item enters the department, the first order of business generally consists of sorting in order to determine what type of treatment the material needs and bibliographic and physical control in which the Preservation location of all items are entered into Voyager so that they may be easily located should a patron place a request. Depending on each individual case, the activities we engage in can include commercial binding, hand repair, microfilming, creation of paper facsimiles, replacement with out-of-print copies, mass de-acidification, and digitizing.
We also received a lot of items to “stabilize” for the Google Books initiative, which kept all Preservation-related staff very busy.
In addition to these “behind-the-scenes” activities, preservation staff are also involved with outreach activities like conducting education sessions and workshops for other University staff and libraries of all kinds, acting as guest lecturers for courses at the School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS), and setting up exhibits to spread awareness of preservation activities.
Overall, our goal is similar to that of other library departments, which is to maintain and enhance access to all of the great research materials available through the University Libraries.
News: As you are well aware, this week is Preservation Week (April 21-27)! Can you tell me more about that?
AR: Libraries use Preservation Week to connect with their communities through events, activities, and resources that promote awareness of the importance of preservation activities.
There are three free webinars going on this week through ALCTS:
- Tuesday, April 23: The Preservation of Family Photographs—Debra Hess Norris
- Wednesday, April 24: Personal Digital Archiving—Mike Ashenfelder
- Thursday, April 25: Archival 101: Dealing with Suppliers of Archival Products—Peter D. Verheyen
Each of these webinars can be accessed after the fact, too, so if you can’t make it for the live webinar, you can feel free to register and watch it at your leisure.
In the past, we’ve been able to be much more active during Preservation Week by creating local exhibits, setting up group showings of webinars, etc., but this year won’t be quite as eventful simply because our daily operations have kept us very busy lately.
News: What is your favorite part of your job?
AR: I would have to say that working with other staff members who have similar interests is one of the best parts. But also, the type of work we do is quite satisfying. To know that something that is incomplete or fragile and virtually unusable in its current form can be made fully accessible to users is very fulfilling. For example, there was this brittle Chinese book that came to us– it practically crumbled if you touched it. We were able to restore it by creating a facsimile copy. The new version is now perfectly useable on beautiful, creamy, acid-free paper.
One downside to the work is that there are sometimes instances in which nothing can be done for a book. For instance, we had an item with the imprinting from another page on top of the text. It looked like the ink was still wet and it was laid on top of the already-printed page. Our first option would normally be to get an ILL copy and just photocopy the undamaged page from it and replace the damaged page with that copy. Unfortunately, in this case there were no other copies available as we owned the sole copy registered in OCLC, so we were unable to fix it.
News: Since it was just National Library Week, I have to ask… What is your favorite library?
AR: Well, I of course have to go with the obvious answer, Memorial Library. I have used and loved it from the time I first came here for grad school in the late-1960s. I worked here as a student and later as a half-time cataloger of Slavic and Baltic materials, from 1983-1991. I was lucky to be at SLIS in the later eighties at a time when there was a Preservation track, which is one of the reasons I’m in my current position (since 1991).
Other than Memorial, I also frequent Middleton Public Library from time to time, since I live in Middleton.
News: What are you reading right now?
AR: My favorite authors are Russian and French authors—I have a background in Slavic Languages/Literatures, and actually got my PhD in that before attending library school.
Just inside the Preservation Department office doors, display cases feature terribly damaged books and humorously and horrifically botched “home repairs” that have made their way to the Preservation Department over the years. Amongst signs proclaiming quips like “Books are not candle holders” you’ll find books that have been devoured by insects, covered in highlighting, and bandaged with band-aids and electrical tape, to name only a few of the delightfully atrocious specimens. The banner above the display appropriately sums up the Preservation Department’s mission, stating “Great collections deserve great care. You can help!”
- Check out the ALCTS page on ALA’s website for ways you can get involved with Preservation Week
- Look for Preservation Week printouts in the lobby of Memorial Library
- Visit the UW-Madison Preservation Department website
- Attend a preservation webinar!