Employment and Study Opportunities

  1. Preservation units deal primarily with materials from the circulating collections of the General Library System libraries and, to a lesser extent, with materials from Special Collections and from the University archives (which is independent of the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives).
  2. Materials to be preserved have physical problems of one sort or another. Problems range from minor (torn page, damaged spine) to quite severe (very brittle paper; textblock in pieces; water and mold damage). Many of the items are quite old, and may be dusty and dirty. Therefore, if you have significant allergies to dust or mold, this may not be the best working environment (though we do have attractive masks, gloves, and other types of protective clothing available).
  3. Materials are in all subject areas and all languages represented in campus library collections, so knowledge of foreign languages is always a plus.
  4. Ability to work with details is integral to preservation work, which involves close examination and comparison of materials, careful handling, and maintenance of the organizational integrity of items during processing and treatment.
  5. Work-study grants are highly desirable, but are not absolutely necessary for positions in Preservation units.
  6. Work hours are somewhat flexible and are determined in consultation with your supervisor.


Student work positions are available in the following areas. Follow the links to find complete descriptions.

Practicum and Independent Study

Preservation is of relevance in every operational area of a library or archive, and virtually every institutional decision has a preservation component. All institutional activities — from broad-based administrative decisions affecting policy development, building maintenance, and security, to more narrow departmental handling and processing practices — have an effect on the condition of library materials.

The Preservation Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison General Library System is responsible for the well-being of campus collections. Over the years, many students have taken the opportunity to complete a Practicum or Independent Study course in the Department. Courses may be completed in the Book Assessment unit and/or the Conservation Lab. Generally, students who choose to gain hands-on book repair experience in the Conservation Lab are also asked to complete readings in other aspects of preservation to broaden their understanding of the field. Students who are preparing to work in a particular type of library or have specialized interests may also wish to do focused reading in an area that particularly interests them. Examples of the types of skills to be gained are listed below.

Conservation Lab

  • paper repair using Japanese papers
  • rebacking (spine repair)
  • recasing (reattaching textblock to case)
  • construction of new cases
  • hand sewing of pamphlets and/or multi-signature textblocks
  • paper washing and aqueous deacidification
  • polyester encapsulation
  • box or envelope-box construction

Book Assessment unit

  • ability to evaluate damaged materials and recommend appropriate treatments
  • skill in navigating the Cataloging Module of Voyager
  • skill in searching OCLC
  • preparation of documents for various types of reformatting
  • techniques of preservation photocopying
  • evaluation of quality of microfilm or paper reprints
  • proper handling of deteriorated materials
  • meet daily challenges of preservation, e.g., disaster response

Typical objectives of Practicum or Independent Study students may include:

  1. To understand the mission and priorities of the department and its relationship with other library departments.
  2. To become familiar with preservation issues and the journals, websites, and organizations that discuss them.
  3. To learn criteria relevant in assessing deteriorated materials and to employ the criteria in choosing an appropriate treatment.
  4. To gain hands-on experience in book repair and other conservation techniques.
  5. To complete readings on a preservation topic of particular interest.


  1. Have you ever worked in a library? If yes, what type of work did you do?
  2. What type of library do you intend to work in as a professional?
  3. What aspect of library work most interests you?
  4. Have you ever done any of the following — craftwork, artwork, cooking, sewing, other (please specify):
  5. Do you have severe allergies to dust or mold?