Barbara Goldsmith Preservation and Conservation Department (212) 998-2564

Bobst Library's special collections and archives house significant resources, rare books, personal papers, University history, and more. Additionally, they sponsor numerous events throughout the year, and contribute widely to many publications.


The primary purpose of the Barbara Goldsmith Preservation Department is to preserve, protect and thereby extend the usable life of the NYU Libraries' collections. The department pursues this objective in accordance with the mission and goals of the Libraries, and in conjunction with the University's research mission. All preservation activities are followed in accordance with nationally recognized standards for preservation and conservation of library and archival materials.


The NYU Libraries Preservation Department is located on the Lower Level 2 (LL2) of NYU Libraries' Elmer Holmes Bobst Library and is responsible for the following activities: commercial binding, conservation treatment, reformatting, disaster preparedness, staff and patron education, and a program to monitor climate control in the Library. In addition, two new components have been added to the program: moving image and sound preservation, as well as digital conversion. Commercial Binding includes first-time binding and rebinding. One full-time supervisor and four students staff this unit. In the Barbara Goldsmith Conservation Laboratory, one conservator, two full-time conservation technicians, and 1-2 FTE graduate student assistants provide conservation treatments for general collections and special collections. The conservation treatments used in the lab include rebinding, recasing, rebacking, boxing, deacidification, paper cleaning, washing and, mending, as well as other minor repair work. In the department's newly renovated lab, contract conservators are also engaged to work on short-term, grant-funded projects. When physical treatment is impossible due to advanced chemical deterioration within the paper, books and archives materials are reformatted to retain the intellectual content that resides in the book or document. Reformatting techniques are used for books and archive materials that cannot be physically repaired because the paper is too brittle to sustain conservation treatment. These techniques include preservation microfilming and preservation photocopying. Both methods adhere strictly to nationally accepted standards. In addition, special grant-funded preservation projects are conducted on an ongoing basis within the department to preserve damaged and deteriorating non-book materials, such as, photographs, music scores and audio/visual materials. Moving Image and Sound preservation are new initiatives in the department designed to provide collections care, such as proper housing, and reformatting for these rapidly deteriorating collections. Three media labs provide workspace and equipment for motion picture film, video and audio materials. A routine workflow is in place for digitizing audio and video materials from the Libraries' special collections and archives. An Archives Preservation Program was established in 2008 and provides a dedicated preservation archivist to administer ongoing preservation efforts for the archives and special collections materials. The Preservation Archivist also assists in condition assessments of incoming collections. The Barbara Goldsmith Preservation Department also manages Digital Conversion projects for still images and text that include a preservation component.

The majority of circulating books from the Library's general collections are identified for preservation after they return from circulation. The Circulation and Preservation departments collaborate to identify damaged and deteriorated items in need of treatment. A preservation librarian sorts these books according to treatment needs, such as, commercial binding, conservation, or reformatting, and routes them to the appropriate section within the department. Titles to be preservation photocopied or microfilmed await further in-house, in-print and microform searching by bibliographic assistants and are reviewed by subject specialists before a final decision is made to reformat the item.

Education and training for both staff and users are very much a part of the department's mission. The preservation librarian conducts training sessions for all levels of library staff to promote preservation awareness through lectures and documentary videos relating to both national and local preservation efforts. More intensive training for library departments, such as circulation and stacks, is conducted to train staff in proper book handling procedures and to teach them methods of identifying damaged and brittle books that should be routed to the preservation department. NYU students developed and produced a book handling video for the department entitled, "Handle With Care," which is used for staff training purposes at NYU, as well as other libraries around the country. Plastic rain bags, distributed at the circulation desk, carry a preservation message and protect circulating books during inclement weather. A web exhibit illustrating the scope and purpose of the preservation program was established on the department's web page last year.

NYU Libraries employs mass deacidification to neutralize acidic paper in general collections books. Selection of books for mass deacidification is done on a collection basis. Currently, collections of foreign publications are targeted for this process. NYU has chosen to concentrate on the Slavic Studies and Near and Middle Eastern Studies collections for the next few years. Preservation Technologies, in Pittsburgh, PA, provides this service for us.

Hygrothermographs and dataloggers are used to monitor the Library's environmental control system. Conditions are analyzed, reported and discussed with building management personnel as needed.

The Libraries' preservation program also includes a disaster plan component. Every six months the Disaster Plan Workbook is updated with new telephone numbers, floor maps, and other emergency information. A generic version of the disaster plan appears on the department's web page to assist other libraries and repositories to develop their own plans. An NYU Libraries Disaster Preparedness Committee meets semi-annually to review and update the plan.

For more information, please contact Paula De Stefano, the Barbara Goldsmith Curator for Preservation, at 212/998-2563; or via email at:
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