Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Blast from the Past: Library Rules

Over the summer, I completed a course on preservation management as part of the archives management concentration at the Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. The class took a field trip to the State Library, its Special Collections, and the preservation lab. It was fascinating to see behind the scenes and how a number of preservation techniques that we were learning about were applied in a real situation. After finishing the class, I am fortunate enough to intern here at the State Library’s preservation lab and gain some hands on experience.

The project I am working on is rehousing documents from the Massachusetts Room that are fragile and thin. The items that I have worked on so far have a wide range in dates and cover a number of different topics. One of the best things about this project is that each document is unique. Many are different sizes or different formats and every day I find something new and interesting.

The first thing I do is remove any deteriorating paper or plastic folders. I then take out any staples or ribbons that have been holding multiple sheets together. These steps are taken to prevent further damage to the documents caused by unstable enclosures or fasteners. Next, I measure and cut a new acid-free folder so that it will give a close fit for the document with just a little extra room on the sides. The last thing I do is place the folder inside an envelope that is labeled with its call number, title, and author. This allows patrons to identify the contents of each envelope without having to pull out the item. Now the documents have a little more support and protection from light damage and shelf wear.

One of my favorite things that I have found so far is a document called Massachusetts State Library Rules. They went into effect on December 1, 1926.

A few of my favorite rules are:

#11: It is requested that users of the library shall refrain from removing their coats and appearing in shirt-sleeves in the main reading room

#13: Telephone calls will be delivered only in cases of emergency.

The rules are fascinating because they highlight changes in social conventions, technology advances, and differences in library procedures. Stay tuned for more interesting finds!

- Corinne Philips, Preservation Intern