Ethel Hellman, collections conservator for Widener Library, recently led a series of training sessions in basic conservation treatments for Harvard library staff who are responsible for on-site treatments in their libraries. The interactive sessions, which covered paper repair, insertion of loose pages, and other basic conservation procedures for circulating library materials, stimulated discussion of treatment techniques. "The participants already had some conservation training. It is so valuable to teach people who come to the subject with understanding, because they can analyze critically what you are showing them. For example, in this class some questions arose that make me realize how a procedure could be performed more efficiently," said Hellman.
David Alexander, collections management assistant in HCL's Littauer Library, Cynthia Winters, preservation assistant in HCL's Fine Arts Library, and Terri Messina, conservation assistant in the Harvard Law School Library, participated in the training sessions, which took place in the Collections Conservation Lab in Widener Library.
Although the primary responsibility of HCL Conservation Services is the care of general collections in the Harvard College Library, the lab also serves the larger Harvard community by providing advice and training in general collections conservation University-wide. With staff from both the College and other University libraries in the class, the University training services provided by Widener were underscored.
"Work areas differ from library to library. If certain equipment is not available, we are happy to have the library staff member come to the Widener lab to use our equipment. For instance, a board cutter is a very large piece of equipment that not all the libraries have. Cynthia Winters will be coming to our lab to cut board," said Hellman. "Last week, staff from the University Archives and staff from Houghton Library used the fume hood for mold removal."
"We are developing conservation programs in the College Library and the Weissman Preservation Center that complement each other, with as little overlap as possible," said Jan Merrill-Oldham, Malloy-Rabinowitz Preservation Librarian in the Harvard College Library and the Harvard University Library. "In order to leverage our resources we distribute responsibilities carefully, making optimum use of our strengths, talents, and time whenever possible. Where conservators in the Weissman will take the lead in assisting with issues having to do with Harvard's special collections, Ethel Hellman and Nancy Schrock, chief collections conservator for HCL, are dedicated to program development and training for the conservation of general collections."
Hellman will hold another class during May, with staff already scheduled to attend. "As long as people who are responsible for book repair want training, we will conduct classes," said Hellman noting that it is desirable to have a cohesive conservation approach across the libraries.