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Caring and Archival Conservation

May 13, 2011

Happy Friday! I hope that your day is going well, even though it’s the thirteenth (and no, I’m not really superstitious). It’s a Friday and that’s a good thing. Today I just want to talk briefly about caring and archival conservation, then send you off with some fun videos for your tea breaks. So let’s get going.

On Tuesday was the second of two Protecting Cultural Collections workshops held at the lovely California Historical Society in San Francisco. Sponsored by the IMLS, these workshop series are supposed to help more cultural institutions (libraries, museums, and archives) create and implement disaster preparedness plans and also learn basics about salvage/conservation techniques. I will admit to almost falling asleep in the first half of the workshop, mainly because the room was freezing and the lights were dim, but the second half of the workshop made up for it because it was hands-on. I like doing things so working with water-logged materials and determining how to go about drying the materials was a lot of fun. I highly suggest the workshops if you need a brush up on the basics of salvaging materials or need to create a disaster plan. You can see a schedule of the upcoming workshops and register here. If you want more in-depth training for conservation, you’ll have to go elsewhere as that is not the point of the workshops.

In addition to getting me thinking about how much conservation work needs to be done to the materials in my archives, the workshops also got me thinking about caring in general. Not just caring for the collections, which sorely need it and which the one grant for preservation work we got is going to help in that aspect, but caring for and about cultural institutions and people on a more general level. These thoughts have also been bouncing around in my head due to a lovely post over on Ink and Vellum,We’ve built the brand. Now let’s build celebrities and due to reading a lot of Seth Godin’s work lately, including The Big Moo. After thinking quite a lot about this, among other things, I really believe that a lot of the problems in branding, funding, increasing statistics, etc. comes down to not showing people how much we care. Now before you raise your pitchforks, hear me out.

I’m not saying you don’t care, or your organization doesn’t care. I’m saying that people don’t perceive us as caring about their unique problems. I’m saying that we are all so stressed and overworked that it’s beginning to show and this leads to a vicious cycle of apathy and bad statistics that then leads management to want to try new fancy “actionable” steps and “measurable” outcomes. However, I think we need to simply think about the truth in one chapter of The Big Moo:

You could spend all your money and all your time trying to improve your customer service through one fancy technique or another. Or you could just care. And hire people who care.

When people know you care about them, they start caring about you. And when they care about you, they’ll seek you out for help with their research paper, or their job application, or their archival research. When they care about you, they are willing to listen to your story and your ideas for creating a better library or archives or museum with programming and services that matter to them. And if they really can see that you care and have proof that you care, they will tell their friends and family members and start spreading the word and helping you out. Having a support base is the only way that we are going to be able to survive and improve, and it’s really the only way that we’ll ever get “celebrity” librarians or archivists.

So that’s all I really have to say today. Workshops on archival conservation and disaster preparedness made me think about caring in all aspects of life, but especially in my work. So let me know what you think because I really do care and love to hear from you, dear readers.

Finally, here’s some fun stuff for your Friday study/work breaks. Check out this video: Super Tiny Apartment is an Amazing Transformer. It’s really nifty, although I don’t think I want to do that moving of furniture in my apartment. Also, for those of you that like design and especially typography, check out: What Font are You? It’s fun and let’s you read through all of the font personality types at the end.

And, of course, we need a great video to finish with so here’s the Doctor because, well, it’s the Doctor.

Have a wonderful rest of your day, a fantastic weekend, and I’ll be back next week with more library/archives/tech thoughts and news. Allons-y!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 13, 2011 9:44 am

    That is such a great speech by #11, almost as good as the Stonehenge speech. =)

    I just wanted to add a little anecdote about caring. MPOW is in the process of planning freshmen orientation for the summer and we’ve been reviewing the surveys from last year. One comment that kept getting repeated over and over was basically: “Wow, I didn’t know librarians cared about my work?”

    It seems that sometimes the hardest part about marketing is just getting somebody to notice you. With so many other things fighting for the attention of first-year college students, it’s easier said than done. But if our assessments are any indication then you’re right: showing that you care goes a long way. =)

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