Beginning in January of 2012, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (PLCH) and University of Cincinnati Libraries (UCL) began a long-term collaboration to provide conservation and preservation treatments in an equally-managed, staffed, and equipped preservation lab situated on the University of Cincinnati’s main campus.

This model of collaboration was chosen due to the direct and tangible benefits to both our institutions. By collaborating we are able to:

  • pool our resources to expand our capacity for conservation of rare/unique materials under the direction of a full-time book and paper conservator
  • seek innovative service models to address our conservation and preservation needs
  • offer our services to smaller institutions for a fee, addressing the sustainability of the collaborative lab and the preservation needs of the broader cultural heritage community
  • rejuvenate both our departments – new staff, new goals, new techniques to learn and share

Employees from both institutions work on the general circulating and rare/unique collections of each institution. The division of labor for all work performed by the preservation lab is divided evenly between UCL and PLCH and is tracked using a weighted point system. Additionally, both libraries engage in mutual aid during disaster recovery.

The preservation lab not only performs preservation services and conservation treatments on the collections of the two collaborating institutions, but also provides these services to other cultural heritage organizations. Revenues from contracted services are used for supplies, equipment, and contract conservation of non-paper based collections (textiles, film, etc.) better addressed by specialty labs.

It is hoped that this collaboration, between a public library and an academic library, may serve as a model for other cultural heritage institutions that have holdings of rare and fragile cultural materials in need of preservation. Working together we can accomplish so much more! The Preservation Lab project was bolstered by a 2011 LSTA Entrepreneurial Grant award from the State Library of Ohio, providing Year 1 support for equipment and supply purchases.

For additional information on the collaboration model, please CONTACT Holly Prochaska.