The University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) Library has the only Preservation Department in a library or archives in Hawaii and the American Pacific. The Preservation Department initiates preventative steps and conservation treatment to preserve the UHM Library´s collections. The cost of preventative conservation and treatment is less than the cost of replacing out-of-print collections or unique heritage collections that are used for teaching and research at the UHM.
In the 1980s research libraries in the U.S. began to explore methods to deal with critical problems that caused the library materials to deteriorate. Some of the problems identified were inherent to the structure of the material. For example, wood pulp paper (made from 1850 to the present) breaks down as it ages; it loses its strength and becomes brittle; eventually the paper self destructs and literally crumbles. Biological factors were also recognized as serious problems. Beetles, commonly called the "book worm," burrowed into the spines of books and also destroyed the strength of book covers and turned the paper into confetti. Disasters (fires, floods, storms, etc.) caused destruction of Library collections in a blink-of-an-eye. Librarians were increasingly concerned about damage to collections.
Preservation (a new library profession in the 1980s) developed standards and best practices to address the problems that were causing significant loss of collections. In 1983, a "marking and mending" unit, was created at UHM Library to begin to address conservation issues and to prepare new books for the shelf. The Library also formed the Preservation Working Group. This advisory group prepared a written policy on the preservation of the collections:
The collections are essential to the teaching and research functions of the University. They also serve Hawai´i residents and researchers throughout the Pacific and the world. The collections result from selective acquisitions over a period of time. They constitute a multi-million dollar investment and an invaluable resource. A program of stewardship is in the public interest. (Preservation of Collections, March 23, 1984)
In 1990 the Preservation Department was officially established by transferring staff from three Library units. Aggie Quigg was appointed head of the department. She modeled on the Preservation program at University of California at Berkeley including conservation, bindery and reformatting. By following established national preservation standards for book binding and reformatting the Library developed contracts to outsource the work. Staff maintained the standards by preparing materials and completing quality check when the materials returned to the Library. A pest management program was started to treat incoming gifts by freeze extermination.
With Ms. Quigg´s retirement in 1996, Lynn Ann Davis was hired as Department Head. Davis had worked over twenty-five years addressing preservation issues in Hawai´i and was very familiar with preservation issues facing a cultural institution in Hawaii. Building on Quigg´s well established program Davis created a "model preservation program" by continuing the development and professional training of staff, developing cost effective approach preservation management, re-organizing the department, and revising the disaster plan and training. The Preservation Department protocol is based on national conservation standards which require: do no harm to materials; all treatments are reversible; maintain an up-to-date disaster response plan.
In 2000 the department moved into a new facility in the Library Addition. The layout and new lab space was designed by Davis to facilitate core work (conservation treatment, bindery, reformatting, and pest management) and to prepare for the Library´s future preservation needs by including a paper treatment lab and a digital photography lab.
The cloud that brought the flood and caused the Library
disaster in October 2004 had a silver lining. It has
provided an opportunity to acquire high tech equipment, as
well as training opportunities that have increased the
skills of the Preservation Department staff to provide
essential skills (conservation treatment, preventative
conservation, digital documentation of fragile materials,
exhibition) to be an essential partner in more complex
Library that demonstrates its leadership by preserving and
making available unique Library collections.