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Preventive conservation

Prevention is always better than cure, and our preventive specialists work across all areas of the Library and with all departments putting measures in place to protect the collections from harm, inhibit the progress of existing damage/deterioration and prevent new damage from occurring.

Our preventive team is responsible for:

Risk management

Identifying, planning for and managing risk are fundamental building blocks in any approach to preventive conservation. We undertake a regular programme of risk assessment and analysis in order to identify and predict risk not only to the physical well-being of the collections, but also to their ability to be discovered and accessed.

Collections disaster and salvage

We are responsible for establishing, maintaining and developing collections disaster and salvage procedures. Working closely with our own Estates department, we train dedicated response teams and volunteers from across the Library and provide 24-hour emergency response all year round to any incident that adversely affects, or has the potential to adversely affect the collections.

Preservation copying

Preservation copying is a key tool in preventing/restricting damage to original material by enabling access to its content in a surrogate format. Traditionally this format has been created by microfilming, but increasingly this is being replaced by digitisation. We fund and manage the creation of copies of analogue material for preservation purposes, setting standards and monitoring quality.



Integrated pest management

We are responsible for providing integrated pest management across the library, working with our Estates department to keep the collections and storage areas free from pests. We respond to any incident involving pests, providing identification and advice. We also offer a quarantine service in our dedicated quarantine room.

Handling and use

Our collection is a working collection, and handling and use pose one of the greatest risks to its physical condition. It’s our job to advocate best practice when handling and using collection items, within the Library and externally. We provide training for our own staff and all users, and written guidelines and support information.

Preventative conservation


Storage environment

The environmental conditions in which items are used, stored and exhibited are a critical factor in the reactions that cause items to deteriorate. Working with the Science & Research team in interpreting and applying environmental standards and guidelines, such as PAS198 and PD5454, we provide advice on optimum conditions for different material types and we are responsible for monitoring levels of light, temperature, relative humidity and pollution to ensure that they are within acceptable or beneficial levels and are stable.


With more and more of the Library’s content being opened up by digitisation, the demands on the preventive team for its expertise has never been greater. We make initial condition assessments of items to be digitised; recommend any treatments to stabilise or repair items; advise on handling and transport, camera equipment, lighting and cradles. We work with our conservators, imaging specialists, (internally and externally) curators, project managers and procurement managers to ensure successful and safe digitisation of our collections within an agreed schedule.

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