photo of staff discussing preservation needs Library Preservation Department, University of California, Berkeley


The mission of Berkeley's preservation program is to maintain the collections in serviceable condition. Additional goals are to contribute to the profession by participating in education and training of preservation personnel, and to the research library community through leadership in preservation work at University wide, statewide, and national levels.

The UCB Library Preservation Department is responsible for preservation of paper- and film-based collections. Digital collections are preserved by the UC California Digital Library on behalf of all the campuses of the University. The Preservation Department pursues four objectives toward achieving its goal of maintaining the collections in serviceable condition:

  1. All collections are protected against catastrophic loss from disaster.

    A written disaster response and collection salvage plan is maintained by the Preservation Department to facilitate emergency salvage operations. Salvage equipment is kept on site, and a cache of supplies adequate for salvaging 100,000 volumes is maintained by the libraries of the UC system.

  2. Damaged and deteriorated general collections' materials are repaired or replaced in order to continue to provide library service.

    The ten million volume collections of UCB are used 3-4 million times/year. Artifactually significant special collections are conserved and put in individual protective enclosures to minimize wear. Treatment is kept to a minimum to avoid unwanted modifications of original books and documents and to extend preservation care to as many volumes in the collection as possible with available resources.

  3. Newly acquired materials especially vulnerable to damage or loss of parts are preserved on receipt through library binding and individual protective enclosures.

    A large percentage of the Library's preservation resources is dedicated to the library binding program in order to take full advantage of the long-term preservation benefits that accrue from preservation action taken early in the use life of collections.

  4. Collections are maintained in environmental conditions favorable to their long-term survival.

    While the San Francisco bay area has a climate relatively benign to paper-based collections, newly constructed libraries and storage facilities include relative humidity control and air filtration to maximize the service life of the collections.

In addition to these preservation program objectives, the Department has enjoyed a long history of cooperation with collection managers throughout the Library on special projects to preserve areas of strength in the UCB collections. In recent years for example, there have been several projects to preserve and make digital surrogates for 2nd century BC papyri, photographs and manuscripts documenting the 1849 California gold rush, images from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, and documents from the immigration and settlement by peoples of Chinese heritage in California.


Recognition of a need to consolidate disparate preservation activities in the Library and to increase attention to care of the collections led Berkeley to establish the Preservation Department in 1980. The decision to create a centralized program was in significant part based on a substantial study of collection preservation needs completed in 1975 by Jo Ann Brock of the Library staff, A program for the Conservation and Preservation of Library Materials in the General Library, University of California, Berkeley.

The Department is charged with maintaining the collections in serviceable condition for instruction and research, and has an operational responsibility to provide treatment for the collections, including binding, repair, conservation, and replacement of materials too damaged or deteriorated to be preserved in original form. Additionally, the Department advises library collection managers on the overall care and security of materials in their charge. Department staff frequently serve as information resources and consultants for UCB libraries, for other UC campuses, and for the statewide library community.

The Department staff offer a full complement of library preservation services. Staff are organized into five service units, each responsible for a group of related services: binding Preparation, Conservation Treatment, Preservation Microfilming, Preservation Replacement, and Preservation Administration. Please see the web pages at this site for information on specific services.


Library Binding 109,902 volumes
Conservation treatment 3,568 pieces
Individual enclosures 1,829 pieces
Preservation replacement 1,697 volumes
Disaster response no activity
Preservation microfilming 193,836 exposures


Staff in the Preservation Department take considerable pride in providing a high level of responsiveness to urgent Library preservation needs and in accomplishing as much work as possible toward meeting overall collection needs. However, funding is not sufficient to preserve all of Berkeley's collections for future use by students and scholars.

The Department is very fortunate to have several endowments thus far to underwrite preservation staff, supplies, and services. The Hans Rausing Conservatorship Fund supports preservation of the paper-based collections. The UCB Class of '56, perhaps is the first class at a major university to make endowing the Library preservation program its class goal, supports a position for a library conservator.

Gifts to the UCB Library earmarked for preservation of the collections greatly enhance the Library's ability to provide preservation care. Hundreds of gifts from individual donors each year, from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars, enable the Preservation Department to make much more progress than could be made on State funds alone. Inquiries about opportunities for giving to the Library preservation program can be made to the Head of the Preservation Department, , phone: (510) 642-4946.

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