Duke Law Library
The Preservation Committee of TS/SIS was formed more than seventeen years ago in June, 1983. Over the years, the work of this committee has been carried out by a small but dedicated group of people (see TSLL, v.18, no.4, p.14 for a discussion of activities through 1993). At the top of that list of people is Pat Turpening, who chaired the committee on two occasions, wrote the Preservation column in TSLL for many years, and was responsible for the committeeís very existence.
In a recent interview Pat discussed the background of the Preservation Committee, what challenges it faces, and what the future might hold for committee activities.
How and when was the TS/SIS Preservation Committee created?
In 1981, there was no ongoing group in charge of preservation within AALL and I thought this was an issue that should be dealt with. I wrote to Roger Jacobs, AALL President, and he suggested we see how many other people were interested in this. I placed a note in the December 1981 newsletter and started hearing from people. We got together at the 1982 convention. We were so disorganized that we didnít have a meeting room arranged so we ended up in a storage room. We discussed how we were going to be organized. I canít remember who, but someone in TS came forward and said that preservation was already in the TS bylaws although there was no committee. Some people thought that an AALL level committee would be better and thought there would not be enough recognition as a committee in an SIS, but the group voted to become a part of TS/SIS. The committee was officially created in June, 1983.
Who were some of the people at that first meeting?
I know Will Meredith was there. Also, Morris Cohen. Laura Bedard was probably in the group. There were ten to fifteen of us. About half the group was interested in going the rare books route and the other half was interested in overall preservation. So one of the things we had to resolve was what was to be our real focus.
What inspired your interest in preservation? Were you a preservation librarian at the time?
No, I was the Acquisitions Librarian for my first ten years at the University of Cincinnati. I went to some kind of preservation workshop at our main library in the spring of 1981. That was really the first time I knew about preservation at all. After that, I thought we needed to do some things in our own library. I talked to our director, Jorge Carro, and said we need to buy more bookends and we need to educate the staff. We had no budget at this time, but I got his support. He said whatever I could do go ahead, so I bought some books and started to learn. I also learned from the librarians at the UC library. In 1986, I was a Mellon intern in Preservation Administration at Yale Universityís Sterling Memorial Library.
Do you think that being a part of TS/SIS has placed any limitations on the Preservation Committee?
In a way. We donít get as much visibility in TS as we would at the associational level.
Do you think there should be a committee at the associational level* as well as in TS/SIS?
Yes, I think both committees are needed because there is so much to do. I think if the AALL Executive Board was really aware of what is involved in preservation, it would understand why both of those are needed. The committee in TS can do more for programming and there is more continuity. I think there has to be a group in the association who has the knowledge of what programs have been done and how preservation has evolved and expanded and the TS committee provides this. The associational level committee would be more focused on what is being done that year since members would only serve two years and membership would be limited, but there would be a broader representation. That committee would be in a better position to work on overall policy for the association, and to work with other library associations and other groups within AALL.
What are some of the challenges faced by the TS/SIS Preservation Committee?
Attracting members...thatís the big one. Also, keeping the active members interested enough to continue.
Preserving digital information has become a hot issue. What attention should a preservation committee give to preserving digital information as opposed to the preservation of paper resources?
I donít think preserving digital information should get more attention just because itís the big thing. I think we need to look at all methods of preservation.
What about digitizing as a means of preservation? Do you have any opinions about that?
I think there should be research into that just as there was into mass deacidification and microfilming. There needs to be more research to determine how digitization can be incorporated in preservation plans in individual libraries as well as entire disciplines.
What do you see in the future for preservation efforts within TS/SIS and AALL?
We will be working to develop the national preservation plan called for by the AALL 2000-2005 Strategic Plan. This will include deciding what that is and trying to get people involved and interested in having some input into its development. As a starting point, we could look at what other disciplines have done. The American Theological Library Association has been systematically preserving their materials for over twenty-five years. I think we could use their model to help us begin.
The Preservation Committee will continue to educate the membership of the association through programs and workshops. There are always new members and libraries that are just getting on board and may not know much about preservation. Also, librarians may have this added to their job description and donít know where to start. I have always seen education of members as a prime goal of the Preservation Committee.
In the fall, Pat will begin a sabbatical during which she plans to visit thirty or more law libraries in the Midwest to survey them about their preservation activities and initiatives. She hopes to publish the results of her study.
*An AALL Preservation Committee did exist from 1991-1998.