Preservation Week: A Recap

Preservation Week, in case you aren’t familiar with it, is the time of year when preservation departments across the country emerge from their basement labs and take over the libraries! Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. In reality, Preservation Week was started by the American Library Association in 2010 so libraries and archives could highlight the wonderful work they do to preserve our nation’s cultural heritage. I’ve been involved in planning Preservation Week events since year one, so when Nancy asked me to coordinate this year’s activities for the MIT Libraries, I said, “sure, no sweat!”

Well, maybe a little sweat, but it was made much easier by Ann Marie Willer and Andrew Haggerty from Curation and Preservation Services, who put in extra effort to help me get everything together. This year, we wanted to highlight the three different areas that CPS is responsible for: digital curation, analog preservation, and “hybrid” work that cross the border between the two (which often involves reformatting analog collections into digital). We also wanted to step outside our own department and collaborate with folks in other areas of the MIT Libraries, as well as preservation folks outside our organization. We pulled together a great lineup of events that included all those things, and you can read the details about each of our events here.

What I want to talk about, though, is the process of putting a week like this together. How did we get from “let’s celebrate Preservation Week” to “we have four events planned, advertised, and ready to go”? It’s definitely a big job, but it helps to break it down into steps. We started with brainstorming possible ideas for events, an effort to which the entire CPS department contributed. Then a small group of us went through the loooong list and prioritized, noting which events we were most excited about, which events could we realistically pull together in a few short months, and which events simply weren’t going to happen this year. Once we had an outline of what we wanted to do, then we started contacting the folks we hoped to collaborate with to make the events happen. This year, that included several MIT librarians, as well as MIT senior Shannon Taylor and Conservation Scientist Katherine Eremin from Harvard’s Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies.

After all the speakers very kindly agreed to participate and we coordinated the dates and times so there weren’t overlapping events (not easy, since we were also keeping the libraries’ other planned events in mind) the rest was all logistics. We scheduled rooms, set up a webpage, wrote marketing blurbs, gathered pictures and information about our presenters, put up posters, and sent out information to listservs. I have to put in a big plug for the Libraries’ web team and marketing team here, because they were immensely helpful in getting our webpage up and coordinating marketing for all the events. In order to help us all keep track of the various little tasks we had to complete, I created a master task list for the group noting deadlines and responsible parties, which we could all access on a shared drive. We also helped each other stay on target with regular meetings to check in about what we’d done and what was left to do.

The week was a big success, with attendees at the events ranging from MIT students and staff to library professionals from other local institutions. We had a lot of fun, and all of our presenters were just amazing. There were, of course, a few small hiccups. One challenge was the unexpected overlap on Wednesday of Preservation Week with the memorial service for MIT Officer Sean Collier. Since we knew many people would not be able to attend our preservation week event due to this much larger event taking place on campus, we decided to hold a repeat session of that event two weeks later. Fortunately Kari Smith, our presenter for that day, was perfectly happy to do a second session. However, this unforeseen event was a reminder that you can’t plan for everything and it’s important to stay flexible.

I want to say a quick thank you to all our excellent Preservation Week speakers: Katherine Eremin, Peter Munstedt, Kari Smith, Shannon Taylor, and Ann Marie Willer. And another thank you to all the members of Curation and Preservation Services, the Web Team, and the Marketing Team for their help in getting ready. We’re happy we were able to share some preservation joy, and we can’t wait to do it again next year!