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Celebrating Preservation Week: An Interview with Preservation Librarian Marianne Hanley

Celebrating Preservation Week: An Interview with Preservation Librarian Marianne Hanley

Continuing LIS Preservation Week is an interview with Syracuse University Preservation Librarian Marianne Hanley.

Can you talk about how you got into preservation?

I have always been kind of a hands-on, crafty, artsy person. When I went to SU to the iSchool and got my degree. I thought I wanted to be a children’s librarian. That’s where I started out, thinking it would be interesting to do different children’s programs.

I got into storytime, and put a spin on it, with music, and I had a fun following. We created a lot of programs that had to do with different books, such as an American Girl series. I was able to use my “artsy-ness”, but after a while i just decided I needed something else.

I started here at SU[‘s Bird Library] in cataloging, but there was an opening in Preservation, and I just knew that it was something I was drawn to. So I started taking online classes in preservation.

There are a couple that ALCTS [Association for Library Collections and Technical Services] offers right now. I went to Massachusetts and took a couple of days of book repair classes. I decided this was something I was really interested in, so I pursued it.

At the time when I started, we had three full-time employees that I supervised, who did the physical book repair. That was quickly changed and we moved the employees somewhere else. Due to the digitization and different changes that academic libraries are going through.

We started hiring students — undergrad and graduate students. We had a lot of success with the students doing the work. A full-time tech specialist supervised the students for a while. I was doing other things, but now I’m doing my job and I’m supervising the students.

What does your typical week look like?

In addition to working with the students in the preservation lab, I attend a lot of meetings. I am also on a lot of different committees. As a librarian in an academic institution, that’s a must. It’s something you must do to show that you are active in the field and that you’re up-to-date on things that are going on.

I am a representative of the library on the University Senate, so in addition to attending monthly senate meetings, and often there’s two a month, we also meet once a month with our senate committees.

Our senate committee, the Women’s Concerns senate committee, recommended the creation of the Ombuds office on campus. It just opened up in January, with a temporary Ombudsperson. So we’re kind of excited about that — it’s exciting to see it actually come to fruition.

I also serve on the Student Achievement and Activity Committee, where we give scholarship awards and plan a couple of activities twice a year for students who are employees in the libraries.

It’s interesting to me to see that while you have your core responsibilities here in the lab, but there’s so much more to the job.

Yes, there’s so much more to it.

I would say that the bulk of my job is that I am the University’s liaison to Albany for the NYS Conservation/Preservation grant. My job is to oversee the funding, and I have to account for every dime that’s spent. Our department, Access and Resource Services, spends some of it, Special Collections spends some of it, and University Archives is another group that spends it.

I have to meet with everyone, I have to approve their purchases that they submit to me, because everything has to be a preservation-related expense. I also have to approve the staff that’s on the grant.

So it’s all about working with everyone and making sure that we’re spending the money and that we’re following the rules. There’s pre-reports, there’s midyear reports, there’s final reports, there’s balancing budgets, so it is a big part of my job.

Can you talk more about the changes you see in preservation? What trends do you see affecting the field?

It’s repeatedly changing. I think you’ll find that a lot of jobs are changing. But I feel like libraries are always changing. There’s always something different happening and you just have to go with it.

I think any preservation librarian has to become involved in digitization. You go to conferences and people will say, oh, are you a paper preservation person or are you into digital preservation? Everyone always answers both.

Anyone who’s just paper, is not going to last. That’s the way that it’s going. A lot of our job is to prepare the paper items to be digitized, like the architectural drawing project that we’re doing currently with the Architecture Reading Room.

We are also asked to prepare books to be digitized. So I guess that’s something that’s changing over the past, you know, ten years in preservation.

Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to get into preservation librarianship?

I think it’s an interesting position. I always say no two days are the same. There’s always odd, unusual, interesting items coming through, and you need to stop, take a look at the item, and figure out the best way to repair it.

Make sure you have an interest in working hands-on: that you want to have the kind of position where you’re physically working with your hands every day. I think it’s an exciting profession, and that you can really put your own stamp on it. It’s just always different.

You’re never going to get ten books that arrive and are all going to be [repaired] the same way. So that makes it interesting for me and keeps it exciting.

Is there anything else that’s important to know about your job?

I think it’s important for preservation librarians, and any librarian, to get on committees — national committees or local committees — and go to conferences, and keep learning.

The job is changing, the profession is changing, and you need to keep up with it.

Kim Hoffman

Kim Hoffman

Kim is entering her second year as a Library and Information Science student at the iSchool and Museum Studies M.A. student at VPA. She is also pursuing a Certificate of Advanced Study in Cultural Heritage Preservation. Kim works in the preservation lab at Bird Library and is interested in book and paper conservation. When she’s not in the basement at Bird, you can find her walking her dogs, rock climbing, or crafting.

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