New LSU Libraries Program Equips Graduate Students with Preservation Skills

Four people smile next to a book cart full of books

Duck Babin, Gabriella Lindsay, Keerthi Chandrashekar, and Madeline Babin stand behind their completed enclosures after the last work day of the 2023 Preservation Cohort Convocation.

This spring, LSU Libraries launched the new Preservation Basics program at Hill Memorial Library, aimed at providing library graduate students with valuable hands-on experience in preservation techniques. Under the guidance of Caroline Ziegler, Special Collections’ conservation coordinator, this unique initiative offered participants specialized training in handling fragile and rare materials, operating workshop tools and equipment safely, and constructing enclosures to protect and preserve delicate items.

The idea for the Preservation Basics program originated when Madeline and Duck Babin, graduate students in LSU’s School of Library and Information Science and graduate assistants in LSU’s main library, expressed interest in an independent study opportunity within LSU Libraries’ conservation workshop, housed in Hill Memorial Library. While an independent study was not feasible, the concept laid the groundwork for the development of the program.

Reflecting on her own formative experiences, Ziegler, who previously interned at the conservation lab of the American Philosophical Society Library during her graduate program for Book Arts and Printmaking, said, “The immersive experience as an intern gave me a firm foundation in practical preservation and conservation for special collections. I’m so grateful for that opportunity, and I wanted to be able to share a piece of that with others.”

a man indoors

Keerthi Chandrashekar measuring a book for a custom enclosure for the Day Collection.

The newly created Preservation Basics program provided an opportunity for library graduate students to learn preservation techniques while contributing to the library’s collection. Three library graduate assistants, Madeline Babin, Duck Babin, Gabriella Lindsay; and Keerthi Chandrashekar, a Special Collections archivist, participated.

Throughout the spring semester, the cohort met for two hours each week and learned how to make four different styles of enclosures to protect fragile items in the collections as well as how to make polyester encapsulations of documents. Additionally, they learned how to properly unbind old issues of The Reveille as part of a partnership with the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication to digitize LSU’s award-winning student newspaper, which dates back to 1897 and features articles from significant eras of history. By the end of the semester, they had successfully constructed enclosures for 137 items, most of which were books within Special Collections’ recently acquired Wyatt Houston Day Collection of African American Poetry, a prominent collection of Black poetry that includes more than 800 works from the 18th century, the Harlem Renaissance, and through to the 21st century.

The achievements of the Preservation Basics cohort serve as an inspiration for future initiatives at LSU Libraries and reinforce the importance of hands-on training in the field of library science. Furthermore, it highlights LSU Libraries’ commitment to excellence in collections, services, and spaces.

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