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Quo Vadis, Preservation Education? A Study of Current Trends and Future Needs in Continuing Education Programs

By Gracy, Karen F.; Croft, Jean Ann | Library Resources & Technical Services, April 2007 | Go to article overview

Quo Vadis, Preservation Education? A Study of Current Trends and Future Needs in Continuing Education Programs


Gracy, Karen F., Croft, Jean Ann, Library Resources & Technical Services


This research study assesses preservation education offered by continuing education (CE) providers in the United States. Educators teaching preservation workshops for regional field service organizations and other local and regional preservation networks were surveyed about the type and number of workshops offered, content of preservation offerings, audience, faculty resources, future plans for curricula, and availability of continuing education credits. The investigators hypothesize that preservation workshops offered by CE providers serve multiple purposes for the library and archival science professions, becoming not only an avenue for professionals to continue to develop or reinforce their knowledge and skills in preservation, but also often the primary source of rudimentary preservation education for library and information science professionals and paraprofessionals. This paper reviews the literature relevant to the study of preservation in the CE environment, describes the research methodology employed in designing and conducting the survey, presents the resulting data, and analyzes the trends revealed by the data in order to understand more fully the goals and objectives of CE in preservation during the last decade and to gauge future directions of the field. This paper concludes by presenting plans for further research, which will expand upon initial findings of this survey.

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The Need for Continuing Education in the Field of Preservation

As part of an overall desire to promote continuing professional development and to foster lifelong learning, continuing education (CE) provides an essential service to library and information science (LIS) practitioners. It gives librarians, archivists, and other cultural heritage professionals essential information, skills, and insight throughout their career. Both the American Library Association (ALA) and the Society of American Archivists (SAA) affirm the value of CE in promoting lifelong learning for practitioners. (1)

Continuing education plays a particularly important role in sustaining the preservation imperative, as it often serves as the first or only source of information for professionals and support staff on how to protect and extend the life of library and archival materials. The 2005 Heritage Health Index, which aimed to "assess the condition and preservation needs of U.S. Collections," indicates the fundamental need for preservation education: of the more than 30,000 American cultural institutions, responsible for more than 4.8 billion artifacts, 70 percent of collecting institutions indicate a need to provide additional training and expertise for staff caring for their collections. (2) The LIS field must focus on providing practitioners with ample opportunities to increase their knowledge of preservation concepts and help them master key preservation skills, through both graduate and continuing education.

Given the challenges to be faced in educating the next generation of LIS professionals to care for cultural heritage materials, the authors of this paper felt that the time was ripe to conduct a formal study of the state of continuing education. Thus, this research aims to thoroughly document activities in the field of continuing education for preservation during the last decade, and offer suggestions for how CE providers can best place themselves to provide the needed knowledge and expertise to effectively administer preservation programs in libraries and archives.

History of Preservation Continuing Education and Its Impact on the Preservation Field

Education in preservation has a relatively brief history compared with that of other specializations within LIS. In the 1970s, few graduate library science programs offered conservation or preservation as a regular part of their curriculum. Continuing education offerings--primarily in the form of workshops and short courses--constituted the primary source of preservation education for most practitioners.

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