Beyond The Shelves: Free Library Collection Care

By Kate C. RSS Mon, December 5, 2016

One of the purposes of this blog and of our digital presence, in general, is to expose the public to aspects of the Free Library system they may not be familiar with. Back in October, we delved into this topic head-on, releasing a list of the top 10 things you may not know about us. In addition to programs and services we offer that may be a bit non-traditional for a library, we are also home to many internal departments that often fly under the radar, but without which we could not do what we do.

Perhaps the best example of that is Collection Care.

Our Collection Care department, located on the bottom floor of the Parkway Central Library on Vine Street, is like a hive of worker bees, hustling day after day to make sure our offerings are clean, cared for, and well-preserved. These include not only items from our Rare Book Department, but also artwork, sculpture, and other rare materials that exist in our libraries throughout the city that may need a little TLC.

The Collection Care department’s main role is to handle the preservation, conservation, and digitization of Free Library materials, but the team also has an integral role in guiding the environments in which our vast collections reside, such as controlling and accounting for factors such as humidity and temperature. (See, you probably never thought about that before, right?!) Our talented staff does a lot of work with repairing worn out bindings of over-loved books and materials, but they are also responsible for less glamorous tasks, like ridding books of mold and other debris. More glamorous is the way they work to get an exhibition ready to be opened to the public, helping to transport materials where they need to go and even making the custom cradles that will hold the items for you to look at, prepared at juuuuuust the right size and angle for optimal viewing! (Didn’t know someone had to do that, did you?!).

Violet Oakley's Alice in Wonderland, cleaned and micro-climated, ready to go back to the Chestnut HIll Neighborhood Library #freelibraryofphiladelphia #violetoakley #FLPcollectioncare
A photo posted by Free Library Collection Care (@flpcollectioncare) on Nov 4, 2016 at 8:02am PDT

The Free Library’s Collection Care staff is made up of many wonderful people with diverse backgrounds, from bookbinding to conservation, and everything in between. They do the behind-the-scenes work without getting the credit, all in the name of showcasing the Free Library’s treasures, and we are so grateful for them!

Stay tuned for an Instagram takeover on our Free Library Instagram, where we’ll spend a day documenting just what it’s like over there. The Collection Care department also recently launched their own Instagram account, and they’ll use it to give a glimpse into the interesting work they’re doing. Don’t miss out!

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I have an interest in preservation, conservation and digitization for posterity sake. Even though I do not have time now, I would love to volunteer in the future when I am retired.
Thursday, December 8, 2016

Hi Juanda, great news! When you're ready, our volunteer office will be able to help you get started!
Kate C. - Philadelphia
Thursday, December 8, 2016