The Preservation Lab Is Like a Hospital for Books

A joint project of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County and University of Cincinnati Libraries keeps printed matter safe.

Editor’s note: The Preservation Lab’s 2020 open house may be affected by COVID-19. 

Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

What happens when a library book is damaged? If it belongs to the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County or University of Cincinnati Libraries, it’s sent to the Preservation Lab located on the third floor of UC’s Langsam Library. Jointly managed, staffed, and funded by both institutions, the lab specializes in preserving parchment- and paper-based artifacts. “We’re making sure they’re available for years to come,” says Holly Prochaska, the lab’s preservation librarian and co-manager. Depending on the condition and material, an object can take 15 minutes to 100 hours to treat, as co-manager Ashleigh Schieszer demonstrates on the volume above.

Anyone can view the lab and learn about the preservation process during its free annual open house on May 1 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., which coincides with the American Library Association’s national Preservation Week. Although the lab offers its services to other cultural heritage organizations, it doesn’t have the capacity to take on individual requests. Plus, they don’t want to take business away from local conservators. “We’re not trying to compete with anybody,” Prochaska says. “We’re just trying to be good stewards.”

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