Comparative Analysis of the Preservation and Conservation Techniques of Selected Special and Academic Libraries in Nigeria.

Author:Adekannbi, Janet O.

Background to the study

A library as a social institution is charged with the responsibility of disseminating knowledge to the people without any discrimination. The holdings of the libraries are the priceless heritage of mankind as they preserve facts, ideas, thoughts, accomplishments and evidences of human development in multifarious areas, ages and directions (Olatokun, 2008). According to Aina (2004), the library contains information required by different users and this information appears in a variety of formats such as books, serials, maps, compact discs etc. These formats are collectively called information carriers and can be classified into two types namely: print and non-print library materials.

An academic library as stated by Aina (2004) has a main purpose of supporting the objectives of an academic environment in the areas of learning, teaching, research and service. Academic libraries are libraries established in tertiary institutions. They include libraries in universities, colleges of education, and polytechnics (Emojorho and Nwalo, 2009). Yusuf and Iwu (2010) described the academic library as an indispensable instrument for intellectual development. A well-stocked academic library is a storehouse of information, or a record of human experience to which users may turn for data or information.

The term "special libraries" was only coined in 1908 when it was decided at a meeting of librarians to call the emerging libraries in America "special libraries". Despite the fact that these libraries have been around for many centuries, the concept has not yet been clearly defined and many opinions as to what exactly special libraries entail still prevail (Singh 2006). Special libraries are established to meet the specialized needs of professional and business groups. It may be the library of a corporation, government departments, or a research institute. It can be further explained as a library which is concerned exclusively with the literature of a particular subject or related groups of subjects. They are established to serve a particular group of readers and they have restricted users. Special libraries can serve particular population, such as the blind and physically handicapped, while others are dedicated to special collections, such as the Library of Congress (Aina, 2004).

Poll (2007) on the other hand points out that in most cases, definitions indicate what special libraries are not, rather than what they are. For example it is not a public, national, academic or school library. Adding to the confusion is the fact that these libraries cannot be typified by a single typology or specific set of characteristics because many types are included, such as news libraries, law libraries, libraries for the blind and deaf, museums, archives, corporate libraries and non-profit organization libraries. These libraries are also not identified by a common name, for they are also known as information centers, information analysis centers, documentation centers, information resource centers or knowledge management centers. Ownership of the libraries also varies and includes role players such as governments and their departments, non-governmental agencies, commercial firms and news agencies.

Poll (2007) further stated that the most significant characteristic which distinguishes the special library from other types of libraries, however, is that it is established to obtain and exploit specialized information for the private advantage of the organization which provides its financial support whether the parent organization is a government agency, business or industrial company or group of companies, a nonprofit organization, private society or institution, a research association, or a hospital.

However, irrespective of the type of library, library materials are vital sources of information and as such they are made to be used, read and studied. This requires that library materials be accessible to users, thus subjecting them to handling. Any form of use will accelerate the deterioration of the item and, ultimately, its destruction if intervention does not occur (Rosenberg 1995, cited in Shameenda 2011). According of the National Library of Australia (2004), one of the major crises facing libraries throughout the world is the rate of deterioration of their collections. Since library materials are composed primarily of organic materials, they are subject to natural deterioration. Most libraries' collections today are based on paper either in book or sheet form, bound volumes, newspapers, serials, manuscripts, maps, water colors, prints and drawings. The collections of modern materials such as sound tapes and electronically stored information such as CD ROMs and computer discs are growing rapidly and almost all of most libraries' collections are essentially impermanent. Conservation and preservation of deteriorating information resources in libraries has thus become a global phenomenon to which libraries must aggressively respond if their mission of providing information needs of their patrons would be met (Akande, 2009).

According to Srivastava and Kumar (1986, cited in Sawant 2014), conservation and preservation are two words that have different implications though they are related to each other. Preservation by definition are activities associated with maintaining library and archival materials for use either in their original physical form or in some other usable way, while conservation is one aspect of preservation activity as it implies the active use of preventive measures or processes to repair damaged materials and ensure continued existence of materials. Conservation and Preservation are the processes of keeping an object safe from harm or loss, damage, destruction and maintaining it in a reasonably sound condition for present and future use, preservation deals with the regular maintenance aspect whereas conservation deals with the curative treatment (Sawant, 2014).

The term 'Conservation' has been defined in the International Records Management Trust (1999) as the intrusive protection of archival material, by the minimal physical and chemical treatments necessary to resist further deterioration, which will not adversely affect the integrity of the original. It was further explained that it is specific work to protect materials and improve the environment in which they are kept. Conservation is preservation at the item level. It embraces those activities that improve the condition of the physical object or protect it from damage (Jordan, 2003).

Conservation was also defined in IFLA Principles for the Care and Handling of Library materials (2010) as specific practices taken to slow down deterioration and prolong the life span of an object by direct intervening in its physical or chemical make-up. The composition of some of the media of storing information makes deterioration inevitable. Deterioration may set in through the natural ageing process or as a result of other factors such as chemical composition of the media of information, biological agents, environmental factors, physical agents and improper handling. There is, therefore, the need to take certain conservation measures to slow down deterioration to avoid losing these library resources. Conservation involves taking protective measures to prevent decay and consequently, the loss of library resources.

The IFLA Principles for the Care and Handling of Library materials (2010) also defined preservation to include all the managerial and financial considerations including storage and accommodation provisions, staffing levels, policies, techniques, and methods involved in preserving library and archival material and the information contained in them. While conservation is direct physical intervention arresting or slowing down deterioration of library materials, preservation involves both the direct and indirect action. In preservation, consideration is given to every element that promotes the protection of the materials including the housing, storage system and security against such threats as theft, mutilation and poor handling. Preservation is therefore, a more embracing concept and it include conservation.

Olatokun (2008) carried out a survey of the various techniques used in the preservation and conservation of library materials in selected university libraries in Nigeria. Findings revealed that preservation and conservation techniques, though adopted in the university libraries, were not effectively in use although the libraries all had preservation polices. The study also revealed that cleaning and dusting of library materials was the most commonly used technique. The study established that there are indeed incidences of deterioration, the most prominent being books becoming torn and cracking and scratching of digital materials. Further results showed that though some of the libraries adopt and use some digital preservation techniques, they are still not effectively used. Other findings revealed that inadequate funding was the most severe inhibitor to effective preservation and conservation activities in the university libraries.

Ovowoh and Iwhiwhu (2010) also investigated the preservation and conservation of library materials in higher institution libraries in Nigeria. The study revealed that there was no written policy in the institutions studied, and decisions on preservation and conservation were arbitrary and inconsistent. Further, the findings revealed that all respondents confirmed that there was need to have such a policy and that the policy should spell out the percentage of the budget to be used for preservation and conservation programme. The findings also showed that there were no personnel trained in preservation and conservation of library materials, but all the libraries accepted that non-professionals had received some training in general librarianship.

Ogbodo (2011) examined the preservation of information sources in...

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