Mission and history


The Preservation Department preserves the library's current and historic research materials, regardless of format, to ensure future availability for as long as those materials are deemed appropriate for retention in the library's collections. To this end, providing continued access to the intellectual content of the collections is the primary goal by slowing deterioration, providing physical and/or chemical treatment for stabilization of the artifact, or when necessary transferring the content to a more stable medium or converting to an alternate format to improve preservation and access. Full conservation treatment is reserved for materials with artifact value.

The Conservation Lab, as part of the Preservation Department, maintains and improves the physical condition and usability of ISU library collections. Principal activities include in-house repair of general (circulating) collections materials and conservation treatment of special collections materials. Additionally, the Conservation staff takes a leading role in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery of library collections materials.

The Digital Initiatives unit, as part of the Preservation Department, assists in the development of digital collections that document and support the research, teaching and outreach activities of our students and faculty, and scholars world-wide; to preserve this digital content; and to preserve the artifacts from which the digital surrogates are derived by working closely with Conservation. Through a digital presence, the library improves and enhances access to its collections. Digital Initiatives priorities and goals reflect and support those of the library and the university.

The Preservation Department also supports the land grant mission of Iowa State University through preservation education and outreach to the ISU community, the citizens of Iowa, and the larger library and archives community. The principal activities of this outreach work include:

  • supporting classroom teaching at ISU through tours, presentations, and hands-on workshops
  • supporting the Lennox Foundation internship through in-depth instruction in lab workflow, treatment techniques, and preservation issues
  • engaging the community on relevant preservation topics
  • participating in regional and national preservation organizations and initiatives


Organized preservation efforts at the Iowa State University (ISU) Library began in the early 1980s with the appointment of the Conservation Task Force to assess the overall conservation needs of the Library. With recommendations made by the Task Force, a small treatment facility was assembled and a Conservation Specialist was appointed. Since those formative days, preservation has developed into a dynamic and vital aspect of the ISU Library. In 1991 the Preservation Department was established and has since grown to include two professional librarians, eight full-time staff, and 3 FTE student workers.

Conservation Treatment Facility

The Conservation Treatment Facility was built in 1995 in the Parks Library.

In 1995, the current Conservation Treatment Facility was built with the focus on flexibility of design, allowing for reconfiguration and change as conservation procedures and technology evolve. Three-thousand square feet were designated to house the new offices, lab, and storage space on the fourth floor of the Parks Library. Over half of the costs of the facility were raised from private funding including the Lennox Foundation, and Tom Booth and Betsy Anderson Booth (ISU graduates). The Lennox Foundation and the Booths have continued to support the endeavors of the ISU Preservation Department through funding the purchase of new equipment and establishing the Lennox Foundation Endowment for Preservation Education, Training, and Outreach.


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