The collections of the MIT Libraries have been acquired for the benefit of present and future members of the MIT community, and represent a great intellectual and monetary investment. Conservation and Preservation Services (CPS) is charged with protecting and preserving these items so that their usable life is extended as long as possible.
Collections disasters—such as floods, temperature and humidity fluctuations within library facilities, and pest or mold infestations—can significantly damage library materials. Conservation and Preservation Services works with MIT Facilities and other entities on campus to mitigate risks and to respond when a collections disaster occurs. In most cases, timely response and remediation is critical. CPS provides training for all library staff members in basic disaster response procedures, and our Disaster Response Team provides after-hours response.
We also provide information for MIT community members who experience an emergency that affects their personal books and papers.
The Digital Curation and Preservation unit of CPS coordinates with the IT staff of the Libraries and of MIT to ensure that digital collections are as protected as possible from disasters. Disaster planning and response for digital collections includes establishing effective storage of preservation copies with copies stored in multiple geographic locations; developing plans that will enable systems that support receiving, processing, storing, preserving, and making available digital content to be reactivated following a disaster, if needed; and communication strategies that allow responses to disasters that affect digital collections to be coordinated with responses to disaster that affect physical collections, as needed.
Climate control is crucial to the longevity of physical library collections. For this reason, the MIT Libraries have dedicated HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) systems in the areas that house our most significant and rare collections. Conservation and Preservation Services works with MIT Facilities to ensure that the equipment maintains both temperature and relative humidity within acceptable ranges for paper-based and media materials.
We use PEM2 and HOBO® dataloggers to monitor environmental conditions. Each battery-powered instrument–about the size of an iPod–uses electronic sensors and a computer chip to record temperature and humidity at prescribed intervals. Data is uploaded to eClimateNotebook for analysis and the production of customized graphs and charts that track changes.
Climate control can also be a factor for digital collections, but environmental monitoring for digital collections is typically handled by IT staff with advice and oversight by CPS as needed.