Job Posting: Assistant Director for Library Conservation and Preservation

Johns Hopkins has a new opening for an Assistant Director for Library Conservation and Preservation in the Sheridan Libraries.
The Assistant Director is responsible for developing the strategic direction of the unit and implementing policies and programs which ensure the ongoing conservation and preservation of the Sheridan Libraries’ collections. In addition to managing the unit, the Assistant Director is responsible for identifying and developing collaborations, partnerships, and programmatic opportunities across the institution in fulfilling the mission of the Sheridan Libraries and Johns Hopkins University. The Assistant Director is also responsible for developing and administering the Heritage Science for Conservation program, which is an inter-disciplinary and inter-institutional research program in collaboration with the Department of Materials Science in the Whiting School.
A key partner in the academic enterprise, the library is a leader in the innovative application of information technology and has implemented notable diversity and organizational development programs. The Sheridan Libraries and University Museums are strongly committed to diversity. A strategic goal of the Libraries and Museums is to ‘work toward achieving diversity when recruiting new and promoting existing staff.’ The Libraries and Museums prize initiative, creativity, professionalism, and teamwork. For information on the Sheridan Libraries, visit For information on Evergreen Museum and Library and Homewood Museum, visit
More information is available at
Responsibilities of the Assistant Director for Library Conservation and Preservation:

  • Develops strategies, policies, and programs to conserve and preserve the Sheridan Libraries’ collections.
  • Manages a team of 7 full-time staff and additional interns and students.
  • Plans, implements and manages the operational budgets of the unit and several conservation endowments.
  • Provides leadership in the unit for a broad range of conservation and preservation activities including: exhibits, conducting condition reports for loans, preparing facilities reports, developing preservation assessments, managing workloads of conservators.
  • Manages the Conservation Internship/Fellowship Programs. Identifies, writes, manages and collaborates with others on conservation, preservation, and conservation science research grants.
  • Represents the unit and the Libraries at local, national and international conferences on conservation, conservation science, and preservation.
  • Works with Office of Risk Management and Laboratory Safety to ensure local and federal compliance of labs.
  • Works closely with Dean of University Libraries & Museums, Associate Dean for External Affairs, and others to identify and to build donor base and sustainability models for the department; including working with Friends group on “conservation adoption” candidates.
  • Writes and manages the Milton S. Eisenhower Libraries Disaster Plan (DPlan).
  • Serves as PI and manages the Heritage Science for Conservation program, and recommends and facilitates areas of research relevant to the ongoing needs of book and paper conservation to HSC. Participates in quarterly Baltimore Areas Conservation Science Research Team.
  • Collaborates and provides leadership in the development of cooperative conservation/conservation science projects.
  • Documents the departments stewardship of the Ruzicka Feldman Endowment, Gladys Brooks Foundation, and Helen Ohrenshcall Endowment.
  • By role serves on the Library’s Managers’ Council, Exhibitions Committee, Collection Management Council, and Disaster Recovery Team. The Assistant Director is responsible for seven direct reports in three operational units.

MLS degree from an ALA accredited library school with at least 5 years of job-related experience. • A graduate degree/advanced certificate in book and paper conservation or equivalent of 10 years conservation bench experience. • Demonstrated experience in grant writing and management. • Experience in conservation treatment, collections management principles, practices, and issues. • Familiarity with conservation science research. • Demonstrated administrative and managerial experience, preferably in an academic research library. • Standing in the national and international library and museum fields as relating to preservation/conservation. • Demonstrated knowledge and experience in developing inter/intra-institutional cooperation. • Requires excellent interpersonal, written and verbal communication skills.

42nd Annual Meeting- Book and Paper Session, May 29, 2014, "The impact of digitization on conservation activities at the Wellcome Library by Gillian Boal"

The Wellcome Library relies on cross-training and written policies to facilitate the increased involvement of non-conservators in the digitization workflow. Gillian Boal explained that the Wellcome Library, the UK’s largest medical library at over 4 million volumes and the public face of one of the world’s largest private charities, aims to digitize its entire holdings. In order to provide free online access to the entire collection, they have to involve a large group of internal and external partners. Some items are scanned in-house, while others are contracted out to the Internet Archive.
The role of the conservators is primarily to ensure safe handling of the original physical items. To that end, they have trained allied professionals to serve as digital preparators, empowered to perform minor conservation procedures. Treatments are divided into two groups: dry and wet. Dry treatment includes removal of paperclips and staples, for example. These dry procedures are often performed outside of a conservation lab by archivists and librarians in many institutional contexts where there are no conservators. Those procedures are an obvious fit for the non-conservators working on the project. Wet procedures include both aqueous and solvent treatments. Wet treatments are more likely to require the skills of conservation personnel with lab equipment.
Complex folded items presented a special challenge that was met with creativity. The presentation included examples where overlapping parts were lifted onto a cushion of Plastazote™ cross-linked polyethylene foam during digitization. Boal pointed out the shadows visible in the scanned documents where overlapping parts were supported by these foam shims. This is important because the customary use of a glass plate to hold materials flat for photography would have added extra stress or new creases in the absence of a cushion. The digital preparators were empowered to use their own judgement to open non-brittle folded items without humidification; such items were held flat under glass for scanning. Other items were photographed without glass, to accommodate three-dimensional paper structures.
The Internet Archive also acted as a preservation partner, re-routing items to conservation as needed. For example, a volume with a torn page was intercepted by the Internet Archive’s assessment process in order to receive treatment by the conservators.
The digitization of collections is primarily about access. To enhance that access, the Wellcome Library developed “the player” as a tool to view a variety of different types of content from the same interface. It enables downloading or embedding a zoomed-in part of a page, in addition to options for high-resolution and low-resolution images. “The player” also functions as a sort of e-reader interface for books, and it responds dynamically to create the appropriate interface for the type of item accessed, including audiovisual files. It supports both bookmarking and embedding content into other webpages. The Wellcome library is offering the digital asset player as an open-source tool through GitHub.
Boal emphasized the role of policies and documentation in ensuring good communication and trust between partners in such a large project. She also showed examples of handling videos that were created for the project. She would like to see the use of videos expanded to help to create a common vocabulary between conservators, allied professionals, and other stakeholders. The responsibility for collection care is not the exclusive territory of the Collection Care Department, so the key to the ongoing digitization process at the Wellcome Library is the distribution of that responsibility to all of the staff (and external contractors) involved in the project, guided by training, planning, and policies.