Preventive conservation in libraries and archives – 5 key points


This post aims to systematize what preventive conservation is in libraries and archives and the 5 most important aspects to monitor
This topic is developed in the online course Preservation of Books and Documents.

preventive conservation in libraries and archives | what is conservation?

First of all, it’s important to think about “what conservation is”

What is “Conservation”? A quick look in the dictionary tells us that conservation means “to keep [something] in good condition”.

We can therefore consider Conservation to be a discipline that encompasses various levels of intervention, each with certain specificities, all of which aim to preserve one or more objects.

Within the Conservation area we can distinguish:

– Preventive conservation;

– Remedial conservation;

– Restoration.


and preventive conservation?

The primary aim of preventive conservation interventions in libraries and archives is to create conditions that help preventPreservation of books and documents online course damage or loss to objects and help slow down the rate at which materials age.

Some examples of preventive conservation interventions are:

– hygienization of books/documents and the spaces where they circulate and are stored;

– the correct handling and packaging of books and documents;

– control of the surrounding environmental conditions, such as temperature and relative humidity levels.

Although preventive conservation interventions in libraries and archives generally don’t produce visible results on the items, these preventive actions are absolutely essential for keeping collections in good condition, avoiding damage, loss and unnecessary expenses with more in-depth and intrusive interventions.

Below we will systematize the 5 most important areas of preventive conservation in libraries and archives

preventive conservation in libraries and archives | areas of intervention

Although it is very difficult to completely eliminate the agents that intervene or trigger degradation processes in books and documents, it is possible to stop or slow down their action by adopting a set of good conservation practices.

These preventive conservation practices in libraries and archives cover the following aspects:
  • Handling and transportation
  • Packaging
  • Maintenance and cleaning
  • Integrated pest management
  • Environmental management:
    • Temperature and relative humidity
    • Invisible light and radiation
    • Pollutants and contaminants
Next, let’s take a closer look at these 5 fundamental aspects of preventive conservation in libraries and archives


Handling covers all actions that involve touching a document.

For example, the simple act of removing a book from a shelf must be carried out carefully so as not to cause any damage.

In many public libraries and archives, where books and documents circulate widely, the best way to preserve them is to prevent damage.

To this end, it is very important to raise awareness among all those who come into contact with books/documents, so that they take some basic precautions that will have a major impact on their conservation

The existence of handling rules or regulations is equally important and these should be widely communicated both internally and to the public.


Packaging of books and documents can involve three distinct but complementary levels:conservation of libraries and archives

  • the container,
    the shelf
    and the space (room or warehouse).


Regular cleaning not only of books and documents but also of storage spaces needs to be promoted.

Ideally, three-monthly rounds should be carried out to check the condition of books and documents, especially those that are less frequently consulted.


Insect, rodent and other animal pests can occur, as well as fungi and bacteria developing in storage spaces, which can cause a high degree of degradation in books and documents.

preventive conservation in libraries and archives

Example of a xylophagous insect

Integrated pest management, an increasingly common practice in libraries, archives and museums, is based on four fundamental procedures:Online course Preventive Conservation

– monitoring,

– identification

– prevention,

– control.


Environmental management mainly involves monitoring the different environmental conditions.

In order to guarantee the long-term preservation of bibliographic and documentary collections, it is essential to know the environmental behavior of the spaces where they are stored.

To do this, there are various types of monitoring devices you can use.

Monitoring involves choosing the right devices for each type of situation you want to monitor and maintaining them.

For example, for monitoring relative humidity, there are several devices that help with preventive conservation in libraries and archives

Environmental control also includes analyzing the records made and taking preventive actions or adjusting environmental levels (we’re talking, for example, about installing dehumidifiers, curtains to protect against UV rays, etc).

Get to know the online courses with certificates related to this topic

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