Fact Sheet

Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners

Preservation Program for Libraries and Archives


The collections of private and public libraries and archives in Massachusetts represent some of the richest information resources in the United States. At the same time, many of the materials in these collections and the information they provide are at risk from the dangers of unstable environments, careless handling, natural and man-made disasters, and deterioration of print, electronic and photographic media. The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and in partnership with other organizations, published Preserved to Serve: The Massachusetts Preservation Agenda in 1992. This document has served as a framework for implementing a preservation program for all types of library and archival repositories in the Commonwealth.


The purpose of the Board's Preservation Program is to inform librarians, archivists, and other book & records custodians of the dangers that poor storage, handling, and environmental condition; inadequate security; and unforeseen disasters pose to the viability of collections in the Commonwealth. The program also instructs people on ways to extend the lives and availability of their materials. It provides federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds for preservation surveys and the implementation of survey report recommendations for the preservation of libraries' collections. Finally the program encourages libraries and archives to develop and implement preservation programs and disaster plans for their own collections.


The Preservation Program reaches librarians and other custodians of books, papers, records, and other information resources through several means:

Workshops and technical assistance by Board staff on a variety of topics including:

The Board compiles information on federal grants that may be applied to preservation projects from the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, the National Historical Publications and Records Commissions, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

Environmental Monitoring Program

This program involves placement of temperature and relative humidity digital dataloggers in participating libraries and archives for five months to determine how well the institutions' Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems are controlling the internal environment in relation to the recommended parameters for these collections. Concurrently, temperature, relative humidity, light, and Ultra-Violet (UV) radiation readings are taken at the time of installation and again when the dataloggers are retrieved. A written report and analysis of the generated graphs and other visuals is provided to the institution.

Emergency Assistance Program

This program is designed to provide timely assistance to libraries in the event of emergencies that affect a library building and/or collections. Emergency supplies for use by libraries, historical societies, archives, town clerks, etc. have been purchased and located at sixteen strategically located public and academic libraries throughout the Commonwealth. These institutions can also contact the Board staff for either telephone or on-site assistance in the event of an emergency. The staff at the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) in Andover, Massachusetts will accept collect calls 24-hours-a-day for similar assistance. If either the Board or NEDCC staff determines that the damage is too extensive for local staff to cope with, they can contact Polygon for assistance in boxing, transporting, freezing and drying the materials. The latter two activities involving the NEDCC and Polygon are made available through LSTA funds and are available only to public libraries. However, even if Board staff is not available, the staff of affected non-public library institutions should definitely contact a conservator, the NEDCC, and/or Polygon or other recovery firm for assistance.

In addition, the Board and the NEDCC have collaborated, with grant funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, to create dPlan: an Online Disaster Planning Tool, to assist libraries and other repositories in developing a disaster plan focused on the needs of that institution.

As part of its commitment to the preservation of Massachusetts' cultural heritage, the Board has made some of its LSTA federal funds available for preservation projects in Massachusetts libraries, specifically in the areas of Preservation Assessments and in the Preservation of Library and Archival Materials.

The MBLC has actively involved in COSTEP-MA (Coordinated Statewide Emergency Preparedness: an Emergency Management Framework for Cultural Resources) to create a mechanism to ensure that cultural resources are not ignored during disaster. In addition, the MBLC in conjunction with Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have been surveying public libraries to pre-secreen them as Disaster Recovery Centers.


The federal Library Services and Technology Act Program is authorized by P.L. 104-208.

The Preservation Program is authorized by M.G.L. c. 78, § 15.


98 North Washington St., Suite 401 • Boston, MA 02114 • 617-725-1860 • 800-952-7403 (in-state only) • fax: 617-725-0140 • mass.gov/mblc
Page last updated on 05/22/2015