Christmas in the Stacks

The holidays! Ah, cookies, lights, snow, family, feasting, gifts, and – emergency plans??

When you’re an archivist, the holidays not only render feelings of joy and excitement but also of anticipation and concern. Many archivists—like myself—work at universities or other institutions that have a one or two-week holiday break. During this break, we still have to think about how to care for our collections and ensure that environmental controls remain stable and up to archival standards. Managing these changes often involves communicating with facility workers and perhaps even library staff members, depending on where the archives are located. At my job, we’ve been talking a lot about protecting our collections during the holiday break. Here are some things we’ve been talking about. . .

  • Temperature/humidity controls: Check with facility staff to find out if there will be changes in the HVAC system during the break. If so, develop a plan for ensuring that the archives is able to remain at proper standards. Although archivists often focus on the dangers of high humidity levels, remember that low humidity is just as dangerous. Low humidity levels can produce dry, brittle paper.
  • Alarms: Is your archives secured with alarms? Think about investing in technology that will allow an archives staff member to be notified if the alarm goes off.
  • Create an email thread involving facility workers and archives staff well before the holiday break. Get the conversation going earlier than later.
  • Figure out the light situation. Generally, lights will be off during the break, which is preferred for archival collections. However, it never hurts to check.
  • Air! Stagnant air can be an unsuspecting culprit. Air that isn’t moving can be a breeding ground for mold and pests.


What other things can y’all think of? Feel Free to comment and provide advice!

The Northeast Document Conservation Center provides some general preservation advice that is always very useful: