Written By: Marisa Lee

Students, have you ever wondered about the benefits of professional organization membership? The Special Libraries Association (SLA) offers student membership for just $10 USD annually! With membership, you have access to member networks, mentorship, and much more. Here’s a great example of what the SLA San Francisco Bay Community offers.

Head of Preservation Hannah Tashjian introduces the Shelf Life exhibit.

The SLA San Francisco Bay Community was treated to a behind-the-scenes tour and meet-and-greet with UC Berkeley Libraries’ Preservation Department on January 27, 2023. Head of Preservation Hannah Tashjian (an SJSU iSchool MLIS graduate!), Senior Conservator Martha Little, and Bindery Preparation and Preservation Replacement Unit Head Rosemary Sallee led a small group of SLA members – librarians and practicing or retired information professionals – on a tour of their exhibit Shelf Life, then on display in Doe Library’s Bernice Layne Brown Gallery. Shelf Life was curated by the Preservation Department in partnership with the Libraries’ Communications Department, with the goal of sharing more about the “invisible world” of preservation and conservation management with the campus community.

Senior Conservator Martha Little explains how staff make conservation repairs unobtrusive. Staff even create paint blends that mask repairs to leather and paper.

This display shows the Anatomy of a Book: the names for parts of a book, all of which may undergo repair in the Preservation Department. Circulating books often have a different repair process than books in Special Collections, extending their shelf life and use by the library community.

Tashjian, Little, and Sallee introduced the themes of each exhibit display, discussing elements of their preservation work. Food, pests, library users who take the liberty of making notes in circulating books, and the passage of time provide no end of work for the preservation department. The exhibit displayed many tools of the trade, and showed some of the creative solutions undertaken, such as custom housing for book art pieces. While some conservation techniques have changed over time – for example, using a heated spatula to remove adhesive tape rather than using solvents, or taking an approach of stabilization rather than intervention – some long-standing technologies remain, such as microfilming newspapers for preservation purposes.

Head of Preservation Hannah Tashjian explains the use of the paper conservation table in the Conservation Treatment Lab.

Following the exhibit tour, SLA members were able to access and view the Conservation Treatment Lab. Staff explained the use of preservation equipment such as book presses and their paper conservation table, which enables the treatment of paper while simultaneously removing excess moisture. One highlight was meeting Preservation Department staff member Emily Ramos, who has worked with the Libraries’ papyri collection for the last several years. She showed fragments of papryi which had been found in a crocodile mummy. Ramos’ project involves removing the papyri from vinyl plastic sheets that have enclosed them since the 1940s and re-housing them between glass plates. Greater explanation of this conservation work can be found in her fascinating presentation to the 28th Congress of Papyrology (Ramos, 2019).

Tour participants strolled around the UC Berkeley campus afterwards and engaged in casual conversation before having dinner together – what a great opportunity to get to know local librarians from Cal and Stanford! Through tours, local meet-ups, book club gatherings, and other events, your local SLA chapter is a wonderful way to get to know other information professionals and find out about what’s happening in the field in your area.

Do you have a strong interest in preservation and conservation? The UC Berkeley Libraries Preservation Department’s paid, one-year Preservation Trainee position is currently accepting applications as of April 20! It’s a part-time role that will give you hands-on experience with collection repair, environmental monitoring, pest management, book binding, and preservation administration.

Take advantage of the benefits of Special Libraries Association (SLA) student membership! It’s just $10 USD annually for access to professional networks, events, and mentorship. SLASC’s September 2022 webinar with Jordan Burghardt, SLA Director of Engagement, described more benefits of SLA student membership.


Ramos, E. (2019). The preservation of the Tebtunis Papyri at the University of California Berkeley. In A. Nodar & S. Torallas Tovar (Eds.), Proceedings of the 28th International Congress of Papyrology (pp. 805-827). Publicacions de l’Abadia de Montserrat, Universitat Pompeu Fabra. https://repositori.upf.edu/handle/10230/41902

Categories: iSchool SLA


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