Internship Report: Emilia Mahaffey

August 12th, 2011 § 0 comments

Emilia at Madam Tussaud’s, Hollywood, with Our (Wax) President.

The last time I wrote, I had just begun my 8-week summer preservation internship at UCLA. Now I am at the end of my experience and looking for a way to adequately summarize 2 months of practical experience, learning opportunities, long-term projects and one-time assignments.

Over the course of the summer I had two big projects. The first of these was helping the libraries’ begin their Business Continuity Plans. In my previous post I described Business Continuity Planning (or BCP for short) as I understood it at the time. Since that time my understanding of BCP has gained depth, as I attended meetings at various libraries on campus, did outside readings, listened to talks and, finally, helped the preservation department and the SRLF (Southern Regional Library Facility) work on their plans using the UCReady tool.

All of this has increased my understanding of BCP, and hopefully my ability to explain it to others. This post will be a test of that ability! Business Continuity Planning is a disaster preparation approach that works to predict every aspect of a potential debacle and subsequently help each department understand how a disaster would affect their day-to-day activities. In order to achieve this BCP focuses on “safeguarding” and “protecting” the people in the department (always a first priority), the organization’s assets (e.g. the Library’s collections), and the institution’s reputation within the community. This last goal is especially important for libraries since they are significant places socially, culturally, intellectually, and architecturally.

In order to facilitate this process the University of California System uses UCReady. UCReady is a tool that was developed by the UC Office of Insurance and Risk Management along with UC Berkeley and was subsequently adopted by the Kuali foundation as an open-source BCP toolkit. UCReady guides a user, whether they are a BCP planner or the staff within the unit, through the entire process, prompting the user with questions which stimulate conversation about priorities, needs, and risks.

Learning about BCP, gaining a deeper understanding of its uses and the reasons for its existence was rewarding and useful. The best part about the BCP process for me, though, was working with the departments personally. Explaining BCP and UCReady to the staff at various libraries, including the Biomedical library, Access Services at the Young Research Library, and the SRLF, was useful as it honed my own understanding of the process. Watching the staff in the library come to understand its practical uses was also rewarding since it meant that Jake and I had effectively communicated our enthusiasm and understanding of the importance of BCP.

This relationship with the library staff continued when Jake and I helped people fill out a plan in UCReady. UCReady guides the process effortlessly, asking questions which prompt detailed responses from the user. The tool also breaks the plan into 5 sections, under which there are often further divisions. This intricate division makes thinking about a potential disaster more manageable. The tool’s leading questions also encourage preparation and solutions within the department. Under one tab – titled “How to Cope” –UCReady asks questions such as “How would you carry out this critical function if your usual space is not available?” and “Is there any resource that is so important or irreplaceable that you CANNOT perform this function without it?” Considering these eventualities allows the department to be better prepared, and both the preservation department and the SRLF units offered thoughtful and detailed responses. UCReady granted both me and those providing the information a greater appreciation for the uses of BCP both now and in the future.

The other big project on which I worked throughout the summer was a survey related to the WEST project I mentioned in my previous post. WEST (Western Regional Storage Trust) is a group of research libraries working to establish a shared print archive. The program is still under development, but the libraries all want to get a sense of which items exist in multiple locations and the condition of these items.

In that vein Jen Martinez (the conservation intern) and I worked together to survey 180 items over the course of the summer. We focused on duplicate titles with 90 of the items from on-campus libraries and 90 from the SRLF. Early in the summer Jake had introduced a survey tool that he has used with success in the past. This tool addresses the expected information such as Title, Place of publication, and Author, but also gathers information about the quality of the item. The tool provides a forced choice scale with numbers 0-3 in order to better codify the quality of elements such as binding condition or acidity.

This tool gave me and Jen clear guidelines to use throughout the survey process, and subsequently an easy way to convert the information into tables and charts. Jake and I worked together to determine if the items were generally better on-campus or in the SRLF, how many were the same in both locations, and even the variety found within the SRLF or on-campus libraries.

An example of the forced choice scales:

Damage or Deterioration Binding/Case Condition Textblock Condition
3 = Good 3 = Binding intact with no damage or minor wear and tear 3 = Paper is flexible and in good condition
2 = Mild 2 = Endcaps or corners frayed or worn; abrasions and stains 2 = Small tears; damaged fold-outs; stains or foxing
1 = Severe 1 = Detached spines or torn joints 1 = Paper show advanced decay (e.g. noticably fragile and inflexible, shattered page edges)
0 = Unusable 0 = Missing parts, covering material failure 0 = Paper is unusably brittle (e.g. breaks under normal use, fractured at binding edge)

The basic results are that in every category we examined, the majority of items were in the same condition between campus and SRLF. Of the minority of copies that were in different condition, very rarely was the difference more than 1 point on our scale. Further, there was no overarching trend for campus or SRLF to be better condition. In some cases SRLF has better quality materials, in others campus, but neither zone was consistently better all around.

While this sample size is very small- leading to a wide margin of error (that for acidity was 20%!)- we hope that this can help the WEST planners get a general sense of the condition of these items, and the ways and locations in which de-duplicating can occur. Between the first 50 we surveyed and the current 90 pairs, the basic pattern (majority in the same condition ) held and the percentages of better copies in SRLF climbed in several instances. Time and more data will tell the story, but as we collected data over the summer, there was a strong, positive trend.

Preliminary Results from SRLF-Campus Condition Survey (WEST Gold Titles)

Case Condition Textblock to Case Attachment Leaf-attachment Textblock Condition Acidity Text contrast
Same Condition, SRLF and Campus 84% 64% 82% 84% 78% 63%
Better Campus Copies 9% 12% 3% 9% 6% 16%
Better SRLF Copies 7% 23% 14% 7% 17% 21%
Copies with more than 1 level of difference 2 1 1 1 20 9
Margin of Error
(at 95% Confidence)
7% 11% 7% 7% 20% 13%
Worst Case
(% Same)
78% 66% 82% 77% 54% 59%
Best Case
(% Same)
98% 99% 99% 98% 99% 97%

Though these were my two biggest projects for the summer, they were not all that I did! I also attended meetings with Jake, which gave me a sense of the politics that are present in any work environment, listened in on conference calls (especially those related to WEST), and worked with Dawn Aveline (a student at UCLA’s GSEIS and previous blogger) to determine which microfilm journal subscriptions we needed to maintain based on their lack of presence in the physical or digital collections. This wide variety of activities resulted in a much clearer sense of the duties and responsibilities of a preservation administrator. Clearly, working in preservation is not merely working with musty books, but rather includes a variety of activities such as disaster planning, de-duplication control, and environmental monitoring.

Through Business Continuity Planning, book surveys, conference calls, and meetings I have learned a lot about the profession of preservation. When I return to the University of Texas’ iSchool in a couple of weeks I will do so with a greater knowledge of preservation and library practice, and a renewed desire to learn all that I can in this field before I graduate in a year.

–Emilia Mahaffey

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