Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Centres in Acton: Highlights from 2019-2020

Hosted in libraries around the world, IFLA’s Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Centres are hubs of knowledge on the preservation and conservation of library and archive materials.

Throughout the year, these Centres carry out work both internationally and within their regions to advance professional practice, facilitate knowledge-sharing, and provide training opportunities. Through their work, the global library field is better equipped to preserve its collections and help ensure documentary heritage remains accessible for future generation.

Despite the challenges of 2020, the PAC Centres have been actively involved in a wide variety of projects. Here is a look at some of the PAC Centres’ activities from the past year. You can read the full Annual Reports from each PAC Centre here.

International Cooperation

One of the major assets of the PAC Centre network is their ability to facilitate international cooperation. Here’s a look at several different approaches to strengthening cooperation across boarders:

Equipment Sharing

  • PAC North America brought a portable multispectral imaging system to the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, Ireland to image historic medieval Irish manuscripts, dating from the 6th – 16th centuries. In an ongoing collaboration with the University College Cork, the PAC Centre will be using this data to render faded and obscured text that has been unreadable for centuries, to look at how the books were originally made and written, and to combine this information with scholarly historical context to provide a deeper understanding of these significant materials.


  • PAC Korea  implemented a Material Preservation training program for foreign librarians visiting the National Library of Korea, including participating librarians from Bhutan, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Cambodia.
  • PAC Russia hosted an Interdisciplinary scientific and practical conference on the study of rare book collections of Russia and Austria, discussion problems of preservation and conservation of rare books and sheet music, documents, photographs. More than 100 specialists from Russia, Austria, Switzerland, and Qatar, attended the conference, which was also webcasted and received more than 220,000 views.
  • PAC Qatar and University College London, working through the British Library-Qatar Foundation partnership, organised a seminar: Before It Is Too Late: Protecting and Preserving Arab Audiovisual Heritage on World Day for Audiovisual Heritage on 27 October 2019. The seminar emphasized the urgency of efforts to preserve the unique audiovisual heritage of Qatar and the Middle East on a large scale by finding collaborative solutions and sharing expertise.
  • Although PAC North America could not host the tours and public events that are usually scheduled for Preservation Week this year, the Library held an online series of webinars in its Topics in Preservation series aimed at a professional audience — librarians, archivists and museum staff. Each webinar drew more than 500 attendees from across every U.S. time zone in the U.S. as well as international participants.

Digitisation of Cultural Heritage

  • PAC Poland, together with international experts, contributed to the blog of POLONA/<labs>, a web-based resource created by the National Library of Poland dedicated to the use of new technologies in digitisation and promotion of cultural heritage. PAC Poland addresses various technical issues in digitisation and digital preservation with nine blog entries published in English and in Polish.
  • The PAC Centre for Oceania, hosted at the National Library of Australia, together with the Australian Government and the National Library of New Zealand, are working with colleagues across the Pacific to develop the Pacific Virtual Museum. This online portal will provide a single access point to digitised Pacific cultural heritage items held across museums, galleries and library collections across the world and will allow people from the Pacific to access their digitised cultural heritage, much of which is stored in offshore institutions.

Cooperation with other PAC Centres

The PAC Centres are uniquely positioned to cooperate with one another, exchanging experiences and sharing knowledge across their network.

For example, a framework of professional exchange between specialists has been established between the PAC Centres for Arabic Countries and Middle East (Qatar) and for the CIS and Eastern Europe (Russia).

Over the past year, specialists from QNL visited their Russian colleagues to share experience in risk management. The presentation introduced different types of damage on library collections, resulting from various disaster hazards, and the measures to prevent such damage, with the aim to preserve the library resources and the authenticity of library materials.

The PAC Regional Center for Central Asia, hosted at the National Library of the Republic of Kazakhstan, which includes countries such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, also has established an agreement to cooperate closely with the Russia PAC Centre on exchanging knowledge and expertise.

Local/Regional Cooperation

Another important aspect of the PAC Centres is their local connections and familiarity with local context. This allows them to initiate or take part in programmes that address specific challenges or issues in their countries and regions. Here are some examples for PAC work in their regions over the past year:

Disaster Response and Recovery

  • PAC Japan, hosted at the National Diet Library in Tokyo, dispatched staff to assist in the rescue of library materials and museum collections damaged by a typhoon that hit Eastern Japan in October 2019.
  • In December 2019, staff from PAC North America travelled to San Juan, Puerto Rico and conducted assessments at La Casa del Libro, a museum dedicated to the history and artistry of the printed word. They examined and wrote condition reports on nearly 90 objects, mostly books and bound manuscripts, from the 15th through the 17th centuries as well as several artists books from the 20th century printed and bound by Puerto Rican artists. The materials were all held in the museum during hurricane Maria in 2017, which suffered damage in the storm.

Training and Support

  • PAC Korea provided various forms of preservation treatment support for valuable materials held in multiple domestic libraries. The Centre also organised a Preservation and Conservation of Library Materials learning course for librarians covering multiple subjects, from traditional preservation of library materials to audio-visual heritage and more. As part of this programme, they filmed training videos on conservation treatment of library materials, to provide instruction on basic conservation techniques without the need for face-to-face learning.
  • PAC Poland has also provided support to libraries across the country and beyond, mostly related requests for support on digitisation. In December 2019, the Centre arranged a one-day workshop with a Q&A session with a visiting expert on using the image quality standard Metamorfoze Preservation Imaging in mass digitisation projects of library materials. The event was attended by specialists from reprographic departments of various libraries, museums and archives in Poland.
  • PAC Japan and the National Diet Library organises an annual one-day program on preservation and conservation of library materials for librarians in Japan. This program includes a lecture on basic preservation theory and a workshop on elementary techniques for mending paper materials. It was held three times in September 2019 for a total of 70 trainees.
  • The PAC Centre for Central Asia (Kazakhstan) hosts an annual School for the Conservation and Restoration of Written Documents, operated by the National Library of the Republic of Kazakhstan. This features courses to improve the skills of specialists in the field of preservation and preservation of paper documents. In 2019, practical classes were held with specialists from libraries, archives and museums of Kazakhstan. In 2020, classes were held online with specialists from the Kyzylorda and Kostanai regions. The PAC Centre also held a training seminar and master classes on the restoration of rare books in Uzbekistan, which were attended by restorers-binders from libraries, archives and museums of Uzbekistan.

Region-Specific Initiatives

  • The Qatar National Library and the PAC Center for Arab Countries and the Middle East (Qatar) have launched the Himaya Project, an initiative to counter the trafficking of manuscripts, books and archives in the MENA region. An important goal of the project will also be to create strong engagement with broader international agencies and regional organizations to counter trafficking of items. In addition to working with IFLA, they will cooperate closely with the World Customs Organization (WCO), INTERPOL, and UNIDROIT.
  • PAC Qatar also carried out the project, Supporting Documentary Heritage Preservation in the Arab Region In collaboration with UNESCO (June 2018 – June 2020). Representatives from libraries and cultural institutions from across the Middle East and North Africa joined international experts to discuss key issues relating to heritage preservation in the region at a high-level conference in December 2019, which was jointly organised by Qatar National Library and UNESCO.
  • PAC Oceania and the National Library of Australia are collaborating with partners in the Pacific region to improve knowledge of and access to Pacific cultural heritage resources through the Australian collaborative online library database Trove.  Pacific is part of the new ‘Place’ facet of Trove. This feature gives users the ability to narrow their search to items related to the Pacific, allowing Pacific peoples to find and access freely available digitised material relating to their own culture and region online without having to visit an Australian library in person.

 PAC Centres and IFLA Projects

The major project that PAC Centres carried out with IFLA this year was the creation of the Preservation and Conversation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

This initiative helps to connect the expertise of the PAC Centres more directly to the global library field. Each participating PAC Centre identified key topics in the field of preservation and conservation on which they often receive questions. Each question has been answered with an explanation, best practice advice, and steps to help users tackle preservation and conservation issues.

Check out the Preservation and Conversation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) here.

PAC Centres and COVID-19

Despite the pandemic and lockdown procedures affecting many planned activities for 2020, the PAC Centres have been active in supporting libraries and the preservation field through this time.

PAC Qatar has provided support to Arab libraries throughout the COVID-19 period through direct response to related technical questions, and through participation and organization of webinars. These includes participation in a webinar with the American Library Association titled: Libraries Reopening: A Perspective of Best Practices from Around the World in the Time of COVID-19.

Work is also underway with University College London – Qatar to issue a guide on preventative measures for use across the region and beyond.

PAC North America is participating in an interagency study on safety practices for libraries, archives, and museums, convened by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and OCLC, called Reopening Archives, Libraries and Museums (REALM). The PAC team is participating in the Scientific Working Group that will review the literature and support laboratory testing to develop safe practices for library operations.

Standards, Guidelines & Best Practices

New this year

Coming Up

  • PAQ Qatar is developing a disaster plan template and tool kit in Arabic for libraries in MENA region with a special focus on conflicts – coming in 2021.
  • The Preservation Services branch of the National Library of Australia is currently researching current approaches to off-gassing requirements for construction materials and paints used for exhibition/display construction. This includes looking into the suite of modern Low/No VOC paints and reviewing the established preservation standard of 4 weeks off-gassing time.