Tag Archives: PAC

Preservation and Conservation Across Borders: 2021 Look-ahead

Despite the challenges the world faced in 2020, IFLA’s Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Centres continued to carry out their mission of preserving and providing access to library and archive materials – all with an emphasis on international cooperation. Click here for highlights from the past year.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic and its related hardships continue into 2021, the PAC Centres continue to adapt to new challenges and work environments. In uncertain times, the need to build capacity to improve preservation and conservation conditions and practice is more important than ever.

Here is a look at how some of the PAC Centres are planning to have an impact in their regions and beyond in 2021.

Local/Regional Cooperation

One aspect of the PAC Centres’ work is creating a strong network of documentary heritage and library professionals in their region, helping to create tools and trainings to improve their networks’ conservation and preservation practice, and address regionally specific issues relating to documentary cultural heritage.

PAC Kazakhstan, hosted at the National Library of Kazakhstan, is active in the Central Asia region, making connections with librarians in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, and Russia. In the coming year, they are planning to conduct master classes on document restoration with colleagues from Uzbekistan and Turkey on the topic, “Technology of production of oriental lacquer binding with ornaments”.

PAC Kazakhstan and PAC Russia have established a close relationship, and the Centres will continue to carry out joint work in the coming year, focussing on experience-sharing in book restoration.

PAC Trinidad and Tobago, hosted at the National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS), will continue providing technical assistance and advice on preservation and conservation issues to almost 150 librarians and other heritage keepers in the Caribbean region. These consultations usually include a site visit with assessment, documentation and measurements, followed by reports and recommendations for collection care and preservation.

PAC Trinidad and Tobago also continues in their role engaging with UNESCO as a member of the Regional and National committees of UNESCO Memory of the World. This year, their work will also include developing a Preservation Training Programme for staff at the National Public Library, Archive and Documentation Services (NPLDS) of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Further, the centre will continue developing their collaborative work with the Caribbean Heritage Emergency Network (CHEN), created by CARBICA, the Caribbean Regional Branch of the International Council on Archives at the invitation of the National Archives of Trinidad & Tobago.

This is an exciting collaboration that will work to strengthen disaster risk reduction and response efforts for libraries in the Caribbean region.

PAC Qatar, hosted at the National Library of Qatar, carries out a wide range of activities every year that work to share knowledge, provide training, and safeguard the region’s documentary heritage.

The Centre will continue developing the Himaya project (حماية): Countering the trafficking and illegal circulation of the documentary heritage in the MENA region and neighboring countries. Qatar National Library and the PAC Center will cooperate and partner with various organizations such as the World Customs Organization (WCO), INTERPOL, UNIDROIT, UNESCO-Lebanon and others to combat the trafficking of manuscripts, books and archives in the MENA region.

For those interested in learning about anti-trafficking work, keep an eye on IFLA’s news and events for more on this project.

Beyond this, the Centre will continue supporting preservation in memory institutions in the MENA region through training on documentary heritage preservation and library preparedness in case of conflicts, observing documentary heritage at risk in the Arab region and emergency response, and exploring sustainable building construction for libraries and archives.

All upcoming PAC Qatar events are shared on IFLA’s website, so stay tuned for opportunities to join training sessions in 2021.

PAC Japan, hosted at the National Diet Library, plans to continue in their role on the Preservation Committee of the Japan Library Association (JLA), which works to ensure preservation of Japanese materials and collections.

The Centre also cooperates closely with the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties and the National Archives of Japan and provides training programmes on preservation and conservation through these organisations.

International Cooperation

Beyond working in their specific regions, one important aspect of the PAC Programme is the ability to share knowledge on an international scale. Although many of our host libraries continue to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, here is a look at some international activities planned for 2021.

PAC Japan is involved in a UNDP-funded project involving the training of cultural heritage experts in Syria. However, 2020’s programme in Japan had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the global situation improves, the PAC Centre looks forward to continuing with this work.

The Centre is interested in inviting preservation specialists from other national libraries worldwide for experience-sharing and training opportunities. If the situation permits, this will be a goal for 2021.

Beyond their work with PAC Kazhakstan and libraries in Central Asia, PAC Russia, hosted at the Margarita Rudomino All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature, is planning activities with international libraries on topics relating to preservation and conservation of books. This includes inviting specialists from the Library of Catalonia and the Library of Congress to facilitate workshops on bookbinding.

The Centre is planning professional exchange programmes and workshops on the preservation and conservation of books with the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts and the National Library of the Czech Republic.

PAC Qatar continues their ongoing effort to ssafeguard the Arab world’s sound and audio-visual heritage through a programme implemented in the framework of the cooperation project between University College London-Qatar, the British Library and the Qatar National Library. This programme includes online and on-site trainings and cooperation and an agreement with the International Association of Sound and Audio-visual Archives (IASA) to translate and distribute publications.


An important aspect of PAC Centre’s work that IFLA members can often engage with directly are the training sessions carried out by the Centres. While some are on-site, an increasing number are offered online.

For those upcoming events that invite an international audience, be sure to check IFLA’s online events page and subscribe to the PAC mailing list.

Here’s a look at the training projects the PAC Centres are planning for 2021:

Trinidad and Tobago are developing preservation training sessions to include:

  • Dealing With Mould
  • Caring For Your Family Heirlooms
  • Introduction to the Care of Photographs

PAC Qatar has a full programme of training throughout the year that invites libraries in the region and beyond to attend. Watch IFLA’s events page for upcoming invitations to participate.

PAC Japan has delivered their annual Preservation Forum in an online format for the first time, with a focus on protective enclosures. Upcoming workshops and events will depend on the COVID-19 situation. Opportunities to connect with the Centre, especially for other libraries in the Asia-Oceania region, will be shared as they arise.

Engaging with the Centres

Beyond joining training sessions, you are invited to access materials developed by the PAC Centres that may help you in your own preservation and conservation efforts.

This includes a wide range of materials available online, from videos on the history and preservation of various audio-visual materials from PAC Chile [available here], to IFLA’s Risk Register resources for reducing risk [available here].

Start here: The PAC Frequently Asked Questions share tips for common questions relating to material preservation, storage, risk reduction, and more. This is a great resource to directly access the knowledge of the PAC Centres and apply it to your collections.

Join the Preservation and Conservation mailing list for regular updates, opportunities, and more.

Do you have questions about the PAC Centres and their work? Get in touch: Claire.mcguire@ifla.org


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.


Something Old, Something New: COVID-19’s effect on documentary heritage professionals

The shock of cultural institutions shuttering is beginning to wear off. The world of social distancing might begin feeling like the new normal, even as, depending where in the world you are, there is talk of memory institutions re-opening.

For the past months, we have been living in a world without cultural institutions as public spaces.  We’ve seen museums close their doors, libraries exploring online engagement, and many cultural professionals furloughed or navigating their work from home.

Through this crisis, UNESCO maintains the importance of culture, including a call for greater support to documentary heritage during COVID-19, co-signed by IFLA.

How is the crisis affecting the professionals that are working to preserve and provide access to the world’s cultural heritage? We’ve reached out to documentary heritage practitioners in our international network of Preservation and Conversation (PAC) Centres to reflect on their experience of working through the pandemic.

Q: How have stay-at-home measures affected the preservation work at your institution?

 Library of Congress, USA

Stay-at-home guidance has had a major, and predictable, impact on our work with the physical collections. We have had to stop conservation treatments and laboratory research, along with our collections maintenance projects like shelf reading and condition surveys. We are fortunate to have dedicated staff who are able to make weekly rounds in our storage areas to ensure collections are safe, which has paid off several times. The weather is not on lockdown and accidents can always happen.

Many of our digital preservation activities are not only active, but have taken on special significance. We are working on COVID web archiving projects along with several international partners, for example. Our digital resources, and the infrastructures for preservation and access that support them, are more in demand than ever. Our digital content management projects continue more or less as before.


National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS), Trinidad and Tobago:

 Trinidad and Tobago has taken emergency measures to curtail the spread of Covid-19. A Stay-at-Home order has been in effect since 27 March with only essential services asked to report to work.

The National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS) has closed its facilities to the public, ramping up its online services and permitting only designated staff access to the National Library Building which houses the Heritage Library and the Preservation Lab.

The hands-on work of conservation and preservation, that is, the direct work with collections – the assessment, diagnostic and treatment phases, as well as cataloguing and digitization – have all been placed on hold.


Library for Foreign Literature, Russia:

The mayor of Moscow announced a regime of self-isolation from 30 March to 1 May.

During this period, only organisations and business that cannot stop their activities due to production and technical conditions, those providing citizens with essential goods, those providing warehousing and logistics services, emergency response, and construction are able to continue working. Therefore, until 1 May, the Center for the Conservation and Restoration of Documents at the Russian Library for Foreign Literature does not work. It is not yet clear whether such instructions will be extended.

The regime of self-isolation was introduced gradually, at first only for a week, and then extended. It was therefore difficult to prepare for it.

It’s important to note that the situation differs between Russian regions. For example, our colleagues from Siberia are making videos instructing readers on how to repair books themselves.


National Library and Documentation Service Board of Sri Lanka:

 The lockdown in Sri Lanka has certainly affected the preservation work at the National Library. The National Library has completely closed for staff and visitors from 23 March.


National Library of Australia:

We are continuing preservation work at the National Library of Australia through a variety of means, namely those staff working from home are working on procedure review updating processes and completing research that often we don’t get time to do as part of our day-to-day business.

Two tasks we are looking into are a complete review of our care and handling training we provide Library staff and researching new approaches to exhibition furniture and material off-gassing needs.


Q: Is your team working remotely, still on location, or a mix of the two?

 National Diet Library, Japan:

In Tokyo, people are asked to stay home but it isn’t as strict as in some other countries for now. Staff in the preservation division of the National Diet Library are split between remote working and on-location.  About one third of staff members work at home or take a day off in rotation.


Library of Congress, USA: 

We are almost entirely remote agency-wide, though the details vary group by group. We do have essential staff on site to ensure the safety of the buildings and collections, but the number is strictly limited and they are scheduled to minimize contact.

About half the Preservation staff have full time telework projects to carry us through the next several months, and others have part-time projects or training they can complete online.

Our digital content management staff have shifted to full telework mode, with some significant adjustments having been made to allow teamwork to continue using a variety of tools to support remote collaboration.


National Library of Australia:

 Our Digital Preservation team is working solely from home which has impact on their technical ability to process collection items. All of this work continues, just a little more slowly. Some work, such as the processing of obsolete carriers, has pretty much ceased.

The rest of the lab team is working on a roster system, part of the week at home, the other at work. This enables our core treatment work to continue and provide support to the Library’s digitisation programme. While the Library building is closed, we have also taken the opportunity to undertake a comprehensive condition report and clean of all objects on permanent display. This task otherwise gets scheduled into the small hours before the building opens to the public or after hours, so it is a good opportunity to do this now.

It also provides the team with good social distancing opportunities as we aim to have a Team A working in the morning, Team B in the afternoon.


Q: What work has been possible to achieve? How have priorities shifted during this time?

National Diet Library Japan:

Naturally, conservation works are slowing down, as conservators cannot take library books home, but haven’t stopped. We will need to cancel or postpone training workshops and other events unless the situation improves dramatically.


Library of Congress, USA: 

First and foremost, in times like these we are very much the Library of Congress, with many of staff fully engaged in providing information to our legislators to support their work in the face of this pandemic. I am sure that many of our colleagues in IFLA national and parliamentary libraries are doing the same and it certainly makes me proud of our profession.

This period has allowed many preservation staff a welcome opportunity to dig into research and to do thoughtful, uninterrupted work to create research guides and educational materials, or to work on complex problems.

This crisis has been valuable in helping us stress-test both our priorities and our procedures. So, while our ultimate goals and major priorities remain, we have learned a great deal about how to achieve them. I see this as a good time to ask which processes were resilient and which need to be refined, retired, or redesigned.


NALIS, Trinidad and Tobago:

Even though direct work with the collections have been paused, staff are focussed on outreach and professional development. Outreach efforts are being ramped up via social media outlets with events such as tutorials on preserving family heirlooms, pictures and documents and other community engagements planned via Facebook and the NALIS website.

Events such as ‘this day in history’ for Trinidad and Tobago are ongoing and online tours of our large catalogue of exhibits and displays are also planned. Programmes that would have been held, such as our First Time Authors, celebrating newly published authors in commemoration of World Book and Copyright Day, will now be featured online.

Some consultative work is still being done, but these pertain to collaborative projects in train before the shut down and these are via the usual communication media and a limited reference service is in effect using NALIS’ online heritage resources and askNalis facility.

One of NALIS’ priorities has always been the financial sustainability of the PAC Lab and the preservation projects and efforts. It is even more so now in the straightened economic circumstances that would exist in a world battling with the pandemic.


Library for Foreign Literature, Russia:

At the moment, there is a process of editing the translation of IFLA guidelines and working on the National Program for the Preservation of Library Collections. Due to the fact that restorers cannot work remotely, the focus was shifted towards methodological activities.


National Library and Documentation Service Board of Sri Lanka:

 The National Library has strengthened digital services during lock down period. This includes assistance offered to our communities via the telephone, and on social media like the National Library Facebook page.


National Library of Australia:

We are maintaining some focus on our main treatment programmes but these will experience delays because of the reduced time at the bench to undertake treatments.

We have been able to address a lot of tasks we just never got to previously and as discussed above – procedure review, some professional reading. Digital preservation work continues – just at a slower than normal rate due to the technological issues of working off site.  

Q: What comes next? Has there been discussion in your region over what will come next for preservation, or over lasting changes to the field after COVID-19?


National Diet Library Japan:

We haven’t yet discussed possible changes to our work after COVID-19, but I am not expecting any significant changes for preservation.


Library of Congress, USA: 

The initial deliberations about how to reopen are starting and preservation experts have been important contributors to the working groups on this topic. The Institute for Museum and Library Services has convened several Federal agencies, including the Library of Congress, to work with medical and public health experts to develop guidance for the field.

In preservation, there is always a long future to look forward to. The Library of Congress is celebrating its 220th anniversary this month and we look forward to sharing our beautiful spaces and great collections for another 220 years and beyond.


NALIS, Trinidad and Tobago:

The NALIS PAC Lab – as an IFLA PAC Centre – has reached out to its regional partners in the form of a simple survey to discuss preservation in the time of COVID-19. We are awaiting feedback.


Library for Foreign Literature, Russia:

At the moment, this is unknown. However, I think that work will continue ahead in the usual manner.

We collect information about the processing of books after the pandemic, but for ourselves we have so far revealed the main idea – two-week quarantine is universal, safe for books and does not cost a lot of money.


National Library and Documentation Service Board of Sri Lanka:

The National Library has issued guidelines regarding the exit strategy from COVID-19 for libraries in Sri Lanka.


National Library of Australia:

I don’t believe there has been any discussion about what next, as the Australian community is still in the ‘what to do now’ phase. The latest from the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Materials (AICCM) is available here.  At this stage, I have not heard anything in relation to changes regarding digital preservation.


In conclusion

Documentary heritage professionals are facing varying degrees of stay-at-home measures around the world. Despite setbacks and the limited access to materials, work has been able to continue.

Providing support to government, reflecting on processes, diving into research and methodological work, and shifting the focus to digital communications are examples of how professionals keep preservation and access to documentary heritage moving ahead through the pandemic.

As the focus shifts from “what to do now” to “what comes next”, it is vital that this work is allowed to continue forward and develop in a positive direction thanks to the lessons we have learned during this time.

In the words of the PAC Centre at the Library of Congress, USA, “In preservation, there is always a long future to look forward to”.

We look forward to navigating the post-COVID-19 world with access and preservation of cultural heritage continuing to be upheld as a priority.


World Digital Preservation Day 2018

On 29 November libraries, archives, information institutions and others with a commitment to preserving cultural heritage celebrate the World Digital Preservation Day. This first took place last year, when the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) launched the initiative with the aim to create wider recognition for the value of digital heritage, and take urgent steps to keep it alive

Last year IFLA used the momentum of the day to call for government action, and to join forces with libraries in addressing the on the challenges in digital preservation and to raise awareness of the issues libraries are facing in preserving digital heritage.

This year we will be celebrating World Digital Preservation Day by celebrating all the great ideas, projects and efforts that libraries have been making to overcome the challenges associated with effective digital preservation.

The challenge of digital preservation

Before starting the celebration, let’s first outline what is meant by digital preservation. Digital preservation is defined as the formal activity of safekeeping digitally stored information. It requires policies, planning, resource allocation and appropriate technologies to ensure access to digital information for as long as necessary.

This is where libraries come in! Libraries have a central role in preserving and promoting cultural heritage, including modern-day history of digital collections and materials.

IFLA supported the disseminating of a PERSIST survey to get a global overview of the existence and implementation of policies and strategies for preserving born-digital materials, and to assess the role that governments assume therein.

The survey results showed that libraries are facing difficulties in digital heritage preservation often due to the lack of knowledge, funds or policies. The report also showed that there is a need to advocate for preservation efforts and increased public awareness, as well as the need for common standards and ways to approach this issue.

Libraries preserving born-digital materials

Libraries all over the world have to deal with fast growing numbers of digital materials that need to be safeguarded. Despite the many challenges libraries are facing, they are committed to preserve and provide access to documents or information that have permanent or continuing value.

To celebrate the World Digital Preservation Day we want to highlight some of the many great initiatives, but without forgetting that comprehensive digital preservation is too big an issue for any individual institution to take on alone.

IFLA has worked on the challenges around digital preservation for years, both through the UNESCO PERSIST project and also within our sections on National Libraries, Preservation and Conversation and our PAC Centres.

In 2016 the first ever Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Centre specialised in digital preservation were created. The PAC Centre is based at the National Library of Poland and supports the needs of libraries concerning digital preservation and digital sustainability. The PAC Centre is currently conducting a series of surveys covering libraries’ needs in the field of digital preservation and conservation to develop a set of recommendations for long-term preservation. An English survey will be available next year, we’ll make sure to keep you posted.

Other PAC Centres have made digital preservation one of their main focus areas for the coming years. The PAC Centre at Biblioteca Nacional Chile are currently developing a special training program on digital preservation. The PAC Centre at the National Library of Korea is also focusing on digital preservation.

Libraries worldwide are working to preserve our digital heritage, but they cannot do it alone. It has to be a shared responsibility!

The UNESCO PERSIST initiative has offered some ideas to what action may be taken, and it is clear that preservation policies must be put in place. IFLA supports the dialogue between libraries and policy makers, only by joining forces can our heritage be preserved.

World Day for Audiovisual Heritage – Your Story is Moving

Audiovisual documents contain many of the most powerful records of the 20th and 21st centuries. Work with sound, films, and multimedia therefore represents an important and growing part of libraries’ efforts to preserve and provide access to cultural heritage. The World Day for Audiovisual Heritage takes place on 27 October, and libraries around the world will be celebrating and promoting this heritage as well as the work they are doing to save it for the future.

Audiovisual media has transformed society, creating new possibilities to create, innovate and document the world. It has become a permanent complement to the traditional written record and today many libraries hold not only great collections of books but also audiovisual heritage.

Libraries around the globe are working with non-traditional materials and learning environments such as streaming media, digital creation labs, virtual reality etc. and are taking an active role in both the safeguarding and promotion of these materials.

Before It’s Too Late: Recognising the Need to Preserve Audiovisual Heritage

But even though this material is relatively new, it has already become endangered, as sound recordings and moving images can be deliberately destroyed or irretrievably lost as a result of neglect, decay and technological obsolescence.

In 1980 The General Conference of the UNESCO met in Belgrade to discuss the issue of preservation and conservation of audiovisual documents. It approved the Recommendation for the Safeguarding and Preservation of Moving Images. This had the aim to raise awareness of moving images as an expression of the cultural identity of peoples, of their educational, cultural, artistic, scientific and historical value, and of their place as an integral part of a nation’s cultural heritage.

In 2005 the General Assembly of UNESCO offered a reminder that audiovisual cultural heritage continued to be lost – international action had be taken.

This resulted in the commemoration of a World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, to raise awareness of the need to preserve and safeguard important audiovisual, and for urgent measures to be taken to conserve this heritage and ensure it remains accessible to the public now, and to future generations.

Other UNESCO initiatives such as the Memory of the World Programme (MoW) also promote preservation of documentary cultural heritage (including audiovisual).

Not Just Books! Libraries Preserving Audiovisual Heritage

 Libraries are already active in safeguarding audiovisual heritage for the future. IFLA’s Audiovisual and Multimedia Section (AVMS) provides an international forum for people working with these materials in every kind of library and information service. The Section focuses its work on creating, collecting, describing, providing access, storing and preserving audiovisual and multimedia works.

AVMS holds open sessions, satellite meetings, and workshops in conjunction with IFLA’s World Library and Information Congress (WLIC). They provide guidelines for handling audiovisual and multimedia collections, and share information and resources from non-library organizations such as archives working with these collections.

IFLA also takes an active role in the MoW programme by both contributing to delivering the UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Preservation of, and Access to, Documentary Heritage in Digital Form and being represented in the National MoW committees, including by the directors of several IFLA Preservation and Conservation Centres.

To celebrate the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, the PAC Centre at the Biblioteca Nacional de Chile specialised in the preservation of audiovisual heritage, will be launching three short films based on its domestic film collection, other events and activities will as well take place at the library. It’s a great example of the work that the IFLA community are doing to promote and safeguard audiovisual heritage.

Please join the celebration and help us acknowledge the work libraries do every day to preserve our stories so that they will endure for future generations.

7th Session of the General Assembly of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

On 4 June 2018, IFLA attended the opening sessions of the General Assembly to the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage at the UNESCO HQ in Paris, France along with decision makers, NGOs and other stakeholders from the cultural heritage field.

When explaining IFLA’s work on cultural heritage issues and libraries, the most common thing that people seem to think of is ancient manuscripts and old books. Manuscripts and books are easy to relate to, and most people understand the need to preserve them in order to preserve our history.

It is harder though when explaining the need for safeguarding and preservation of intangible cultural heritage, because what is it really, why protect living heritage and what can libraries do?

Before going to Paris, it felt necessary to do some homework, to get to grips with intangible cultural heritage and the role of libraries, to be able to answer those questions, as well as convince others.

What exactly is Intangible Cultural Heritage?

Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) can be defined as the practices, expressions, knowledge and skills that communities or groups recognizes as part of their cultural heritage. This could be knowledge about the environment, a dance, music or even cooking.

As the name suggests, it can’t be touched, so it’s not books, records, sculptures or paintings. But this doesn’t make it any less important to people in their daily lives. Unlike more ‘formal’ culture, it is not necessarily so easy to collect and preserve for the future. Too often, it is not even regarded as culture, meaning that it risks being neglected.

In 2003 UNESCO therefore adopted a new international convention: the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. The aim of this Convention is to secure a sustainable future for practices, traditions, skills and rituals passed down over generations. The Convention has been recognised around the world and 177 countries have ratified it in just 15 years!

Why protect living heritage?

UNESCO has noted that ICH is extremely vulnerable, and there are unfortunately many examples of intangible cultural heritage at risk, or even already lost. ICH has been threatened by globalisation, commercialisation and individualisation, and UNESCO as well as many NGOs and other organisations are eager to ensure that ICH and cultural diversity are safeguarded around the globe.

What can libraries do?

Generally, initiatives for safeguarding ICH include identification and documentation. Indeed, this may often be the first step in the process – the development of records, or an inventory. This is a natural strength of libraries.

So one of the best ways of understanding the role of libraries is by showcasing some of the great examples of collections from around the world. Libraries can make people and their heritage visible and help them pass it on to future generations.

Like the National Library of Sri Lanka whose ICH collection includes Sinhalese folklore, tales, legends, customs and ceremonies and other parts of the culture that can be recorded, but not touched.

Or the National Library of Australia which has pledged to enrich the cultural life of Australia by collecting, preserving and protecting records of the oral history with interviews, records of music and environmental sounds.

Or CERDOTOLA in Cameroun which has programmes focusing on preserving African languages, arts and food.

The list is long, these libraries are just a few of many who contributes to the safeguarding and preservation of ICH. All are also members of IFLA’s network of Preservation and Conservation Centres.

Governments should be supporting libraries in this work!

The Convention itself requires Member States to establish documentation institutions for ICH and facilitating access to them (Article 13). This is an important point for the library community, which can draw on government commitments in advocacy work.

In the General Assembly, several Member States highlighted the importance of capacity building and getting experts and NGOs involved. The Secretariat of the Convention in turn stated that good safeguarding practices needs to be highlighted, and a working group under the Secretariat is creating a survey to be send to thousands of organisations to help them understand how intangible cultural heritage can best be safeguarded and preserved.

We’ll be keeping an eye out for this survey, as it is clear that libraries can take an active role in this, contributing to safeguarding and preserving the world’s intangible cultural heritage and fostering cultural and creative diversity and social cohesion.



5 May 2018 – African World Heritage Day

The African World Heritage Day is an opportunity to celebrate, in Africa and around the world, the cultural heritage, but it is also an opportunity to raise awareness about the urgent need to protect and safeguard endangered African heritage.

Despite the richness of Africa’s heritage, Africa remains underrepresented on the World Heritage List, yet accounts for 42 % of all listings on the List of World Heritage in Danger. More encouragingly, it represents a large part of the listings on the Memory of the World Register, which focuses more strongly on documentary heritage.

The Manuscripts of Mali

Over the last years the ancient city of Timbuktu has been frequent media attention for crimes not only against people, but also against Mali’s cultural heritage. During the occupation of northern Mali, extremists destroyed cultural heritage sites and set ablaze the Library of Timbuktu, burning around 4500 manuscripts and with it an important piece of Mali’s history. Already during the Jidhadist occupation, thousands of manuscripts had been transported in secret to Bamako, in the now famous rescue operation organised by the Timbuktu librarian Abdel Kader Haidara. Some librarians chose not to take part in the rescue mission, but instead chose to hide their precious manuscripts in secret desert hiding spaces around Timbuktu.

UNESCO formed a working group in response to Mali’s emergency situation, with IFLA represented by former President Ellen Tise. The group formulated an action plan to rebuild Timbuktu’s cultural heritage, with IFLA focussing on guarantee the safekeeping of written cultural heritage, as well as the restoration and adequate training for the cultural custodians in Mali. Today The British Library, through the Endangered Archives Programme, and in partnership with the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library in Minnesota, USA, are undertaking the digitisation of the libraries in Timbuktu.

PAC Centres

The IFLA Strategic Programme on Preservation and Conservation (PAC) was officially created during the IFLA annual conference in Nairobi in 1984 . The PAC Programme has one major goal: to ensure that library and archive materials, published and unpublished, in all formats, will be preserved in accessible form for as long as possible.

There are two PAC Centres in Africa: the South Africa PAC Centre located at the National Library of South Africa, and the Cameroon PAC Centre located at CERDOTOLA (the International Centre for research and documentation on African traditions and languages). The two PAC centres have a wide range of expertise concerning preservation and conservation as well as safeguarding cultural heritage. The centres host events, trainings and workshops and support librarians and others on preservation of documentary cultural heritage.

Cultural heritage both tangible and intangible, natural and cultural, and consisting of both movable and immovable assets inherited from the past, is of extremely high value for the present and the future of communities. Access, preservation, and education around cultural heritage are essential for the evolution of peoples and their cultures. The preservation and restoration of cultural heritage has always been a priority for IFLA, as a key element of the contribution of libraries to humanity.