National libraries are responsible for safeguarding those records that society has considered necessary to create and keep. The National Library of South Africa acts as the national preservation library and as such provides a leadership role in the South African library and information profession.
Preservation and Conservation Services works to preserve and optimally maintain the Library’s collections with the aim of securing current and long-term survival and accessibility of the physical form and informational content of South African documentary heritage. The task of Preservation and Conservation Services is to ensure that the NLSA maintains and develops world class in-house preservation policy and practices and a national preservation function capable of providing preservation and conservation services on a national basis.
Preservation policy formulation includes preservation awareness, the physical environment, physical care of collections, guidelines for conservation, and disaster planning and recovery. Preservation and Conservation Services consists of three units that are represented at both campuses, namely: Conservation, Digitisation and Stack Management.
The NLSA’s Preservation and Conservation unit offers consultation services to libraries in areas of disaster recovery and preservation treatment of collections.
The purpose of Conservation is the optimal conservation treatment of the library’s collections in line with NLSA preservation policies and procedures. Activities include bookbinding, book repairs, book restoration, de-acidification, conservation treatment, exhibitions, and disaster preparedness and response.
The significant part that acidity plays in the rapid deterioration of paper has long been recognised. Over time acid causes paper to become brittle, and in many cases, cause final loss of valuable heritage collections. De-acidification is the process whereby the acids in paper are neutralized and significantly slowing down the process of destruction and prolonging the life of paper. De-acidification treatment is reserved for books that are acidic and at risk of loss if no action is taken. The de-acidification service is offered to other libraries and cultural entities.
The purpose of Digitisation is the optimal reformatting of the library’s collections in line with NLSA preservation policies and procedures and as required by users and clients of the Library. The digitisation service is a new initiative in line with international best practice, creating digital records of materials for both preservation and access. Activities include the scanning of South African historical newspapers and the library’s special collections.
The purpose of Stack Management is the optimal management and maintenance of the library’s collections in line with NLSA preservation policies and procedures. Activities include climate control, verification of heritage assets, shelving of collections, preparation for binding and wrapping of collections, access to book stacks.
The NLSA offers training in preservation and disaster management for libraries. Through the workshops awareness is created and appropriate skills developed to enable library workers to preserve library and heritage collections. Workshops cover topics ranging from library disaster prevention and recovery; proper care of libraries and books; preservation management; risk assessment; digitisation and reformatting; climate control; book conservation and basic book repairs.