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The Importance of Preservation

by on March 18, 2013

Currently, I am taking a library science research methods course with a focus on archives. It had me reflecting on the topic of preservation. I realized that now, more than ever, there is a need to continue preserving all forms of our cultural history, whether it be books or other objects. Across the United States, public libraries contain special or local history collections which are vital to educating and engaging patrons. It is true that funding challenges mean libraries may have difficulties in preserving the artifacts in their care. Despite all the challenges, the need for preservation remains. As Steve Berry puts it, “the greatest repositories of lost treasures are our libraries.”[1] In this country, the Constitution is probably the single most important document to the process of government; what would have happened if it had not been preserved?

There has been increased interest in subjects related to preservation. Genealogy is one such example. Without the cultural record of old books and artifacts, how would millions of Americans discover their ancestral heritage? Libraries help connect patrons to their ancestors and educate them about the times in which they lived. Plus, libraries do this relatively for free. Berry says “history matters” because “everyday decision-making around the world is constantly based on what came before us.”[2]

History does matter, and the recent events in Timbuktu, Mali illustrate this. Thankfully, despite conflicting reports, it seems many of the Ahmed Baba Institute’s precious manuscripts were saved from destruction by Islamist militants.[3]  Locals and employees of the institute preserved the 40,000 centuries-old works of art through digital or other means.[4] This is a testament to the importance of actively saving one’s history, not only in times if peace but especially in times of conflict. Time, money and natural disasters are also threats to the cultural record. Jeanne Drewes stresses preservation’s importance due to “[rapid]”climate changes, and notes its best to be proactive and share preservation information with patrons.[5] Hopefully, library stake-holders will recognize preservation’s value and work to provide libraries and other institutions with the means to save our cultural and artistic heritage.

[1] Steve Berry, “Why Preserving History Matters,” Huffington Post, April 23, 2012, accessed March 6, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-berry/why-preserving-history-matters_b_1446631.html .

[2] Ibid.

[3] Peter Biles, “Timbuktu’s art of saving its manuscripts,” BBC News Africa, February 2 2013, accessed March 6, 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-21294158 .

[4] Ibid.

[5] Jeanne Drewes, “ To Protect and Preserve,”  American Libraries, March/April 2013, 48-49.


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