Knowing the Need


On Friday I attended a conference at the British Library entitled 'Knowing the Need: optimising preservation for library and archive collections'.  The event launched the British Library Preservation Advisory Centre's Knowing the Need report.

Many useful reports published in the archive sector go unrecognised and unused for want of promotion and accompanying advocacy work, so it is great to see the staff of BLPAC using the report to stimulate debate within the archive and library sectors.  Knowing the Need is a clearly presented and readable summary of BL PAC's analysis of Preservation Assessment Surveys undertaken between 2006 and 2011, so I do not intend to summarise its findings here but would recommend it to you.

The event also highlighted a range of other reports, toolkits, standards and initiatives that are listed at the end of this post.  For me, however, the most interesting presentation of the day was by Jane Henderson of University of Cardiff.  Jane's talk addressed the difference between rational and heuristic decision-making, and considered how Propect Theory impacts on preservation.  She argued that the Knowing the Need findings reflect this theory - suggesting the highest % of 'adequate' scores are in the areas of security and fire detection and suppression, areas where non-experts find it easier to consider issues of risk and loss, than they might in the realm of environmental management, which scores only 38%.  She also argued for services to put more thought into evidence-gathering and decision-making, suggesting a shift to satisficing and a return to valuing the role of experts alongside data-gathering.

Further sources
British Records Association Archives at Risk report
British Standards Institution PAS 198:2012 Specification for managing environmental conditions for cultural collections
British Standards Institution PD 5454:2012 Guide for the storage and exhibition of archival materials
Copac Collections Management Project
The National Archive Archive Service Accreditation
RLUK Hidden Collections Report
RLUK and OCLC Research Survey of Special Collections and Archives in UK and Ireland
University College London - Collections Demography Project



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