This year I have the honor of chairing the Paul Banks and Carolyn Harris Preservation Award committee. This award was established to honor the memory of Paul and Carolyn, early leaders in library preservation.
Paul was a printer, book binder, and later the conservator at the Newberry Library in Chicago before becoming a lecturer. He established the first library and archives preservation program at Columbia University in 1981, which was later moved to the University of Texas at Austin. He envisioned a degree program training library conservators and preservation administrators in the collections approach to conservation which was a move away from the single item treatment, or the museum approach. He also brought into the training program a materials science approach to understanding deterioration factors and chemical interactions that inform storage and treatment decisions. I remember on several occasions listening to Paul explain why certain things happen (he’d be standing at the front of the room with his left leg bent and left foot on the edge of the table top), I’d be frantically writing every sage word (this would go on for 10-15 minutes), and then he would say something like, “…but don’t quote me on this.” He was probably right on every issue, but his hypotheses had yet to be fully tested.
Carolyn was one of the early preservation administrators, becoming the preservation department head at Columbia University in 1981. In 1990, she became the director of the Preservation and Conservation Studies (PCS) program, and moved the program to Texas in 1992 where she remained directory until 1994. I never had the chance to meet Carolyn, she had passed away before I started at PCS, but I certainly read a lot of her articles. They clearly had an impact on me since I still remember them and I have cited them in my own articles.
There were others who followed who continued to shape the program at Texas including Gary Frost, Ellen Cunningham-Kruppa, Bobbie Pilette, Karen Motylewski, Tom Clareson, Karen Pavelka, and Chela Metzger, to name a handful. This was an important program, and unfortunately, its demise has left a huge hole in library training. Some of us are still getting past the hurt and anger caused by the events that transpired, but we are getting past it and it is encouraging to know that there continue to be talks about the future of preservation education and the creation of a new program else where.
Paul’s and Carolyn’s legacies live on through the hundreds of preservation and conservation studies students at both Columbia University and the University of Texas at Austin. They made all of us better professionals and our collections thank them for it.