After five and a half productive and rewarding years, I will be leaving my position as Conservator at ISU Library one month from today. While I am excited to move on to a new opportunity at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library as Library Conservator and Affiliated Faculty in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, my imminent departure from ISU also opens up an exciting new opportunity here for another library and archives conservator. Wrapping up long term projects and putting together a transition plan for the ISU Conservation Lab has me in a reflective mood, so I’d like to share some of the reasons that I have found my time here so rewarding.
First and foremost are the people I have worked with at ISU Library. Head of Preservation Hilary Seo has been an accessible, responsive, but hands-off supervisor who gives me free reign to run the lab my own way. She is also a savvy mentor with a genuine, engaged commitment to the preservation profession. Conservation Technician Mindy Moeller and Preservation Assistant Mindy McCoy (“the Mindys,” as we fondly call them) take the department’s preservation mission seriously, and are also kind and personable coworkers who make it a pleasure to come to work every day. A rotating cast of student employees, volunteers, and conservation interns have kept things interesting over the years, bringing new skill sets and fresh energy to the lab. I have also had the opportunity to work closely with wonderful Special Collections colleagues, who are just steps away on the fourth floor of the Library.
Yes, that’s right… the ISU Library Conservation Lab is up on the fourth floor, not hidden away in a windowless basement. In addition to a large window (covered with UV film, of course) that looks out over campus, the lab boasts 3,400 square feet of well-equipped workspace, offices, and storage. It’s been a pleasure to work in this bright, spacious environment. The flexibility of the lab’s supply budget has allowed me to purchase new equipment and materials, and thus try new techniques in the lab, enhancing my experience and skill set.
For me, variety is the spice of work as well as life, and the varied job duties I have fulfilled in this position have allowed me to grow my skills in multiple directions. Administratively, I have helped to develop preservation policies; worked on the shared Iowa Regent Universities library binding contract; served as an ex officio member of the Digital Archives, Repository, and Collections (DARC) team; and supervised staff and students. One of my favorite parts of this position has been supervising the annual, twelve-week Lennox Foundation Internship for Preservation Education, Training, and Outreach. I have spent roughly half of my time at the bench, where my treatments have addressed book, paper, photographic materials, botanical specimens, and the occasional archival object. My outreach work has taken the form of lectures, webinars, consultations for other Iowa institutions and the public, and social media activities. Finally, as an Academic Librarian, I have also served on Library committees for strategic planning, policy development, and new hiring searches.
The dynamic experiences I have had at ISU Library have helped shape me professionally, and have also helped me to define my more long-term career objectives. The community of Ames, IA, and my Library colleagues have been very good to me, for which I am deeply grateful. I wish the same good fortune to whomever my successor here will be.