How to Get into the Preservation Profession

Dear Donia,
How do I move into the field of preservation?

1940s Photo Album

Q. Dear Donia,

I'm interested in broadening my library career and possibly getting into the field of preservation, particularly as a consultant, or curation as I would like to be involved in preserving America's history and culture. How would I go about doing this, and what courses or programs would I need to take?  Thank you, John

A. Dear John,

Thank you for being interested in getting into the preservation profession!  The more people with this expertise will help all our collections.
As for how to go about this and how many courses you would need to take really depends on just what you would like to do in preservation. If you will continue to work in a library or archive, then one graduate level preservation course taught through a library school would suffice. However, if you want to become a consultant, you will need more.  
To be an effective consultant, it would help to specialize in preservation at an institution for a few years beyond taking your course to help build on your knowledge base as well as your experience. Having experience in many different areas of preservation and with many different types of institutions (large/small, public/private, academic/public, well staffed/all volunteer run) will make you a much better consultant as you can extrapolate on your own experiences to help others improve their preservation practices.
Since preservation is such a broad subject, also taking courses in disaster planning and response, environmental management, book and paper repair techniques, book history, basic materials science, as well as museum collections care beyond a general preservation course will be very beneficial. Be sure these classes are geared toward professionals. Some places to look for this training are the International Preservation Studies Center, the Image Permanence Institute, the Northeast Document Conservation Center, or Lyrasis. There are other options but these are very reliable training options.
Good luck on your new adventure!