Managing & Preserving Library Media Collections

Instructor: Emily Hamm

Emily has B.S. in elementary education and a M.S. in educational technology. She teaches full-time, works as an adjunct professor, and is a freelancer.

In this lesson, we will examine how to effectively help maintain the quality of a collection, and avoid damage through proper management, preservation, and storage of the collection of materials within a library media.


A crashed computer is often a worst-case-scenario for those in the digital era. Similarly, damaged items from a library's collection can be a worst-case-scenario for a library media specialist (LMS) who works under a budget. Luckily, with proper management, preservation, and storage, a library collection item can have a long life-span.


As a library media specialist, you should always begin with crystal clear communication of the expectations you have of a patron who is checking out material. Communicating due dates, replacement policies, and how to properly care for the material helps to ensure everyone has what they need to do their part in the management of the shared collection.

When material is checked out, more often than not, it is removed from the physical Library Media Center (LMC). This gives patrons the opportunity to use the material, but it also risks the material becoming damaged. Librarians can help their patrons understand the importance of correctly managing their checked-out material through direct and indirect instruction. For example, a poster that has a graphic image of food or drinks crossed out near a book would an indirect, visual reminder of how to correctly manage library material.

Another good tip is to clearly identify the library name that the material belongs to, in many places within, and on, the exterior of the book. This ensures a patron or parent knows where the material came from, and thus, where the material needs to be returned to.

If a patron loses or damages material libraries have various replacement policies. Most require the patron to send money toward to defray the cost of replacing the material. When it comes to a school LMC, there can be other policies. This might include placing a hold on the student's record until they pay, or replace, the material.

There are technologies that can aide a library in communicating to their patrons their management policies. These can include a printed receipt with checked-out material titles and due dates. Additionally, digital technologies such as the ability to log-in and view your account, text/email reminders, and push notifications can be helpful when communicating due dates, fines, etc.

Teaching in advance, the proper care for library materials is the best opportunity an LMS has to prevent damage to the library collection. As the old adage states, ''An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.''


Using basic care strategies when shelving and handling items in a library media collection is an easy-to-follow guideline for success. It also has cost-saving benefits. After all, if you can take care of material, instead of buying new material to replace broken, damaged, or destroyed items, the Library Media Specialists (LMS) saves money.

Tips for properly handling books include:

  1. Use proper cleaning material and techniques that won't damage books
  2. Have clean hands when handling material
  3. Keep the material processing area clean and free from items that could spill (food, drink, etc).
  4. Refrain from bending the book backward or splitting the binding
  5. Use only safe paper bookmarks so the pages don't get damaged
  6. Sensibly transport items so they are not dropped needlessly

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