Training for volunteers offered by the National Library of Scotland

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The Conservation Unit at the National Library of Scotland is responsible for caring for the Library's vast collection of books, manuscripts, photographs, and documents. The Unit is headed by Collections Care Manager Isobel Griffin and consists of employs both Conservators and Conservation Technicians. These highly trained specialists have many years of experience performing conservation treatments on the Library's collections, with particular expertise in books, paper, photographs and exhibitions.

The Conservation Unit is pleased to offer training for volunteers at other organisations working on book, paper, or photographic collections. We can offer detailed training on:

  • Handling — Incorrect handling is a major cause of damage and deterioration of library material. We can instruct your volunteers how to correctly retrieve, handle, and move material.  
  • Environmental conditions — Maintaining the correct environmental conditions in storage areas is hugely important to the life and condition of heritage material. We can advise on the optimum environmental conditions for your collections, and offer suggestions on maintaining these conditions in storage areas.
  • Storage — Correctly storing library material is an integral part of caring for collections. We can offer advice on the correct storage and housing of your collection material.
  • Display and exhibitions — Displaying collection material requires the use of proper supports and the careful control of light and environmental conditions. We can advise on the correct use of display stands, book supports, and monitoring the conditions within the exhibition space.
  • Cleaning — Surface dirt can accelerate the chemical degradation of library materials, and can act as a food source for pests and mould.  We can instruct your volunteers how to surface clean library material using suction devices, brushes, or chemical sponges.
  • Stabilisation of damaged material — Damaged or fragile items can often benefit from simple protective measures. We can offer hands-on training on using cotton tying tapes to secure loose boards or spines, and the creation of dust jackets, book shoes, or four-flap enclosures to protect vulnerable material.

The Conservation Unit cannot offer training on paper repairs, binding or joint repairs, application of leather dressings and consolidants, and other interventive conservation techniques. These procedures require detailed assessment and application by a trained conservator, and, if carried out incorrectly, can cause permanent damage. If you require detailed treatment on your collection, information on finding a trained conservator is available on the Institute of Conservation’s Conservation Register.

Where our resources permit, the Conservation Unit will offer short training courses to groups of volunteers free of charge. If you wish to arrange training for your volunteers, please contact Isobel Griffin on or 0131 623 3858.


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