RIT Awarded Grant to Preserve Library Collections and Reduce Energy Consumption

RIT’s Image Permanence Institute awarded $580,174 sustainability grant from IMLS

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Image Permanence Institute staff on location at New York Public Library.

The Image Permanence Institute at Rochester Institute of Technology has received a $580,174 grant for a major research project dealing with sustainable preservation practices in libraries. The Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency, awarded the grant to RIT.

Many libraries maintain tightly controlled, energy-intensive environments for their stacks, special collections and exhibition spaces. For budgetary reasons and concerns about global climate change, libraries are searching for ways to responsibly and safely lower energy consumption. This project will investigate a promising method for libraries to achieve significant reductions in energy use without compromising the preservation quality of collection environments through a carefully monitored and risk-managed shutdown of air handling units during unoccupied hours.

Five prestigious libraries from across the country will partner with RIT to help determine through actual experiment and documentation whether it is feasible to save energy in this manner. The selected institutions provide diversity in their geographic location, institution size and type, and building construction and systems. The five libraries are Birmingham Public Library, Birmingham, Ala.; Yale University Library, New Haven, Conn.; University of California Library, Los Angeles; Cornell University Library, Ithaca. N.Y.; and New York Public Library, New York City.

“This research proposal provides an unprecedented opportunity to address our stewardship goals by conserving natural resources, controlling the costs of operating our physical plant, and tending to the conservation of our collections,” says Gary Strong, university librarian at UCLA Library. “This type of partnership is at the core of our renewed preservation efforts.”

During the final phase of the project, the team will create a free publication that documents project methodology, results and suggestions for overcoming potential barriers to implementation. It will also provide actual costs of operation for special environments and recommended best practices for controlled, risk-managed air handling unit shutdowns. The team will also design a Web-based resource to help libraries maintain the best possible climate for preservation with the least consumption of energy.

RIT’s sustainability research project is among the larger awards made this year under the Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grant Program, which funds projects with the potential to elevate museum and library practices and have national impact and generate results.

“This award validates the research path that IPI and RIT in general have been working on with respect to leading-edge sustainability studies. If this project is a success, there is the potential to save libraries and museums hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on energy costs, while at the same time, better preserving their collections,” says James Reilly, director of RIT’s Image Permanence Institute.

The Image Permanence Institute, part of RIT’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, is a recognized world leader in the development and deployment of sustainable practices for the preservation of images and cultural property. The institute accomplishes this through a balanced program of research, education, products and services that meet the needs of individuals, companies, and institutions.

About RIT
Rochester Institute of Technology is internationally recognized for academic leadership in computing, engineering, imaging technology, and fine and applied arts, in addition to unparalleled support services for students with hearing loss. Nearly 16,800 full- and part-time students are enrolled in more than 200 career-oriented and professional programs at RIT, and its cooperative education program is one of the oldest and largest in the nation.

For two decades, U.S. News & World Report has ranked RIT among the nation’s leading comprehensive universities. RIT is featured in The Princeton Review’s 2010 edition of The Best 371 Colleges and in Barron’s Best Buys in Education. The Chronicle of Higher Education recognizes RIT as a “Great College to Work For.”

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit www.imls.gov.