I gave a training session to a colleague last week, she needed to know how to display a group of miniature books safely and so I showed her a very simple, cost-effective method for making custom cradles out of 20 pt. board.
My colleague has good hand skills although hands-on is not her primary role (she talks about this in her blog post), and I felt comfortable showing her the method and then leaving her to the task. This can be a tough choice for a conservator who, in most cases, has the primary responsibility for the physical well-being of the collection. Should I examine and document every item that goes on exhibit? should I make every custom cradle and install every item to ensure that nothing happens to our books? Perhaps, in an ideal world yes, but those who work in libraries know that life is far from ideal. There are many projects and exhibits that happen on short notice and the more people who can "pitch in" the better. Being the lone book conservator at a large special collections library means I have to make strict choices about how I spend my time so that the really needy books get the treatment they need. Having trained my colleague means I can step back from the exhibits role just a little, and knowing that I do spend a lot of time with our library collections and will see or hear about any difficulties gives me confidence in this choice.