Meet the Mason Nation: Amy Sullivan


Amy Sullivan
Job: Head of Preservation Services, University Libraries

woman working with bookmaking tools on a table
University Libraries' Amy Sullivan. Photo by Ron Aira/Creative Services

The spotlight doesn’t shine particularly brightly on the preservation lab that’s tucked away on the third floor of Fenwick Library. Still, Amy Sullivan loves her job as the head of preservation services, where she works to ensure the safety of items in George Mason University’s libraries and collections. For the past eight years, Sullivan has embraced every day of work protecting old books, preserving knowledge, and planning for the worst.

Finding Her Passion: After studying English and communication as an undergraduate, Sullivan describes how she became involved with work in the library through the process of elimination. “I knew I wanted to do something with books, but I didn’t know what that was,” she says. When she was introduced to the many roles within the library by a colleague, she knew that this was her future. “I thought, ‘This is it! This is the thing!’” Her work in the library focuses on preparing plans for possible misfortunes that may befall Mason’s many books and other artifacts and taking preventative action to maintain their safety.

Disaster Plans: In her time at Mason, she has worked on expanding the different disaster plans for University Libraries and improving the preservation lab located within Fenwick Library. Notably, she was also responsible for creating a custom enclosure for an antiwar petition that was posted on Mason’s campus during the Vietnam War. The petition is now displayed in Fenwick Library.

Tools of the Trade: Sullivan’s preservation lab resembles a combination of a traditional science lab and a craftsman’s workshop. In one corner of the room is a fume hood to safely contain different gas chemicals, which is across from a 19th-century board shear that is as imposing as one would imagine. The tool is an instrument that uses a six-foot blade to cut and trim with precision. These are just some of the tools that Sullivan uses to create tuxedo boxes, clamshells, and other custom enclosures for some of Mason’s more delicate artifacts.

Leaving a Legacy: Sullivan notes that her position is more rewarding than she anticipated. She says the most fulfilling part of her work is “knowing that the collection will be here when I’m not.” Through her work in preservation, she protects knowledge for future generations. “You never know what people will need in the future,” she adds. She does make one request of Mason students who make use of the library’s many resources: “Please don’t do anything to the books that I can’t undo.”

This profile originally ran in Fall 2019 Mason Spirit magazine.