It’s been nearly five years since Anne Lama, Library Conservator, joined the team at UBC Library. At the time, her move from Paris to Vancouver was a big change for her and her family. “We packed everything and decided to move first for one year,” she says. “And in fact, we fell in love with Canada and the people so we stayed.”

Having spent 10 years at the National Archives in France, Anne has brought time-tested experience to UBC Library but remembers the challenge of adapting to a new institution, language and culture, all at once. She noticed, for example, that the atmosphere at UBC—and Vancouver in general—is quite different than what she experienced in France. “It’s about the way people work and the difference, of course, with France. Here it’s very calm, everybody is zen,” she laughs. For new UBC hires, Anne’s advice is simple: “I would say take your time to get to know everybody, the services, and how it works before jumping in to your work.”

While relatively new to Canadian culture then—she did an internship in Toronto in 1999—she also had the unique opportunity to establish preservation-conservation processes at UBC, which, until she arrived, had not had a dedicated Conservator on staff. “National Archives has a big restoration lab with almost 20 people working there,” she recalls, who now works on a team of two with an assistant.

No longer the newcomer, Anne has a strong vision for the future. When asked about her wish list for the next five years, she doesn’t hesitate: “I really want to set up a Preservation Lab.”

“We try to evaluate our needs and to see in which direction we want to go,” she says, noting that the direction they choose would also inform what equipment the lab would house and the kinds of work the lab would specialize in. A balance needs to be struck between preventive conservation work for the general collection and the more specialized work that is required for materials in Rare Books and Special Collections. “We need specific materials to be able to perform reversible conservation work. We need to also use supplies which do not transform the object completely, but preserve the original aspect of the object, like Japanese paper or starch paste.”

As for life in Vancouver, Anne continues to make the most of it, bicycling on weekends and visiting the pool during summer, travelling, and exploring all the art available around the city. Though she doesn’t often get the chance these days, Anne also enjoys book binding in her spare time.

Anne Lama is one of UBC Library’s 2018 Employee Recognition Award winners, receiving the Employee Excellence Award for her outstanding work. Read more about the awards and this year’s recipients.

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