Conservation of Books and Library Materials

Graduate Diploma Conservation of Books and Library Materials

The next Open Day will take place on Friday 2 December 2016 and Saturday 4 February 2017. Learn more

Duration: 1 academic year (36 weeks) full time

The programme has an international reputation for developing book conservation skills.

The Graduate Diploma is the start of your transition into conservation studies if your undergraduate degree was not in a related field, and offers you the chance to specialise in your chosen field. Learn how to assess and record the condition of books to produce a complete record of work. Develop a repertoire of conservation treatments for books ranging from simple enclosure, to repair and reinstatement of the parts.

You can expect

  • To develop excellent practical skills
  • To study the history of papermaking, materials science, storage and environmental issues, leather and image materials
  • To perform historical research and interpretation of the objects you work on
  • To work with materials from library and archive collections

Learning environment

  • High tutor: student ratio
  • Workshop access 7am-10pm, 7 days a week
  • Interdisciplinary environment
  • Teaches students to understand and apply Icon's Professional Standards in Conservation Visits to collections


Graduates of the programme usually transition to the MA Conservation Studies (via the Postgraduate Diploma first stage).

Work as a conservation professional in a museum, library or archive, with public and private collections, pursue a career path into collections care and management or as an independent book conservator. Graduates have gone on to work on books at The Bodleian Library in Oxford, Admiralty Library, Portsmouth, Wimborne Minster Library, Chichester Cathedral Library Collection and the Dutch National Archive.

"West Dean has given me the opportunity to work with exceptional objects while enhancing my conservation knowledge and preparing me for a successful career in conservation."

Noah Smutz, Postgraduate Diploma, Conservation of Books and Library Materials

Entry requirements

Degree or qualification at equivalent level to a second year of undergraduate study (e.g. HND or DipHE). You will be able to demonstrate significant interest in conservation and books.

International students will require English language CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) level B2 or IELTS 6.5 or above.


You will work in a purpose-built space for book conservation with two workshops as well as a finishing room and science lab. Students each have their own benches with storage and can access the studio from 7am to 10pm, allowing them to take full advantage of their time at West Dean. You will also have access to facilities shared with other departments, including the analytical laboratory, photography space, IT suite, and specialist library.

The on-site Art and Conservation Library puts thousands of specialist books and journals within your reach and you can access specialist databases in the IT suite.

Find out more about facilities here


  • UK/EU Fee: £13,140
  • International: £13,140
    (Students have the option to pay fees in instalments by term, 2 weeks in advance of term start date).

Funding available, find out about funding here.

Application deadline for 2017 entry: 1 February, 2017.


Sonja Schwoll (MA ACR)

Sonja is an independent book conservator accredited by Icon with her own book conservation studio in London. Since 2010 she has been associate tutor on the book conservation programme at West Dean College.

Abigail Bainbridge (MA)

Abigail Bainbridge teaches book conservation at West Dean and worked in the book conservation lab at Columbia University and as a freelance conservator at Paper Dragon Books in New York City

Program advisors

Jane Eagan: Book Conservator Oxford Colleges Conservation Consortium

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for this course or would like further information please contact admissions either by enquiring online or calling the number below. To make your application you will need to download and fill out our application form.

+44 (0)1243 818 291

Help preserve our future

West Dean is part of a registered charity and relies on the support of generous donors, friends, legacies to help us deliver world-class education in conservation and the creative arts and maintain our award-winning gardens.

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