Columbia University Libraries policy states that priority for preservation action shall be given to materials currently in demand, in order to keep them usable. Materials which circulate or are used in-house are checked for condition before reshelving and set aside for preservation action if they are damaged. Selection for preservation of general materials is governed by policies which state that whenever possible within reasonable financial limits, the original item will be repaired or rebound, and returned to the shelf. Brittle paper materials are reviewed by subject specialists who decide whether to photocopy or microfilm the items, to simply box them, or to withdraw them if other versions are available. Subject specialists also decide whether to retain or withdraw items after reformatting. It is CUL's general policy to return materials to the shelf whenever possible after filming. Decisions on conservation treatment and reformatting of rare and special materials is carried out by the conservators consultation with curators.
Selection of subject areas or collections for special projects is guided by the Preservation Master Plan, which identifies broad subject categories which are judged to be of particular importance for the CU community and for scholarship in general. The areas currently designated for highest priority for seeking grants are brittle materials from Eastern Europe and the third world, and deteriorating recorded sound materials.