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CPA Newsletter #25, Jul 1990

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


July 1990

Number 25

New Report Available on Choosing Mass Deacidification Processes

Technical and scientific information to support decision making by libraries and archives investigating mass deacidification as a preservation alternative is provided in a May 1990 publication from the Commission. Technical Considerations in Choosing Mass Deacidification Processes takes a scientific stance, advocating the most conservative path to making decisions and giving the safety of the collections the highest priority. A basic assumption is that no existing or future mass process will be perfect. Among the paper’s conclusions: If decision makers assemble a useful body of data and test results and then follow a logical evaluation procedure, they will be able to identify a choice–or as is most likely–several choices.

The paper first presents some basic background about mass deacidification processes, focusing on reasons for their development and what is known about them from a scientific perspective. There also are discussions of the differences between mass deacidification and single-item treatment, and the particular challenges in choosing mass processes.

The paper’s most significant section analyzes six technical evaluation factors–the effectiveness of deacidification procedures, unwanted changes in materials, process engineering, extra benefits from specific processes, toxicity, and environmental impact. A subsequent section covers related evaluation issues: unit treatment costs, book and document security, logistical considerations, long-term vendor performance and contracting, observation of facility operation, and liability. Organizational and planning considerations are included in an appendix. Dr. Peter G. Sparks, a physical chemist who served as Director for Preservation at the Library of Congress for eight years, prepared the report.

Complimentary copies of Technical Considerations in Choosing Mass Deacidification Processes (22 pages, May 1990) have been mailed to individuals and institutions on the Commission’s mailing lists. Additional copies are available for $5.00 from: The Commission on Preservation and Access, 1785 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 313, Washington, DC 20036. Orders must be prepaid, with checks (no cash) made payable to “The Commission on Preservation and Access.” Payment must be in U.S. funds.

In addition to the generally available published literature, other resources about mass deacidification include:

  • Karen Turko, Head of Preservation Services at the University of Toronto Library, has written an as yet untitled paper that discusses the management decisions that have to be taken in terms of collection evaluation, selection of materials, materials handling, and financial issues. It will be published this month by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). For more information contact ARL at 1527 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20036; (202) 232-2466.
  • Feasibility Study for a Mass Deacidification Centre for Libraries and Archives in Metropolitan Toronto, June 1989; prepared by Lord Cultural Resources Planning i Management Inc. in association with Murray Frost: Cultural Building Consulting Inc., available for $25 (Canadian) from the Preservation Services Department, University of Toronto Library, 130 St. George Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S lA5.This 143-page study was cofunded by the Ministry of Culture and Communications and the City of Toronto, and the study process was directed by a Steering Committee made up of the major libraries in Toronto. The study demonstrates that there are a number of promising technologies, and a real market for mass deacidification, so that in the near future library decision-makers will be able to make an informed choice as to which system will best meet their needs. The paper discusses the following topics: needs analysis and market projections, comparative assessment of deacidification technologies, analysis of operational requirements, operational model, financial analysis, and implementation plan.
  • Paper Preservation Services, October 1989; a marketing kit distributed by Union Carbide Corporation, Corporate Communications Department, 39 Old Ridgebury Road, Danbury, CT 06817-0001; (203) 794-7027 or (203) 794-2535; available at no cost from Union Carbide Corporation. This marketing kit contains the following:a) press release entitled Union Carbide Signs Exclusive Paper Preservation Agreement with Wei To Associates”b) background information about Union Carbide’s Paper Preservation Servicesc) Toward Environmental Excellence: A Progress Report”

    d) the following factsheets: “Our Heritage Preserved,” “How the Chemistry Works,” Four Steps to Effective Mass Deacidification,” and “Flow Diagram of Union Carbide Mass Deacidification System.”

    e) Mass Deacidification: Operational Experience at The National Archives and The National Library of Canada,” by Geoffrey Morrow (Reprinted by permission of the Institute of Paper Conservation from the Proceedings of its 10th Anniversary Conference New Directions in Paper Conservation, Oxford University, 14-18 April, 1986, as published in the Paper Conservator.)

  • Evaluation Strategy. Paper Preservation Systems, February 1990; Lithium Division, FMC Corporation, 449 North Cox Road, P.O. Box 3925, Gastonia, NC 28053; (704) 868-5300; free copies are available from the FMC Corporation upon request.This 96-page report was developed by the FMC Corporation to help focus and facilitate discussion of criteria of mass deacidification by the conservation community It includes an evaluation strategy model and sections on the following topics: criteria for mass preservation, standard test materials, positive enhancement, chemical effects, physical effects, accelerated aging, chemical effects post accelerated aging. physical effects post accelerated aging, and non-detrimental effects.

Meeting on International Database of Bibliographic Records for Preserved Items: May 13 – 16, 1990, Zurich Switzerland

Representatives from the United States, Canada, Venezuela, United Kingdom, France, West Germany, East Germany, and Switzerland met in Zurich May 13-16 to develop cooperative strategies for the preservation of deteriorating books printed on acid paper. The group was convened by the Commission and represented the initial pilot countries of its International Project.

The final list of participants attending the meeting is as follows: Jean-Marie Arnoult, Director of Technology, Bibliotheque Nationale, France; Peter Baader, Director of User Services, Deutsche Bibliothek, Federal Republic of Germany (FRG); Lourdes Blanco, Director of Preservation, Biblioteca Nacional, Venezuela; David W.G. Clements, Director of Preservation Services, The British Library;

Thomas Delsey, Director of Acquisitions and Bibliographic Services, National Library of Canada; Ulrich Montag, Director of User Services, Bavarian State Library; Monika Richter, Coordinator of the German Microform Project, University Library of Frankfurt, FRG; Heiner Schnelling, Director of the University Library of Giessen, FRG; Wolfgang Wächter, Director of Preservation, Deutsche Bücherei Leipzig, German Democratic Republic (GDR).

The U.S. contingent consisted of Patricia Battin, President; Pamela Block, Administrative Assistant; and Hans Rütimann, Program Officer for the International Project–all of the Commission; George F. Farr, Jr., Director of the Office of Preservation, National Endowment for the Humanities; and James M. Morris, Secretary of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

In addition, invitations were extended to representatives of the German Library Institute, Berlin, and the Austrian National Library, Vienna. The invitations were accepted, but because of last-minute commitments, these two representatives were not able to join the group. Hermann Kostler, Director of the Zentralbibliothek Zurich. and his colleagues from the library of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Ulrich Bangerter and Karl Bohler, represented the local library community.

The primary focus of the meeting was the development of guidelines for the creation of a machine-readable internationally-compatible database of bibliographic records to enable the efficient and timely exchange of information on preservation microfilming. The group also considered a range of other issues related to preservation.

Meeting participants endorsed a series of recommendations for action by the Commission to encourage and coordinate mutually beneficial activities in countries around the world. These include the dissemination of guidelines for the exchange of machine-readable bibliographic records, a world-wide survey of preservation filming projects, and a study to identify the costs and management requirements of centralized and decentralized database models.

Hans Rütimann

Library Intern Gains Preservation Experience

For the month spanning mid-May through mid-June, the Commission hosted an intern. Michael Miller. from the Rutgers School of Communication, Information and Library Studies, chose to come to the Commission to earn credit for Field Experience in the school’s MLS program. While at the Commission. Michael consulted with a number of library professionals to aid in two assigned projects. The first project was a reorganization of the preservation vertical files used for public information purposes. The second was the generation of a fundraising information resource that will be made available through the Commission.

Special Report: The Concept of a Central Collection of Preservation Microfilms

The following report is based on an informal survey conducted by the Commission to gather data on the concept of a central collection of preservation microfilms. The report was discussed at the recent ARL membership meeting in May.

The National Endowment for the Humanities’ preservation filming program projects a total of 3,000,000 volumes filmed over the next twenty years by the nation’s libraries in a distributed environment. Traditionally, each institution has been responsible for the storage of the master negatives and printing masters. bibliographic control of preserved items, and the provision of access to service copies. Uneven bibliographic control practices have often hindered convenient access to preserved items. Costs for storage, bibliographic control, and dissemination through loan or purchase have been borne by the owning institution with no useful mechanism to encourage rapid and convenient document delivery and equitable sharing of costs throughout the scholarly community.

The National Endowment for the Humanities’ program to reformat 3,000,000 volumes over the next twenty years with federal funds carries with it the obligation to provide cost-effective, rapid bibliographic and textual access to preserved materials as well as separate storage of master negatives and printing masters. New computer and communication technologies offer exciting opportunities for rapid delivery in a variety of media formats, including film, paper, magnetic tape, and optical disk. The potential size of this body of microfilms, the cost of the new technological capacities, anticipated economies of scale in managing a distribution operation, and the obligation to provide cost-effective convenient access to the user argue for the establishment of a centralized collection of printing masters. Initially, this collection would take the form of a centralized depository of microfilms with access through on-line bibliographic services and efficient twenty-four-hour delivery mechanisms with the expectation that storage, access, and service enhancements will evolve with the increasing use of technology by scholars and expanded availability of network capabilities to the research community.

An informal survey of thirteen institutions presently engaged in preservation microfilming with NEH support produced the following statistics describing the current status. Owing to both the small size of the sample and the lack of consistency in definition and record-keeping, the data should be viewed as descriptive rather than definitive. “Master negative” is variously defined by different institutions. Some respondents indicated reels, others titles. Reels” were converted to titles, using an average of four titles per reel.

By 1992, the thirteen institutions project a total collection of 492,000 titles. The three national libraries will hold 403,398 titles of which 138,000 are newspapers. These holdings, added to the substantial collection of the Center for Research Libraries, indicate that there will be well over a million master negatives available by 1992.

Very few of the institutions were able to provide use statistics, but the overall impression is one of low usage. The wide range of costs, timeliness in responding to requests, lack of machine-readable bibliographic records, and random selection practices probably explains the low use. Although all institutions reported their intent to enter either full or minimal-level records of items filmed under the NEH project in either OCLC or RLIN, it is not clear that all older records have been converted to machine-readable form. Until the National Microform Master Register is converted, bibliographic access continues to be uneven.

The current status of access to the preserved items is as follows:

Costs for interlibrary loan range from $0 to $15.
Costs for purchase of films range from $9 to $40 or variable charges per foot plus service fees.
Costs range from ten cents to twenty-five cents per page plus service charges in some instances ranging from $2 to $15.
Costs range from $0 to $1.25 per fiche plus a $6 service charge.

Response time for access to a service copy on interlibrary loan was reported to be 2-3 days. Response times for either film or paper products ranged from I to 4 weeks.

There is considerable variation among the institutions in the interpretation of the copyright law.

In all instances where the printing masters were stored at the institution, storage costs were considered “free,” because films were stored in available library space.

Library costs to provide interlibrary loan services range from complete subsidy to partial subsidy to full recovery.

Library costs to provide purchase of film, fiche, or paper range from partial subsidy to full recovery. For institutions reporting fees based on full recovery, it is unclear whether staff time, institutional overhead, and space costs are included.

By most accounts, the present system is unfriendly to the user and while currently manageable, generally occupies second-class status in the institution’s hierarchy of public services. It is unlikely that under the present system, costs will decrease and services improve as the volume of filming increases. Given the conditions of NEH filming grants requiring the separate housing for master negatives and printing masters and the provision of cost-effective, equitable document access, a centralized distribution service managed by a third party on behalf of the nation’s libraries could provide swift and convenient service either to individuals or libraries, relieve individual institutions of storage and service burdens, and facilitate an equitable distribution of costs throughout the entire user community.

ARL Town Meeting Addresses Research Library Preservation Concerns

Directors of university and research libraries in the U.S. and Canada explored preservation issues at an open town meeting held during the Spring Membership Meeting of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) in New Orleans. On hand to lead the discussions were members of ML’s Committee on the Preservation of Research Library Materials: Carole Moore (chair). University of Toronto; William Studer, Ohio State University; Joseph Rosenthal, University of California at Berkeley; and Scott Bennett, Johns Hopkins University.

  • Mass Deacidification. Noting that an estimated 60 percent of the collections in research libraries are not yet brittle but on acidic paper, Studer said that “we must assume that at least one mass deacidification process will become viable,” but that librarians cannot take too seriously the costs now being quoted of $3 to $10 per item for treatment. If research libraries don’t do something about mass deacidification, they will be assigning a large portion of their books to eventual brittle status, he cautioned.
  • Access to Printing Masters. [See the accompanying report on the Commission’s informal survey.] Concerning a central service for storage of and access to preservation printing masters, Moore listed several questions raised by the committee, including: Will such a service solve current problems (e.g., lack of uniform, timely access to preservation microfilms)? Will such a service receive a high enough volume of use to be able to provide low prices? Will such a service to able to interface with international preservation microfilm programs? A lack of data and an absence of models are hampering the development of committee recommendations, Moore stated.
  • The Evolving North American Preservation Program. Rosenthal approached this topic from the perspective of a quiz and a request for advice: (1) Are resources adequate–Funds, personnel, know-how, training, research, facilities? (2) Are ARL libraries addressing the full scope of collections, regardless of the cause of the need for preservation: Brittleness, use, theft, disaster, and so forth. Are they addressing materials of whatever kind, not just paper? (3) Is there a balance of technology–microfilming, photocopying, repair, restoration, mass deacidification, digitization? (4) What about the decision-making process regarding policy making and allocation of resources? His challenge was for ARL libraries to achieve a preservation equilibrium by the year 2000.
  • The Role of ARL in Statewide Preservation Planning. Bennett explored possible ways that ARL and its members could be involved in statewide programs: Statewide preservation planning could be included in the model now under development by ARL (see April 1990 Commission Newsletter), or ARL could provide a program that would assist its members in contributing to state initiatives.

Preservation Microfilming Guidelines to be Revised

The Research Libraries Group, Inc. (RLG) has undertaken a project to revise its guidelines and specifications for the creation of preservation microfilm. The project brings together a broad-based group of experts, including commercial micropublishers, preservation film bureaus, and librarians from both RLG-member and non-RLG member institutions.

The current set of technical and procedural guidelines was originally developed in 1983 to support RLG’s cooperative preservation filming projects and was updated most recently in 1986. Since then, the field of preservation microfilming has expanded and the available expertise has increased, making this an appropriate time to take a fresh look at the guidelines and revise them to reflect the current consensus on recommended practices for creating stable, high-quality preservation microfilm. The new sets of guidelines will be published and made widely available in the fall of 1990.

In a separate action, RLG has developed an informational brochure (“Preservation Program,” April 1990) that describes its preservation activities, funded projects, and initiatives in the 1990s. Copies are available from: RLG, Inc., 1200 Villa Street, Mountain View, CA. 94041-1100.

Capitol Hill Testimony in Support of Preservation

The following comments are excerpts from the published statements of Vartan Gregorian, President of Brown University and a member of the Commission, and Lynne Cheney, Chairperson of the National Endowment for the Humanities and Chairperson of the National Council on the Humanities, in support of the National Endowment for the Humanities before the Senate Subcommittee on Education, Arts, and Humanities, April 5, 1990.

Vartan Gregorian:
“… The NEH has played a crucial and commendable national role in the realm of preservation. In saving our nation’s and humanity’s heritage from the ravages of acid paper and time, the NEH is not only rescuing that heritage but also is democratizing that heritage and making it accessible to scholars and the general public throughout the nation and the rest of the world…”

Lynne V. Cheney:
“Serious, thoughtful scholarship is the foundation on which humanities education rests, and thus we have devoted a significant portion of our resources to projects that expand knowledge and understanding…. We have also greatly expanded our efforts to preserve humanities research resources. The Endowment is providing leadership and support to institutions and organizations that are attempting to deal with the problems posed by the deterioration of materials in America’s libraries, archives, museums, and other repositories. Recent estimates suggest that 80 million volumes comprising 25 to 30 percent of the holdings in the country’s research facilities are disintegrating, primarily because of the acid content of their paper…

In April 1988. the Endowment presented to Congress, at the request of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies, a multi-year plan for accelerating our efforts to combat these and other preservation problems. The centerpiece of the plan is enhanced support for projects to microfilm brittle books. The remainder of the effort is devoted to collateral activities such as education and training projects and research and development projects to improve preservation methods and technology. Now in its second year of operation, the NEH plan has already helped to quicken the pace of the preservation effort throughout the nation: Major projects have been organized in seventeen (.S. research libraries that when completed will have microfilmed over 167,000 brittle books and serials. Training programs are underway to increase the number and expertise of preservation professionals…

The following comments are excerpts from the published statement of James Govan, a member of the Commission, and University Librarian, (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, speaking on behalf of the Association of Research Libraries, the Commission, and the National Humanities Alliance, on the Fiscal Year 1991 Appropriation for the National Endowment for the Humanities before the Subcommittee on the Interior and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, .S. House of Representatives, May 3, 1990.

Role of the National Endowment for the Humanities

“… NEH’s leadership in establishing an Office of Preservation in 1985 and the substantial expansion of that program with the support of the Appropriations Subcommittee in 1988 has generated a momentum in this country that has stimulated similar activities around the world…

In this regard, the NEH has done far more than provide funds for preserving brittle books. It has served as a forum for discussing, developing, and evaluating strategies and collaborative mechanisms for a decentralized program activity; it has stimulated the creation of new education and training programs; it has encouraged the formulation and maintenance of standards; and it has provided the necessary impetus for institutionalizing preservation operations in local institutions…

Accomplishments to Date

The deterioration of printed materials is one of the most serious crises confronting research libraries. The NEH initiative to preserve embrittled books has forged a new and dynamic partnership between the nation’s major research libraries, the federal government, and the scholars and others who use them. The projects funded during the past two years illustrate the rich diversity and broad subject scope of the collections that have been targeted for preservation microfilming…

Participating libraries report that the availability of NEH funding has stimulated the systematic assessment of preservation needs, aided in establishing a university-wide process for identifying materials with national intellectual significance and at highest risk, and resulted in the development of new and more sophisticated long-range plans for comprehensive preservation activity. In addition, because of resulting coverage by local and national news media, the NEH grant funding has enabled the library community to attract the attention of university administrators, scholars, and the general public to the severity of the preservation issues…

Future Challenges

The reformatting of brittle books is but one, if the most urgent, segment of a comprehensive preservation program. The emerging effectiveness of the NEH brittle books program now enables us to move on to developing a companion strategy for addressing the overwhelming preservation problems faced by the nation’s archives. Although there are many similarities in preservation policies and practices for library and archival collections, the enormous impact of the use of acidic paper on our literary, historical and governmental archives must be confronted…


The National Endowment for the Humanities has led the initiative to preserve knowledge on an international scale. The concerned action of the American government to insure unimpeded access to our intellectual heritage has stimulated a remarkable range of activities and renewed interest in cooperative efforts in countries around the world. In a recent letter to the Commission on Preservation and Access, a librarian at the Deutsche Bücherei in Leipzig, East Germany, asked for a copy of the film, Slow Fires, produced in 1986 with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The librarian wrote that “the destruction of our national heritage was a tabu topic within the last 40 years. … This ought to change now and we want to do something to make the state of our library materials known to everybody. Hoping for your help.” Unfettered access to information, and particularly to the history of our civilization, is a hallmark of the free society.

Copies of the complete testimonies of Vartan Gregorian, Lynne Cheney and James Govan are available upon request from the Commission.

Preservation Management Seminar Under Collaborative Development

Following a recommendation from the College Libraries Committee, the Commission has approved a collaborative project with SOLINET to design and conduct a preservation management seminar for librarians with part-time preservation responsibility. The seminar will help attendees develop the management skills and implement the activities that contribute to successful preservation programs.

In recommending such a seminar, the College Libraries Committee recognized that the maturing field of preservation is moving beyond its earlier focus on techniques to a more conscious attention to strategies. The training event is being designed to help participants implement local preservation efforts that are coherent and appropriate to their size, needs, and resources and that take advantage of regional, state, and national preservation initiatives.

The articulation of goals and development of curriculum has been a cooperative effort among Commission staff, its College Libraries Committee, and the SOLINET Preservation Program. The Commission and SOLINET are sharing costs of design and first-time operation, with the expectation that the seminar may be repeated in the future if it proves useful.

Current plans call for the seminar to be held for one week during the summer of 1991 in Atlanta. Attendance will be open to librarians throughout the nation on an application basis. The committee also has recommended that institutions intending to send staff members to the seminar be required to demonstrate their commitment to preservation. Upon the advice of the College Libraries Committee, one scholarship will be provided for attendance.

Details about the curriculum, exact dates, and application procedures will be available beginning in January 1991 from: SOLINET Preservation Program, 400 Colony Square, Plaza level, Atlanta, GA 30361-6301.

Commission on Preservation and Access
1400 16th Street, NW, Suite 740
Washington, DC 20036-2217
(202) 939-3400 Fax: (202) 939-3407

The Commission on Preservation and Access was established in 1986 to foster and support collaboration among libraries and allied organizations in order to ensure the preservation of the published and documentary record in all formats and to provide enhanced access to scholarly information.

The Newsletter reports on cooperative national and international preservation activities and is written primarily for university administrators and faculty, library and archives administrators, preservation specialists and administrators, and representatives of consortia, governmental bodies, and other groups sharing in the Commission’s goals. The Newsletter is not copyrighted; its duplication and distribution are encouraged.

Patricia Battin–President
Maxine K. Sitts–Program Officer, Editor
Pamela D. Block–Administrative Assistant
Patricia Cece, Communications Assistant


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