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CPA Newsletter #39, Oct 1991

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


October 1991

Number 39

Panel Comments on Scientific Research
Reports on Environmental Conditions, Microenvironments

After compiling a directory of scientific research information sources in early 1990, the Commission identified a set of related needs: to expand ongoing communication among preservation professionals, scientists, conservationists, and laboratories; to target worthwhile scientific projects for analysis by the preservation community; and to interpret research results with likely applications for preservation. The Commission since has initiated a review panel composed of working librarians, archivists, and conservators from eight institutions with varying preservation concerns (see April 1991 newsletter).

Panel members are providing viewpoints on research focusing on applications suited to their institutions’ needs. In addition to submitting comments to the Commission, they are sharing their findings with colleagues through other publications and presentations at meetings. The effectiveness of this approach will be evaluated at the end of a one-year test period.

The following excerpts are taken from reviews of the first package of materials. More complete reviews will appear in future newsletters.

The Characterization of Microenvironments and the Degradation of Archival Records: A Research Program, Elio Passaglia, National Bureau of Standards, Institute for Materials Science and Engineering, October 1987. NBSIR 87-3635. A Report Prepared for the National Archives and Records Administration. Establishes a theoretical basis for a research program for the study of microenvironments.

Among conclusions drawn from analysis of the models were: (a) containers with gaps as found in the prototypical container [Hollinger box] result in diffusion of pollutants through the gaps at a rate that for practical purposes, the container might as well be open; (b) containers can provide protection from the macroenvironment provided they have no gaps in them; (c) sealing deteriorating paper in an impermeable container may speed deterioration; and (d) the area that seems to hold the most promise for further investigation is containers with reactive walls.”

Delaware Bureau of Records and Archives
Management, Howard P. Lowell

We believe that conservation requires the effective collaboration of practical conservator, scientist, and cultural historian…. I think that creating the right environment for that kind of exchange is a core management challenge in an institution….

“Finding a Structure of Collaboration.” Gerry Hedley, guest
editorial, CCI (Canadian Conservation Institute) Newsletter, Autumn/Winter 1990, pp.8-9.

“… this report is difficult for the non-scientist to read (in terms of the reader being able to relate conclusions to the research data and methodology). It does present considerable interesting ancillary information in the sections that review the published literature and state the researchers’ basic assumptions.”

National Archives, Karen Garlick

“The information related to microenvironments in containers is valuable in designing and evaluating protective enclosure activities in many preservation programs across the country. Now that I am aware of this report, I will give it to Northwestern’s collections conservator for evaluation.”

Northwestern University, Richard Frieder
Sorbent Removal of Air Pollutants from Museum Display Cases, Such a S. Parmar and Daniel Grosjean, research sponsored by the Getty Conservation Institute, Marina del Rey, CA, which submitted the report for review. Published in Environmental International, Vol.17, pp.39-50, 1991; Pergamon Press. Study conducted to provide the art conservation community with simple, cost-effective methods (passive and active) for reducing environmental damage to objects in display cases.

“A useful and relevant study.”

Library of Congress, Chandru Shahani

“This paper provides interesting information about the experimental methods used by the authors and useful data about the behavior of sorbents. It will be good reading for the conservation community as well as for those technically oriented persons engaged in museum, library, and archive exhibition and display programs. The potential for practical application of this research is clearly apparent and it is probable that, during the course of the next few years, a substantial body of experience using sorbents in exhibition cases will emerge.”

AMIGOS Preservation Service (James G. Stroud, Harry Ransom Humanities
Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin)

“This research contains at least three pieces of valuable information for archives…. One of which, a widely-used and available sorbent, activated charcoal, met target performance for all five pollutants tested.”

Delaware Bureau of Records and Archives Management, Howard P. Lowell

Having indicated the relatively narrow uses of the information in this report, it does provide useful data for the manager with exhibit applications in which a pollutant-free contained environment is required. This would include most institutions with an exhibit program….”

New York State Archives, Chris Ward
A Graphical Representation of the Relationship of Environmental Conditions to the Permanence of Hygroscopic Materials and Composites. Donald K. Sebera, Chemist, Preservation Research and Testing Office, Preservation Office, Library of Congress. Proceedings of Conservation in Archives. International Symposium, Ottawa, Canada, May 10-12, 1988.

“This article addresses a critically important issue, i.e., providing a persuasive tool for preservation staff for use in discussions with physical plant staff and library administrators. We all believe that proper environmental control is essential, but we can never answer questions about the negative ramifications of inaction. The isoperm will allow us to do that.”

Northwestern University, Richard Frieder

“Among the text’s examples, the author details the following useful applications: to define temperature and RH ranges which are suitable or unsuitable for exhibition or storage; to note environmental ranges to be avoided in terms of mold growth; and to define conditions where paper flexibility is endangered. He further demonstrates the advantages of using a pictorial representation as compared with a numerical form for making quick observations as well as for allowing the viewer to more readily perceive, formulate and, potentially, address pertinent questions concerning the representation.”

AMIGOS Preservation Service (Ellen Cunningham-Kruppa. The University
of Texas at Austin)

“The information presented in this paper will be useful to librarians and archivists planning preservation programs because of its implications for long-term storage of materials. This report is worth the time required to understand it…. I encourage the preservation manager in a library or archives to plow through this paper; I found it made much more sense the second time through.”

New York State Archives. Chris Ward

“[The] isoperm model offers a relatively simple graphic means of describing the interrelationship of temperature and humidity in storage environments and predicting the increase or decrease in longevity that changes in either will produce. That having been said, it should be stated that the paper may prove too technical for the nonscientific reader. What would be helpful to the practicing librarian or archivist is a layman’s version of his paper and an objective evaluation of its validity.”

National Library of Medicine. Margaret Byrnes

Panel members are: Margaret Byrnes. Head. Preservation Section, National Library of Medicine: Tom Clareson. Preservation Service Manager. AMIGOS Bibliographic Council: Richard Frieder. Preservation Officer, Northwestern University Library; Karen Garlick, Senior Conservator, National Archives and Records Administration Kenneth Harris. Director for Preservation. Library of Congress: Howard P. Lowell. State Archivist an Records Administrator, Delaware State Archives Jan Merrill-Oldham, Head. Preservation Department, University of Connecticut Library: an, Christine W. Ward, Chief. Bureau of Archival Services, New York State Archives.

College Archives Receives Two Federal Grants

NEH and Title II-C Support Preservation Microfilming

The Amherst College Archives has received two federal grants in support of the preservation microfilming of the Dwight W. Morrow Papers. The National Endowment for the Humanities’ Division of Preservation and Access and the U.S. Department of Education Higher Education Act, Title II-C Program joined forces in providing $105,000 to support the 18-month project. The preservation of the Morrow papers will ensure their continued availability and will increase access by national and international scholars with a microfilm edition.

Morrow (1873-1931) was a diplomat, financier, and lawyer who corresponded with business, political, and international leaders. The 120 linear feet of Morrow Papers have been used by researchers at Amherst College since 1954.

Adapted from Amherst College Library Press Release; September 1, 1991

Special Report

Nationwide Preservation Survey Looks At Management, Filming, Environmental Controls

Fresh Data From Over 400 Libraries Provides Initiatives For Future Action

by Tom Clareson, Margaret Child and Darryl Lang

In October 7990, the Regional OCLC Network Directors Advisory Committee (RONDAC), undertook the largest and most diverse nationwide preservation survey effort ever attempted: 1,026 questionnaires were directed to a random sample of all types of OCLC libraries: academic, public, law, medical, federal, junior/community college, and other (including state, municipal, corporate, theological and school) and to all 74 of OCLC s academic research library members. Four-hundred and fifty-two libraries returned the questionnaires, a 44 percent return rate. This special report focuses on only some of the results. Further information is available from summary reports distributed by the regional OCLC networks.

Preservation Management

The survey revealed significant differences between academic research libraries and all other types of libraries in the area of preservation management and staffing.

Nearly a third of the academic research libraries consider preservation a high priority; another half rank it as an average priority. More than two-thirds of the remaining respondents consider preservation a low institutional priority. Allocation of funds to preservation purposes follows much the same kind of curve from a high of 95 percent for academic libraries to a low of 11 percent for junior and community colleges. A significant number of respondents are spending money on preservation even though they do not have a preservation plan in place or in progress.

Almost two-thirds of all respondents have someone on their staff with knowledge of preservation issues and practices, even though almost half of the libraries have no one formally assigned to preservation responsibilities. Academic research libraries again differ from the general pattern by having a higher percentage of full-time staff assigned to preservation.

Preservation Education and Training

Library staff gain preservation knowledge mainly by attending training programs of a wide variety of types and levels. Academic research library staff attend more college or university graduate-level courses than do staff of other libraries. They also attend all other levels of training–state, regional, and national programs as well as those provided by professional organizations and apprenticeship training –in far greater numbers. The training workshops most often attended by staff from all types of libraries include basic repair, care and handling, disaster preparedness, library binding and environmental control.

Disaster-preparedness is by far the most desired type of training. Workshops on general preservation management, basic repair and conservation treatment, and storage and pest control are also considered to be very much needed. Similarly, respondents indicate that disaster assistance in the event of fire or water damage is their most needed service.

Again, responses from academic research libraries are significantly different from the others. They concur that disaster assistance is very important but place a higher value on training materials, a newsletter, and an information service than other kinds of libraries. Even more interesting. a remarkable 92 percent of the academic research libraries consider coordination of mass deacidification, preservation microfilming, and coordinated state or regional disaster preparedness activities to be very important.

Total includes all library types.
Preservation Priority
Total Academic
Academic Public
Base: Total Answering 450 37 141 71
(%) (%) (%) (%)
High Priority 7 30 7 6
Average Priority 30 51 36 29
Low Priority 63 19 57 65

Preservation Microfilming

Many libraries believe they are preserving their collections by filming but, in fact, are not adhering to national standards, thus compromising the films’ quality and life expectancy.

Twenty-seven percent report that they are currently microfilming a portion of their collections for preservation purposes. This figure includes almost three-quarters of academic research libraries, one-quarter of academic libraries and a surprising 45 percent of public libraries. A majority of the libraries doing preservation microfilming contract with a commercial vendor and another third use a non-profit organization. Thirty percent do microfilming in-house.

More than half (60 percent) of the libraries doing preservation microfilming state that filming is being done in accordance with American National Standards Institute guidelines. A third of the libraries either acknowledge that their filming does not conform to any standards, or did not know, or did not answer the question.

Thirty-nine percent of the libraries doing filming report that master microfilm negatives are stored off-site in environmentally controlled vaults. Only half report their films to a bibliographic network or the National Register of Microform Masters. Again, there is a marked contrast between academic research and other libraries: only 21 percent of the former fail to report to the networks, compared to 59 percent of public libraries and 50 percent of academic.

Environmental Factors

More than half of all the respondents have not assessed the condition of their buildings. In contrast, a remarkable 87 percent of the academic research libraries report that they have reviewed both their buildings and climate control systems. The respondents were also asked to evaluate the adequacy of the buildings that house their collections. More than half recognize they have problems with humidification and dehumidification, and more than two-fifths with control of light and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) systems.

Base: Total Respondents
Disaster Assistance
Training Materials
Hands-On Training
On-Site Training
Treatment Services
Grant Preparation
Preservation Microfilming
Mass Deacidification Online Bibliographic Searches

Both academic and academic research libraries show distinctly higher percentages of dissatisfaction with all aspects of their physical plants than do other libraries. This suggests either that more of these libraries are housed in aging or poorly designed structures, or that they are more aware when systems do not perform to standards.

Nonetheless, it is disturbing to note that more than half the libraries do not provide constant climate control throughout the year for their general collections, and two-fifths do not do so for special collections. From one-third to one-half are not able to say at what temperature the heating and air conditioning systems are maintained for their general and special collections, respectively. Overall, a higher percentage of academic research libraries report being able to keep their temperatures stable both day and night and throughout the year, especially for their special collections. And, where answers are given, temperatures in special collections seem to be kept distinctly lower than in the general collections.

RONDAC co-sponsored the survey with the Online Computer Library Center, Inc. (OCLC). RONDAC serves as a forum for strategic direction and policy on the provision of OCLC services to users. OCLC’s address is 6565 Frantz Road, Dublin. OH 43017-0702.

Note: Respondents may have indicated more than one response. Total includes all library types.
Percentage of Respondents Who Rated
Preservation-Related Services as Very Important
Total Academic
Academic Public
452 38 142 71
(%) (%) (%) (%)
83 87 88 80
74 61 82 72
69 87 80 66
67 82 69 65
59 84 71 52
56 68 66 49
50 50 56 55
49 92 57 46
48 66 51 42
48 53 58 49
40 58 52 38
40 68 54 39
39 76 46 41
28 63 31 24
22 37 30 20

Reports Focus On Institutional Agendas

Contracting for Services, Care of Recorded Sound

Two Commission reports that address institutional preservation initiatives are in the mail this month to sponsors and other organizations that regularly receive this newsletter.

Report on The Preservation Planning Project, from the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, describes a preservation program that would operate with a high level of participation from contracted services.

Early last year, the Commission contracted with the University of Pennsylvania a nd the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) to generate guidelines and collect data applicable to other institutions as part of a larger preservation project being undertaken at the university. The larger project, funded partly by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, had two major goals. The first was the formulation ot a plan for the preservation of the university’s collections using a broad, strategic approach that considers not only local needs, but also regional and national programs. The second goal was the development of a management strategy to enable a small internal staff to work in concert with regional preservation service organizations, which would supply the resources needed by the university to operate its preservation. program.

This 44-page final report was assembled by Peter G. Sparks who served as the project’s consultant.

The Care and Handling of Recorded Sound Materials, by Gilles St-Laurent, provides advice on the care and handling of recorded sound materials in collections, focusing primarily on the nature and composition of the recording media.

Although much of the Commission’s activities have focused on the preservation of information contained on deteriorating paper, libraries and archives also house and care for information stored on a variety of media. Unlike microfilming of paper-based information sources, standards for preservation reformatting of deteriorating audio and video materials have not yet been established. In the meanwhile, institutions have a responsibility to preserve the non-print materials in their collections.

At the request of a number of colleges and universities that sponsor the Commission, the April 1990 newsletter carried a special report on the care and handling of video recordings. The new report on recorded sound materials–whose length precludes inclusion in this newsletter–is an expanded version of an article prepared initially for the National Library of Canada’s National Library News.

White House Conference Focuses on Enhancing Access

Preservation Among Priorities for Government Action

Eliminating obstacles and enhancing access to information was a top concern of delegates during the White House Conference on Library and Information Services (WHCLIS), July 9-13, 1991, in Washington, DC. Delegates considered ways to overcome legal, physical, financial, linguistic and cultural obstacles to access. Among their recommendations were three directly related to preservation:

  • Congress shall adopt a national preservation policy to ensure the preservation of our information resources. The assessment of preservation needs should be clearly articulated with adequate funding provided for implementation of this policy. This policy must include: a) A broad-based program of preservation education and training is essential to a long-term development of a multi-institutional preservation effort; b) A comprehensive policy for preserving information on non-paper media; c) The development and dissemination of new technologies, standards and procedures in our libraries, archives and historical organizations; d) Increased federal funding to support existing regional preservation centers and to create new centers in unserved regions of the country. Together, these resources will help to ensure that small libraries, archives, and historical organizations will have access to the information and services they need to preserve their collections.
  • States shall be provided with the resources necessary to preserve historical and cultural information held in their libraries, archives and historical organizations.
  • The final report of the White House Conference on Library and Information Services shall be printed on permanent, durable paper.

60 Archivists to Undergo Training as Preservation Administrators

SAA to Create Critical Mass of Preservation Programs With NEH Funds

A new Preservation Training Program being launched by the Society of American Archivists (SAA) intends to create a critical mass of institutional preservation programs managed by competent archival administrators, and to do so as rapidly and efficiently as possible. The program was recently awarded a $645,554 grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the largest received to date by SM. The society plans to train 60 archivists over a three-year period.

The program was developed by an advisory committee whose work was supported in part by the Commission. The training will examine preservation topics from a management point of view. More information is available from SAA, 600 5. Federal, Suite 504, Chicago, IL 60605.

October 1991 New Modular Brittle Book Exhibit Available for Loan

Display Adaptable to Institution’s Needs

A new eight-panel photographic exhibit that draws attention to the preservation and access of information in brittle books is available for short-term loan to universities and colleges, libraries, archives, scholarly societies, and other organizations. The Commission designed the 10-by-7 foot modular display around a large full-color photograph of a brittle book with crumbling paper. (Supplied courtesy of the Preservation Section of the National Library of Medicine).

The modern display includes velcro end-panels for mounting information and photographs specific to an institution’s own preservation program. Panels can be re-arranged to serve as a complete backdrop for a conference booth or for a tabletop display. The exhibit is lightweight, portable, and easy to assemble. Institutions can borrow the display free of charge, but must pay shipping charges. The original Giant Brittle Book also remains available for loan. For more information contact Trish Cece, Communications Assistant.

Environmental Control Publication is First of its Kind

New York State Offers New Resource for Libraries, Archives the first environmental control publication developed specifically for libraries, archives and other organizations, Conservation Environment Guidelines for Libraries and Archives,” has been published by New York State Library’s Conservation/ Preservation Program.

The 88-page resource packet discusses the conservation environment, collections environment assessment and monitoring, and compromises for conservation environment goals. It also addresses building environments and systems that can create a good conservation environment.

The packet is available for $10.00 from Tiffany H. Allen, The New York State Library, 10-C-47 Cultural Education Center, Albany, NY 12230. Checks should be made payable to “The University of The State of New York.”

Environmental conditions is a continuing concern of the Commission. which co-sponsored a seminar earlier this year on the topic with the Association of Physical Plant Administrators of Universities and Colleges (see “Special Report,” April 1991 newsletter).


The Final Report of the Preservation Education Task Force is included as an insert to this newsletter

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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