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CPA Newsletter #44, Apr 1992

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


April 1992

Number 44

International Project Reports on Technology in Spain, Preservation in China

The Commission’s International Project has released two reports on recent trips–one to investigate large-scale image scanning of archives in Seville, Spain, and one to explore cooperative preservation and access opportunities in China.

Computerization Project of the Archivo General de Indias, Seville, Spain was written by Hans Rütimann, International Project Consultant, and M. Stuart Lynn, a member of the Technology Assessment Advisory Committee, and Vice President. Information Technologies, Cornell University, after they visited the Archivo in 1991. The Commission sponsored inquiries into this project to learn more about the technical and operational implications of large-scale image scanning. Rütimann visited the facility in late April-early May, and the Commission then asked Lynn to assess the project’s technical aspects in September.

The Archivo General de Indias is operating a massive project to preserve and make accessible the contents of the 45 million documents and 7,000 maps and blueprints comprising the written heritage of Spain s 400 years in power in the Americas. Documents date from the 15th through the 19th centuries. The present objective is to scan about 10 percent of the archivo (or about eight million images) in preparation for the 1992 Seville World s Fair and the Columbus quincentenary. Four institutions are involved: The Ministry of Culture, IBM Spain, the Foundation Ramon Areces and the Archivo. According to Rütimann and Lynn, this project shows what can be accomplished when funding and commitment co-exist. They conclude that–as a large-scale reformatting project addressing an entire range of new problems–the work in Seville deserves continued attention.

Preservation and Access in China:

Possibilities for Cooperation
reports on a visit by Rütimann to the
People’s Republic of China, September 19 to October 12, 1991.

At the first meeting of the Library Resources Panel of the Committee on Scholarly Communication with the People’s Republic of China (CSCPRC), held in May 1991, participants agreed to explore the feasibility of a project to enhance the quality of and access to select materials in libraries in China. At that meeting, Commission President Patricia Battin and Rütimann were invited to address the panel on the Commission’s activities and its experience in dealing with libraries and archives abroad.

The Library Resources Panel then appointed a group to visit institutions in China and to discuss this proposal further. The Commission sponsored Rütimann’s participation in the fact-finding mission not only to facilitate discussion of the preservation aspects of the CSCPRC’s proposal, but to establish contacts between the Commission and institutions in China and to assess the possibility of linking activities in China with similar efforts in other countries. The report summarizes Rütimann’s visits to nearly 20 libraries, archives, and other institutions throughout the country.

Rütimann concludes that the Chinese are aware that the condition of their collections presents a growing problem, although many librarians and university administrators in the provinces do not appear to be familiar with the concept of brittle books or with multi-faceted approaches to preservation and permanent paper. He also notes that “most of the libraries we visited contain fine examples of quite old, well-preserved materials. This presents a rich opportunity for the sharing of information.”

Copies of the two reports have been sent to the Commission’s mailing list. Additional copies are available for $5.00 each from Trish Cece at the Commission. Orders must be prepaid, with checks made payable to “The Commission on Preservation and Access.” Payment must be in U.S. funds; do not send cash.

“All that mankind has done, thought, gained or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books.”

Hero and Hero Worship by Thomas Carlyle

Commission to Hold Invitational Science Workshop

The Commission is sponsoring a two-day invitational science workshop for preservation program managers, to be held in the Washington, D.C., area in September 1992. It is expected to be the first of a series of workshops on the use of scientific research information in preservation decision-making and the solution of critical preservation issues. The objectives of the event are U) to develop a dialogue between preservation managers and scientists that will help managers to better understand and interpret scientific research and to use scientific information in preservation decision-making; and (2) to discuss specific technical problems and develop a research agenda for helping researchers find solutions to these problems.

Leading scientists active in preservation research will join the 14 invited participants in interactive seminar discussions and lectures. The program topics include approaches to conducting scientific research, how to use scientific information, specific technical subjects, and cooperative approaches for setting research agendas for the future.

The Commission is developing the workshop with the assistance of Peter G. Sparks, scientist and former Director of Preservation at the Library of Congress. The planning of the workshop follows several years of working with preservation managers to develop a research agenda and a systematic collaborative review of scientific research articles.

Law Libraries Develop Recommendations to Address National Preservation Issues

The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) has issued a thorough report that contains a set of recommendations, guidelines and prototypes for addressing preservation issues of law libraries on a national scale. The report considers the particular preservation problems of law libraries and describes the current condition of their collections and the status of their preservation programs in North America. In shaping its recommendations, the AALL envisioned a preservation program that could be accomplished within existing committee structure and at minimum expense.

One advantage of this approach is that it involves a large number of librarians, from all the various types of law libraries, and serves to raise preservation consciousness throughout the Association,’ the report notes. A portion of the introduction toAmerican Association of Law Libraries Special Committee on Preservation Needs of Law Libraries Report and Recommendations (June 1991) is included as an insert to this newsletter. Copies of the report will be made available as an occasional paper by AALL, 53 West Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60604.

Bentley Award to Support Archival Project

The Bentley Historical Library of the University of Michigan has awarded a Research Fellowship for the Study of Modern Archives to Margaret Child. Dr. Child is managing the two task forces operating under the sponsorship of the Commission to develop guidelines to facilitate selection of archival materials for preservation (see Nov.-Dec. 1991, Jan. 1992 and March 1992 newsletters). The Bentley award will support a four-day seminar in Ann Arbor attended by the members of both task forces together with a number of archivists who have been particularly concerned about the issue of selection: Anne Kenney, Cornell University, President of the Society of American Archivists; Larry Hackman, Archivist of the State of New York; Helen Samuels, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; James O’Toole, the University of Massachusetts at Boston; and Evelyn Frangakis, the Society of American Archivists (SAA), who is managing the current NEH preservation training grant to SAA. In addition, Nancy Elkington of the Research Libraries Group, Inc. (RLG), who oversees RLG archival filming projects also will attend.

The purpose of the seminar is twofold: to comment on the task force reports and develop a strategy for encouraging repositories to begin to use them, and more importantly, to focus on the larger issues underlying the need to change institutional practice and develop a national preservation plan for archives.

The Research Fellowship Program for Study of Modern Archives is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.

“A book ought to be like a man or a woman, with some individual character in it, though eccentric, yet its own; with some blood in its veins and speculation in its eyes and a way and will of its own.”

John Mitchell

Joint Task Force Completes Inquiry; Final Report in Press

The Joint Task Force on Text and Image, operating with funds from the Getty Grant Program under the auspices of the Commission, has completed an 18-month inquiry into scholars needs for information in books containing both text and image, to help develop a nation wide strategy for preservation of and access to these resources. The task force’s report will be distributed by the Commission in early spring.

Members of the task force were:

Nancy S. Allen
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Thomas C. Battle
Director, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center
Howard University

Robert Brentano
Professor, Department of History
University of California, Berkeley

Richard Brilliant (Chair)
Professor, Department of Art History and Archaeology
Columbia University

David B. Brownlee
Associate Professor, Department of the History of Art
University of Pennsylvania

Janet Buerger
Harvard University Extension

Angela Giral
Librarian, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library
Columbia University

Anne R. Kenney
Assistant Director, Department of Preservation and Conservation,
University Library
Cornell University

Susan Klimley
Geological Sciences Librarian
Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory of Columbia University

M. Stuart Lynn*
Vice President, Information Technologies
Cornell University

Katharine Martinez
The Winterthur Library

James R. McCredie**
Institute of Fine Arts
New York University

Robert G. Neiley
Robert Neiley Architects

R. Nicholas Olsberg**
Head of Collections
Canadian Centre for Architecture

John Parascandola
Chief, History of Medicine Division
National Library of Medicine

Donald Posner
Professor Institute of Fine Arts
New York University

  • Liaison from Technology Assessment Advisory Committee
  • Did not participate in final report

“And what steps should we be taking to insure the preservation of electronic information so that our successors will not face the electronic equivalent of the brittle books that are burning up inside our libraries?”

Point of View–“Information Access: Our Elitist System Must Be
Reformed,” by Douglas Greenberg; The Chronicle of Higher Education,. October 23. 1991

Proposals Underway for Preservation Microfilm Distribution Facility

The Commission has received replies from six organizations that were sent a request for proposal for management of a central distribution facility for preservation microfilms. The Commission asked for an indication of interest in submitting a preliminary proposal for the management of a centralized access and retrieval service to provide products generated from the print masters of preservation microfilms. The request was prompted by the continuing productivity of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ (NEH) Division of Preservation and Access Brittle Books program. When current grants are completed, 450,000 volumes will be available on film. The NEH program carries with it the obligation to provide cost-effective rapid access to preserved materials as well as separate environmentally secure storage of master negatives and printing masters.

Subscription Reminder

A primary purpose of the Commission is to establish a two-way communication link with university administrators, scholars, government officials, library directors, and key library staff members to help shape national preservation initiatives. With that goal in mind, this newsletter is produced and funded to provide a direct. regular information flow among individuals actively concerned with preservation issues. To keep our costs at a reasonable level, the circulation is controlled to reflect the above primary audiences. The newsletter is not copyrighted and may be freely reproduced. You can help reduce the Commission’s mailing costs by notifying us of unwanted subscriptions and by sending address corrections and changes to Trish Cece, Communications Assistant. Please include your old address label with your request.

Newsletter Insert
American Association of Law Libraries
Special Committee on Preservation Needs of Law Libraries

Report and Recommendations

June 1991

A. Introduction

The Special Committee on Preservation Needs of Law Libraries was appointed by President Albert Brecht in 197, with a two year term, to which a third year was added by President Margaret Leary. Our mandate was to address the preservation issues facing the library community in general and law libraries in particular; to define the specific problems for law libraries; to describe the current condition of collections and status of preservation programs (or lack thereof) in North American Law Libraries; to present our recommended solutions and course of action for the Association, including implementation of a long-range, practical cooperative preservation program for our collections.

We have discovered, “preservation” is a complex, amorphous and vast subject. We have had to redefine our objectives and the parameters of our work, in order to present a viable program of action to the Association. Rather than being able to embark on the implementation phase of a national preservation program, as we had originally hoped to do, we have come to realize that the most we could achieve would be a set of recommendations, guidelines and prototypes for addressing the various preservation issues on a national scale. In doing so, we have attempted to incorporate the preservation objectives for the Association as articulated by the National Legal Resources Committee Report in 1989 and the AALL Strategic Plan 1990.

While acknowledging that preservation is a global problem, AALL has a responsibility to concentrate first and foremost on the preservation issues facing our member libraries, and within them on Anglo-American legal materials. This report includes recommendations for coordination of AALL preservation activities with other groups, both within this country and abroad, which have the capability and mandate to address the preservation of foreign law materials and multidisciplinary materials. The committee focused attention on the preservation of North-American legal imprints, since these are the common denominators for the spectrum of AALL libraries.

Central to our work has been the formulation of a realistic definition of a national program. Its most basic goal is the preservation of as much as possible of the material relevant to our primary constituencies–law faculty, law students, practitioners, judges and governmental agencies. Secondary goals include achieving this in as cost effective way as possible for all involved, and in a way which provides the maximum benefit to the maximum number of libraries.

Although we use the term “national program”, we are not in any sense recommending that all preservation work in law libraries be centrally coordinated, but rather that there be a commitment by the Association and its member libraries to an overall scheme which provides for preservation of the legal literature in our collections over time in a pragmatic and even-handed way.

Having predicated the necessity for the immediate preservation of the body of printed North-American legal literature, the Committee gave a great deal of consideration to the question of which constituent parts of this mammoth task are best handled within individual libraries and which are appropriate for cooperative solution.

One problem facing our particular Association in the formulation a national preservation program is the diversity of the libraries it represents. The membership consists of hundreds of law libraries, academic, private, government and court, whose differences–in mission, in constituents’ needs, in collection size and nature, funding, staffing and autonomy–are in many ways greater than their similarities. The only universal common denominators relevant in thinking about preservation, are law as the primary subject and focus of the collections and the provision of legal information as the primary service goal….

An AALL national preservation program can establish priorities and serve as a clearinghouse, crossing items off the list as they are preserved, but it cannot impose a set of priorities and values upon individual libraries.

There are three distinct elements to a comprehensive preservation agenda:

  1. preserving the intellectual content of U.S. law libraries;
  2. preserving the physical volumes in law collections;
  3. working towards publications of archivally sound law

The committee recognizes that AALL funds are limited and that it would be unrealistic for law libraries to look to AALL to achieve all preservation goals. It therefore recommends that the preservation of legal literature in U.S. law libraries be seen as the joint responsibility of AALL, Law Library of Congress (LLC) and the research law libraries, co-operating through the Research Group Law Program Committee or other channels.

AALL’s preservation program should concentrate the Association’s resources on preservation issues which are common to the largest number of law libraries. These are the preservation of general collections in our libraries and the promotion of archivally sound materials for production of future publications in all formats…

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


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