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CPA Newsletter #57, Jun 1993

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


June 1993

Number 57

Brittle Books Program Started in Germany

The German Research Council (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG) in Bonn has initiated a program to microfilm deteriorating library collections, with an initial appropriation of over DM 1 million. The program was developed to encourage similar initiatives in individual states (Länder) and to promote standards for filming and bibliographic control.

The DFG also is supporting the creation of a German Register of Microfilm Masters that will collect bibliographic citations and share them with the European Register of Microfilm Masters (EROMM). The Commission is participating in EROMM’s development through its International Program.

In its planning document, the DFG stresses the importance of access to deteriorating collections. Priority is given to journals and yearbooks and parts of special collections and central disciplinary libraries. Microfilms created will be on loan to the recipient of financial support, with the DFG retaining the right to request the delivery of a silver duplicate to a central German collection and distribution center, should one be created at a later point.

Bellagio Conference Attendance

As of mid-May, the following participants have acknowledged their attendance in the upcoming Commission conference on preserving the literary heritage to be held June 7-11, 1993, at the Bellagio, Italy, Study and Conference Center. The conference is supported by The Rockefeller Foundation. The 23 participants, 13 from Europe and ten from the U.S., represent fields that depend heavily on the deteriorating literature printed on acid paper.

This is to update the previous list announced in the January 1993 newsletter.

Dr. Birgit Antonsson
The Royal Library Swedish Research Council Stockholm

Rev. Msgr. Paul Canart
Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana

Professor Pieter J.D. Drenth
Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences

Ms. Colette Flesch
Director General of Unit DG X
Commission des Communautés Européennes

Professor Christoph Graf
Schweizerisches Bundesarchiv

Professor Michel Jouve
Vice Président
Université Michel de Montaigne

Professor Knut Kleve
Klassisk og Romansk Institutt

Professor Vittorio Marchis
Dipartimento di Meccanica
Politecnico di Torino

Professor Goeffrey Martin
Senior Fellow
Merton College
University of Oxford

Ms. Alison de Puymège
Assistant Secretary General

Professor Dr. Heimo Reinitzer
Universität Hamburg

Professor Miquel Siguan
Catedrático de Psicologia Basica
Universitat de Barcelona

Dr. David G. Vaisey
Bodley’s Librarian
Bodleian Library
University of Oxford

Ms. Patricia Battin
Commission on Preservation and Access

Professor Richard Brilliant
Dept. of Art History & Archaeology,
Columbia University

Dr. George F. Farr, Jr.
Director, Division of Preservation and Access
National Endowment for the Humanities

Dr. J. L. Heilbron
Vice Chancellor
University of California,

Mark D. Jordan
Associate Professor
The Medieval Institute
University of Notre Dame

Dr. Stanley Katz
American Council of Learned Societies

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

Professor J. Hillis Miller
Dept. of English & Comparative Literature
University of California, Irvine

Dr. Henry Riecken
Senior Program Advisor
Commission on Preservation and Access

Mr. Hans Rütimann
Commission on Preservation and Access

Testimony for NEH Cites Congressional Accomplishments

David H. Stam, University Librarian at Syracuse University, testified before Congress on behalf of 1994 appropriations for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), at hearings on May 12, 1993. Speaking as a librarian and scholar, Stam stated that “Congress can be proud of its accomplishments” in supporting the brittle books program of NEH’s Division of Preservation and Access. Stam spoke before the subcommittee on the Interior and Related Agencies on behalf of the Commission, the Association of Research Libraries, and the National Humanities Alliance. He cited the progress of the 20-year brittle books program, which is continuing to microfilm the target number of volumes–well over 500,000–despite a reduction in funding. The testimony also called for a new emphasis on digitized formatting. The hearings were originally scheduled for May 5, 1993.

Inside: “Perspectives Of The Scientist…”

Included in this newsletter is the printed version of a presentation by James R. Druzik, Conservation Scientist at The Getty Conservation Institute, to the February 18, 1993 planning meeting of the Commission’s Science Research Initiative. In Perspectives of the Scientist: On the Myopia of Science and the Dynamic Range of the Human Mind, Druzik provides insight into the scientific process of discovery and how the human mind is the key to unlocking the scientific answers to providing preservation and access.

Commission Publications Online

The Preservation Department at Stanford has begun to scan Commission publications for its CoOL database–Conservation Online. CoOL, a Wide Area Information Server (WAIS) is dedicated to providing Internet access to a full text database of conservation information. The database covers a wide variety of topics of interest to those involved with the conservation of library, archives and museum materials.

Suggested Reading

A collaborative project between Cornell University and Xerox, and the Commission’s Project IBID are the topic of a speech given by David Cohen, Dean of libraries at the College of Charleston, to the North American Serials Interest Group (NASIG) meeting. The speech, published in The Serials Librarian, Volume 23, #34 (pp. 149-155) discusses the project at Cornell where staff in the library and computer center, working with Xerox Corporation, collaborate to test a prototype system for recording deteriorating books as digital images and producing, on demand, quality paper facsimiles. Cohen also covers Project IBID, a proposed not-for-profit corporation that would keep needed, recently published books in print by scanning them and using the Docutech printer to produce a limited number of copies of out-of-print books on demand.

Ohio Preservation Plan Receives NEH Grant

Millions of books currently being used in Ohio’s public and private libraries are the focus of a new preservation program led by the State Library of Ohio and the Ohio State Historical Society.

The two-year program will be funded by a $49,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for library preservation activities, and will involve establishing a statewide planning committee. The project will include interviewing professional and governmental leaders, five town meetings and leading numerous discussions throughout the state to elicit participation from groups interested in preserving various kinds of materials. Members of the planning committee will publicize their findings and recommendations in the biannual Ohio Model Preservation Action Agenda.

New Member Joins College Library Committee

Victoria L. Hanawalt, College Librarian at Reed College, Portland, Oregon, has accepted an invitation to join the Commission’s College Library Committee. A long time advocate of raising the level of awareness of preservation issues among college librarians, Ms. Hanawalt plans to join the committee at their next meeting scheduled for Thursday, October 7, 1993, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Perspectives of the Scientist: On the Myopia of Science and the Dynamic Range of the Human Mind

By James R. Druzik
Conservation Scientist
The Getty Conservation Institute

This paper is a printed version of a talk presented to the February 18, 1993 planning meeting of the Commission’s Science Research Initiative. The Commission is distributing the paper to further stimulate discussion about research methods involved in the scientific and technological aspects of preservation. The Science Research Initiative provides opportunities for librarians, archivists and scientists to explore jointly how scientific research can be obtained, interpreted, and applied to solve critical preservation issues. The Commission is scheduled to sponsor a second Science Workshop for Preservation Administrators from September 15 to 17, 1993 at the Belmont Conference Center in Elkridge, Maryland.

At the Library of Congress, Round Table on Preservation Research and Development, September 28-29, 1992, Paul Whitmore presented the keynote address entitled “The Myopia of Preservation Research.” Dr. Whitmore’s central premise was that conservation science is inherently nearsighted in the sense that objects located father from the eye are fuzzier, harder to resolve, less vibrant and grayer than objects closer. Rather than physical distance, the eye of the mind of science tries to “see” ahead in time and thus make predictions about future behavior. Such behavior might be the embrittlement of coated papers, the shelf-life of PVA double-fan adhesive bindings, or simply the selection of a better conservation treatment.

As any nearsighted person can tell those of you without optical appliances, the objects easiest to discern are those which are large, have few details, and are relatively close. By analogy, it is easier to measure a big effect over a short time than to measure a small effect years or decades to come. It is perhaps most difficult to resolve a series of interrelated small effects in a complex system over time when their rates are constantly shifting. Predicting the acceptability (including stability) of a new pigment is an example because there are photochemical effects, temperature and humidity dependencies, acid/base sensitivities, particles and binders, and no less than half a dozen atmospheric oxidants that may interact. This is like trying to “see” the contents of an automobile engine on a smoggy day from two miles away and making a diagnosis of why it won’t run–a slight exaggeration, but useful. Yet, that is frequently perceived as what scientists “do” in popular mythology, and cosmologists who theorize on the origin and fate of the universe don’t make it any easier for those of us with more humble goals. This mythology is indeed very dangerous because it encourages the blurring of distinctions between fact and opinion.

But scientists are incorrigible optimists nevertheless. They have developed all sorts of tools to assist their myopia. Some tools let them see in short wavelengths of light, and others let them visualize heat, sound and molecular vibrations. A few tools even let them tinker with the fundamental building blocks of matter, thereby deducing its larger structures and imaging what its smaller ones may be. These are but the physical tools of analysis –the scientist also has a suite of mathematical tools for improving eyesight. These can be simple equations pounded out on a hand calculator or complex mathematical models requiring a fast computer. They generate isoperm diagrams, estimate operational costs of buildings, reduce millions of climatic data points for archeological site management, or perform FFT analysis of digital images of art works. There are many other classes of tools but the point is simple, whether we are discussing a hand magnifying lens or a super-cooled super-collider: These aids are relatively simple in looking through time and, Cray computers notwithstanding, altogether stupid within themselves. They seldom provide a single answer unassisted by the human mind. And this is the crux of why conservation science has difficulties satisfying the conservator or preservation manager.

I have found no tool–machine or device, computer or algorithm–that can contemplate its own existential realities. At least until now there have been no HAL 9000 entities. Humans, on the other hand, delight in such activities and partake of them from that age where verbal sounds become associated with symbolic meaning until death. The power and diversity of interconnections in the human mind are virtually beyond any form of reasonable scientific description except in the simplest biochemical ways. For this reason it is very difficult for the mind to ask a simple question. It takes discipline and training to seek the simple. The brain is not easily satisfied.

One way to look at this is to borrow a concept from optical sensors technology and consider the mind as having a vast cognitive “dynamic range”. By way of comparison, it is easy to under- or over-expose photographic film, much harder for the human eye, and more difficult yet for CCD sensors. With respect to light, photographic film, the eye, and the CCD have higher and higher dynamic ranges–that is they can see in low or high light levels easily. The human eye even gets so used to operating in wide ranges, it is a very poor judge of light intensity.

The human mind has the greatest dynamic range in existence. With equal facility it can enjoy the strategy of a football game, play the game of chess with 10^60 possible moves, or contemplate the notions of love and death, infinity and the eternal. And yet, to each individual who enjoys these diversions, the effort put into it often seems to differ little, even though these operations vary tremendously in their complexity. Again, like the eye, the mind is a poor judge of intensity.

For this reason, preservation managers and conservators, as the users of scientific knowledge, often pose a greater problem to scientists than the problem itself. We both share the most powerful of our tools, one that can spin a hopelessly convoluted inquiry. Going back to Paul Whitmore’s paper, the question, “How do I safely bleach discolored paper?” is not a simple question at all because it is proposing a number of related questions: “What is the cause of the discoloration? What treatments will effectively bleach the discoloration: Are there harmful side-effects in the short-term, or in the long-term?” In other words, because of our dynamic range of thought, the apparently simple question asked above is not perceived as complex as it is. In another example, Peter Waters proposes to ask, “How do you model the aging of whole collections of disparate books of varying sizes, ages, materials, and states of preservation, simultaneously and in ‘real time’?” The mind is indeed a poor judge of complexity.

Many of the proposals for research I have read that make up the science research initiative of the Commission on Preservation and Access are excellent. As equally easy to note, many are dynamic and speak of research programs rather than single projects. Some are models of difficulty, however. This does not mean that they are any less worthy of pursuit. It does mean, though, that we are dealing with several orders of magnitude in the resources and time required to address them. Science can only progress in simple steps. Each step is but a single building block used to construct our knowledge. The risk associated with complex problems is one or quality control in that all the blocks may not “be up to code”. Since we must step slowly, patience will be as important as resources and time. By bringing the preservation managers deep into the intricacies of the issues early, I feel that they will then become the strongest advocates of this present initiative.

Therefore, the perspective and message of one scientist is this: In spite of our impressive array of technical devices and machines, the most versatile tool of all is the one we use to frame the question we seek to answer. If we use that tool carefully and with supreme restraint we shall make progress together. Use it carelessly, and we might find ourselves in the same boat as St. Augustine, who while walking along the beach one day, contemplating the nature of God, encountered a small boy with a bucket. The child was taking water from the ocean and emptying it into a hole he had dug higher up on the beach.

“What are you doing?” asked St. Augustine.

“I’m emptying the ocean,” said the boy.

“But that’s impossible,” remarked the Saint.

“I’ll finish my pursuit long before you understand anything about the nature of God,” the boy remarked before disappearing.

The real difficulty is in balancing the halting, discipline caution of the scientific process of discovery with the imagination and limitless inquiry of the free-ranging human spirit.

Legislators and Administrators Focus of SMU Symposium

A symposium on Policies for Preservation in the Southwest was held April 29, 1993, at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas. The day-long conference included eight speakers covering a range of topics, from the virtual library to preserving Chicano literature. Reaction to the conference was very positive, according to one of the chairmen, who said a vast amount of literature and information was passed on to the more than 70 attendees.

Designed to involve university administrators and legislators, the event included such participants as museum and library board members, and faculty, university and company archivists. Speakers included Billy E. Frye, chairman of the the Commission board, and David B. Gracy, II, board member.

The general purpose of the symposium was to inform leaders who are instrumental in providing funds and support to libraries of the urgency of preserving and conserving resources.

Patrick Heath, Mayor of Boerne, Texas, spoke about public funds and access to legislators, and how to work with the system of government in order acquire support from these areas. Heath suggested avoiding library jargon, using library patrons for support, answering questions before they are asked, and “assuming that the legislator is as committed as you are to the power of the word!”

Felipe Ortego, lecturer, scholar, critic, and teacher at Sul Ross State University, spoke on behalf of the Chicano and Hispanic literature, noting that this is a multi-faceted and multi-cultural nation, and that we must preserve inclusively. The symposium was co-sponsored by six organizations, including the Commission.

Preservation Management Seminar Participants

The 21 participants scheduled to take part in the second Preservation Management Seminar for College Librarians at Wellesley College, MA, this July represent colleges and universities from around the nation, as well as two other countries.

One of the major focal points of the seminar will be to prepare college librarians with part-time preservation responsibilities to plan and implement coherent and effective preservation programs appropriate to their needs and resources. The diversity and geographical differences among the participants will help provide a broad-based pool of library staff dedicated to continuing and improving preservation efforts. The workshop is designed and operated by the Southeastern Library Network, Inc. (SOLINET) in Atlanta, Georgia, and co-sponsored by the Commission, which is providing scholarship funds. The following participants have acknowledged attendance as of mid-May:

Michaelle L. Biddle
Head, Access Services & Preservation
Wesleyan University [CT]

Linda Chase
Head, Database Management Department
American University [DC]

Linda A. Cranston
Serials Librarian
Longwood College [VA]

Sheila M. Hague
Book Conservator
University of St. Thomas [MN]

Sandra W. Heinemann
Acting Director [Head Cataloger]
Hampden-Sydney College [VA]

Maureen Henry
Head of Technical Services
University of the West Indies (Trinidad)

Renee Jadushlever
Special Collections Librarian
Mills College [CA]

Albert Joy
Collection Development Librarian
University of Vermont

Clara Keyes
Special Collections Librarian
Morehead State University [KY]

Marilyn Kierstead
Reader Services Librarian
Reed College [OR]

Charles R. Lakin
Reference Librarian
Colby College [ME]

Frank Molinek
Assistant Head of Cataloging & Preservation Coordinator
Davidson College [NC]

Mary Webb Prophet
Documents/Reference Librarian
Denison University [OH]

Susan Rishworth
History Librarian
American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists [DC]

Alma B. Rivera-Aguilera
Director Universidad Centroamericana-El Salvador

Dani Roach
Periodicals Supervisor
Macalester College [MN]

Conny Rojas
Director, Biblioteca Central
Universidad Centroamericana-Nicaragua

Robert Siever
Associate Librarian for Collection Management
Franklin and Marshall College [PA]

Gwendolyn Snodgrass
Technical Services Librarian
University of Louisville, Kornhauser
Health Sciences Library [KY]

Dayna L. Williams-Capone
Assistant Librarian for Public Services/Access Services
Austin College [TX]

Go ahead, experience it yourself! Open the books in your library randomly. Contemplate the disaster. Yellowing, brittle as if they had been passed through the oven, breaking apart, they crumble between your hands like a package of confetti for the 14th of July. One would think that mice had eaten the corners of the pages. Whereas at the library of St. Geneviève, the old books from the earliest days of printing do not show a single wrinkle. Not a tear, not a trace of yellow, nothing. Fresh as if they had just emerged from Gutenberg’s press. Well then, are we all barbarians? Perhaps, but we’re not the sole culprits. The main villain is called ‘acidification,’ a virus which has taken hold of the books since the second half of the nineteenth century.

Translation of quote from “Acide Assassin” in the French publication Telérama, No. 2253, 17 March 1993.

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
Sonny Koerner–Managing Editor


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