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CPA Newsletter #59, Aug 1993

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


August 1993

Number 59

Bellagio Conference Recommends Establishment of European Commission

At the recent Commission conference on Preserving the Literary Heritage, held at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Study and Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy, scholars from Western Europe and the United States explored the development of new scholarly linkages in fields that depend heavily on deteriorating literature printed on acid paper.

The June 7-11 conference addressed three main objectives: 1) to increase awareness and concern about the problem among American and European scholars; 2) to encourage a European-centered effort that can effectively collaborate with scholars and libraries in the United States; and 3) to enlarge and solidify scholarly connections between Europe and the United States.

Recommendations unanimously adopted by the 23 conferees included decisive steps toward establishing a European commission on preservation and access. Three individuals were elected by the European participants to comprise an ad hoc steering committee that will supervise the process of constituting the new commission. These individuals include Professor Pieter J.D. Drenth (The Netherlands), Professor Michel Jouve (France), and Professor Geoffrey Martin (United Kingdom), with Alison de Puymège (Switzerland) serving as facilitator. They are charged with selecting three additional members.

It is anticipated that the European commission will seek endorsement and initial financial support as an independent body from a wide range of existing European cultural institutions. The conferees also recommended that the American commission be represented on the new board. European participants at Bellagio will submit to the steering committee nominations for the new commission board, not to exceed more than fifteen members. Once a board has been selected, it will meet to decide both how best to proceed with the formal and legal establishment of the European commission and how to conduct its own business in the future.

Attendees agreed that recommendations and momentum that resulted from the conference would help involve a wide range of colleagues, and help secure collaboration between the two continents in the work of preservation.

AAU President Joins Commission Board

Dr. Cornelius John Pings has accepted an invitation to join the Commission board and will be officially welcomed at the annual meeting October 29, 1993.

Pings became President of the Association of American Universities (AAU) on February 15, 1993, after serving as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Southern California (USC) since 1981.

He has provided leadership in such roles as Chairman of the Public Policy Committee (COSEPUP), a joint committee of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering and the Institute of Medicine from 1988 to 1992. He has also served as a member and the Director of the National Commission on Research, and as President of the Association of Graduate Schools.

While at USC, he was responsible for the academic and research programs in all of the schools and colleges, the hospitals, the libraries, student affairs, admissions and financial aid, as well as community and governmental relations, and was awarded the university’s highest honor, the Presidential Medallion, on March 9, 1993. Dr. Pings holds a B.S. degree in Applied Chemistry, and a Ph.D. degree in Chemical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology.


See page 3 for information concerning the new 32-page Commission publication, The Evolving National Information Network: Background and Challenges. This report of the Technical Assessment Advisory Committee (TAAC) discusses the new telecommunications environment and its implications for preservation and access.

From the Commission Board …
Research Collections in the 21st Century

In this column, Millicent D. Abell, University Librarian, Yale University, considers the use of research collections in an environment of changing technologies. Abell’s comments are drawn from her presentation at the 11th International Seminar, Kanazawa Institute of Technology, Kanazawa, Japan, in June 1992.

Given that no one library can possibly acquire, catalog, and preserve all the publications of potential interest to its constituency, it is imperative that librarians pursue their mission in a broadly collaborative way. The creation of collections, and the physical and intellectual systems of access that make them useful, require that we collaborate with at least three groups of participants in the scholarly information scene. The first group is scholars. We need to work closely with them not only to know and anticipate their research and teaching interests, but also to learn how they work to create and disseminate knowledge. The second group is publishers. We are so intimately linked with them in systems of collection and access that we together must find ways of reforming the systems of distribution of publications. The third group is ourselves. Librarians have a long and proud record of working together to improve the lot of scholars at large. Now, more than ever before, we must find ways to combine and leverage our local resources, talents, and funding to serve effectively our immediate communities and the international community of scholars and citizens who depend on our vision and energy to secure research collections for current and future generations.

An issue on which librarians must take the lead is to assure that archival collections of publications exist somewhere in safe and accessible formats with finding aids readily available to potential users. A related notion is the conception of a collection as constantly in flux. Whereas we have long thought of the clay tablet or the book as a semipermanent object and more recently the microform as the semipermanent substitute for the book, we must now consider whether “permanent” electronic storage, subject to constant recopying as access tools change, is the most cost-effective means of archiving collections. This conception has profound implications for the mix of resource investments in space, staff, and technology in libraries. The temptation to sketch a scenario for research library collections in the early 21st century is irresistible. Research libraries, which gather materials worldwide, will continue to acquire great quantities of printed material. Some will be copied electronically, depending on a judgement of the most cost-effective means of making it available to scholars, the provisions of cooperative agreements for sharing the material with other libraries and scholars, and the library’s obligations for its preservation. Research libraries will house sizeable collections of retrospective material in digitized formats which will be available online or copied in a format of choice for another institution or individual scholar.

Libraries will be responsible for assuring effective intellectual and physical access systems. Research libraries will individually or consortially bear responsibility for the physical maintenance and continuing access to older electronic journal files which the publishers no longer wish to maintain. Eventually in some narrowly defined fields, enough technical development and textual conversion of 20th century material will occur to make a “collection” available through electronic systems and deliverable to the scholar’s workstation.

Much hard work lies ahead of us. We need to learn more about how the scholar learns. We need to conceive and test various economic and technical models for the functioning of the scholarly communication system. We need to persuade ourselves and each other to risk investment in collaborative ventures to advance scholarly communication. We need to protect our cultural records.

The forces affecting scholars’ abilities to consume and produce knowledge cannot be met by libraries acting independently. We have no choice but to extend our dependence on informal decentralized systems of responsibility for the stewardship of our intellectual patrimony. We must nurture the efforts of all nations to protect their own legacy, and we must share among the great and small libraries of the world the responsibility for gathering and protecting the literature, records of science, documentation of local history, popular culture, and international diplomacy which comprise the body of our accumulated experience.

New technological tools and opportunities for collaboration provide us with desperately needed means for connecting our past with our future. With sufficient vision, will, and effort we will effect that connection.

Millicent D. Abell

Task Force to Pursue Microfilm Audit

Nearly 30 persons, including managers of university and consortial microfilming projects, microfilming vendors, developers of guidelines, and staff of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), recently took part in a discussion of the procedures and results of a pilot survey of the technical quality of master negatives. The Commission brought together individuals responsible for large preservation microfilming projects at an invitational meeting June 25, prior to the annual conference of the American Library Association in New Orleans.

The pilot survey under discussion was conducted to help develop benchmarks and inspection procedures for the periodic audit of the quality of first- and third-generation microfilm produced under the brittle books program of the NEH Division of Preservation and Access. (See the March 1993 Newsletter for more information.) The brittle books program anticipates that some three million volumes will be reformatted over a twenty-year period. In the first five years, the program has supported the filming of over 550,000 volumes by 62 institutions.

The survey was conducted by MSTC, Fairfax, VA., an independent firm that provides assessments of microfilm quality to government and corporate customers. Whitney Minkler, vice-president of MSTC, reported at the June meeting that inspected masters did not show signs of deterioration, and all the inspected film was readable and had not lost data.

He also noted that one-third of the film did not resolve to established ANSI resolution standards, and background density seemed to vary from reel to reel. This variation might be due to the condition of the materials being filmed, but that it also might be the result of incorrect camera or processing settings. Participants explored with Minkler how preservation microfilming needs and guidelines relate to commercial service bureau filming for governmental and legal purposes.

The study concluded that even though inspected masters and duplicates have captured the data and show no immediate deterioration, libraries do not always receive all the preservation microfilming service that they have paid for, and that they should require vendors to meet standards cited in contracts. Additional training for university project managers was recommended.

The pilot project produced a set of archival microfilm inspection forms that could be used as the benchmark for future biennial inspections of masters. MSTC also suggested changes in procedures that might lower costs and increase quality in future years.

The preservation departments of the libraries at Ohio State, Yale, and Harvard Universities contributed to the study by providing approximately 1% of the master and printing negatives they have filmed under the NEH brittle books program. Following up on the interest at the meeting, the Commission will convene a task force to pursue the next steps in this effort.

Commission Releases Report on Telecommunications and Preservation

The Evolving National Information Network: Background and Challenges, a report of the Technology Assessment Advisory Committee (TAAC) to the Commission, completes a cycle of reports on technological developments, trends and issues pertaining to the preservation copies of print, film, analog non-print and digital materials.

This 32-page study by Douglas E. Van Houweling, Vice Provost for Information Technology, and Michael J. McGill, Director, Network Systems, both at the University of Michigan, focuses on one aspect of an essential objective of the Commission, namely, ready and universal access to the materials that are being preserved for posterity and for which the originals are rapidly becoming inaccessible. Prior reports focused on the changing technologies, options and interrelationships of preservation, namely micrographics and digital imaging and storage.

The new report discusses the rapidly developing regional, national and global digital highways that reflect the changing combination of communications and processing technologies. New telecommunications technologies are providing remote access to digitally stored materials and promise to provide relatively universal, convenient, cost-effective and prompt access on a scale previously unrealizable. These changes also will have a profound impact on the electronic surrogates of print and film materials, including preservation copy. Indeed, if appropriate mechanisms and collaborative efforts are established, preservation surrogates of materials will be more readily and universally accessible than either print originals or microform copies.

To provide a foundation of understanding, the report first offers a primer on the technology underlying the current network environment. It then describes the status of the higher education and research networking environment. It then describes the status of the higher education and research network environment, provides a summary of some of the lessons that we have learned from experience with these networks, and suggests impacts of this technology on the issues of knowledge preservation and access. The study provides scenarios of possible futures employing the interlocking technologies of communications, processing power and storage, and addresses the prospects and challenges of further development of the network and its use. It concludes with an outline of the policy issues we face. From the onset, the authors were aware that the report provides only a snapshot of this rapidly changing environment, and that the background and attempted prognostications will soon be obsolete and supplanted by future reality.

The report is available while supplies last for $15.00. Complimentary copies have been mailed to those on the Commission’s mailing list. To order additional copies contact Sonny Koerner at the Commission.

New Report on States’ Care of Historical Records

The first major survey in 30 years of how well states are saving their historical records cites evidence of considerable growth and progress despite budget cutting pressures in the 1990’s. In 1993 every state government has a functioning archival program and every state but one has a functioning state historical records advisory board.

The report, recently released by the Council of State Historical Records Coordinators, is entitled: Recognizing Leadership and Partnership, A Report on the Condition of Historical Records in the States and Efforts to Ensure Their Preservation and Use. Written by Victoria Irons Walch, the report describes itself as the first attempt “to try to obtain a nationwide overview of state archival and records management programs” since Ernst Posner’s survey in 1963 for his ground-breaking study, American State Archives.

Progress is reported in dealing with records created by new technologies. Twelve states have records schedules covering electronic records, five state archives have established separate staff positions for electronic records programs, and 29 states have developed guidelines for use of optical imaging technologies.

The report shows that nearly every state archival program has recently suffered budget reductions, while demands have increased. In the past six years, the volume of paper records in state archives rose fifty-seven percent; the volume of microfilm holdings more than tripled; and computer tapes in archival custody rose tenfold.

Copies are available from: Gordon O. Hendrickson, Chair, Council of State Historical Records Coordinators, State Historical Society of Iowa, 600 East Locust, Des Moines, Iowa, 50309.

Adopted from Press Release from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission

Order Form Available

An updated version of the Commission’s publication order form is now available. It includes the new publication The Evolving National Information Network: Background and Challenges, as well as previously published newsletter inserts. For a copy of the order form, write to the attention of Sonny Koerner at the Commission, or call (202) 939-3400.

If writing is inscribed on parchment it will last for a thousand years. But if on paper, how long will it last? Two hundred years would be a lot.

Trithemius, Abbot of Sponheim, 14th century

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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