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CPA Newsletter #92, Sep 1996

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


September 1996

Number 92

NDLF Constituted as Charter Organization, Adopts Three-Point Agenda


he National Digital Library Federation (NDLF) has been constituted as a charter organization and has identified three areas for its immediate attention to help a wide spectrum of libraries provide readers with access to new bodies of digital resources. The areas, recommended by the NDLF Planning Task Force, are: (1) the discovery and retrieval of digital information, (2) intellectual property rights management and economic models for the provision of digital information, and (3) the archiving of digital information.

The decision to adopt the agenda and proceed as a charter group was made by the NDLF Policy Board, composed of the directors of the participants, at a meeting June 19, 1996, in Atlanta. The participants include 12 university libraries, The Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, The New York Public Library, and the Commission.

The NDLF Planning Task Force put forward the agenda based on a year of studying the prerequisites for building a coherent network of scholarly information resources and services from the broadest possible set of individually designed and developed projects. The work of the task force has been supported in large part by a planning grant from the IBM Corporation.

Areas of Inquiry

  1. In the area of discovery and retrieval, the task force concluded that the heterogeneity of the information available in digital form–different data structures, search engines, vocabularies for access–significantly challenges users in their ability to identify and retrieve needed resources. It has charted a multi-step course of action to lower the barriers to access for digital materials and to provide cross-collection search capability.
  2. In the area of intellectual property rights and economic models, the task force found that most of the technical requirements for the management of intellectual property rights are now, or will shortly become, available. Therefore, it recommended that the federation concentrate on putting in place a clear and articulate policy to regulate rights relationships among federation institutions. Such a policy would have the effect of organizing common access to digital objects and would create incentives for institutions to make digital objects they hold readily accessible through the federation infrastructure.
  3. Finally, the task force stated that the greatest test of adherence to the goal of creating a national digital library very likely is a commitment to preserve culturally significant digital information as a part of the national heritage. In the area of archiving of digital information, it suggested that the federation should foster and facilitate a commitment to digital archiving among participants.

The NDLF evolved into a federated organization after several years of exploration, research, and development. Such a consortium was first discussed in 1990 among a group of university libraries known as the LaGuardia Eight. Most of the current federation participants conducted projects under contract to the Commission, with the work progressing cumulatively.

The federation anticipates that its agenda will provide a framework for broad participation in actual digital library projects. The agenda includes such necessary common elements as:

  • the need for focused initial investment in technology research and development,
  • dialogue among libraries, archives, museums, government agencies, and major technology vendors to determine standards and best practices,
  • demonstration and prototype projects to define and solve problems before large-scale implementation, and
  • learning how to enable different kinds of institutions with different kinds of collections to create digital library information resources that are genuinely useful for education and research because they are consistent, coherent, and of high quality.

To advance the federation agenda, participants are providing institutional staff time and travel and annual financial contributions to support a program officer and research associate to work exclusively on NDLF matters. The staff will be based at the Commission. The plan provides for some research and demonstration activities, as well as a comprehensive communications program that promotes collaboration among participants and informs the broader library, archival, and higher education communities.

The National Digital Library Federation is a joint venture of libraries and archives advancing coherent and enduring access to physically distributed, not-for-profit sources of digital information supporting teaching, learning, and research. The federation explores how best to integrate the capabilities of digital technologies with the strengths of research libraries and institutions of higher education in order to provide convenient and affordable access to our intellectual and cultural heritage.

Participants are: The Library of Congress, The National Archives and Records Administration, The New York Public Library, the Commission on Preservation and Access, and the following university libraries: California-Berkeley, Columbia, Cornell, Emory, Harvard, Michigan, Pennsylvania State, Princeton, Southern California, Stanford, Tennessee-Knoxville, and Yale. For more information, contact Deanna B. Marcum, President of the Commission, 1400 16th Street, NW, Suite 715, Washington, DC 20036

Preservation Science Council Frames New Research Agenda


he economics of information preservation and the management of storage environments received top attention in a new research agenda outlined by the Commission’s Preservation Science Council (PSC). In a meeting July 31 ­ August 2 at Belmont Conference Center, MD, the Council reached unanimous agreement on six projects to advance the understanding and practice of preservation in libraries, archives, and other institutions responsible for collections of scholarly and cultural value. Preservation administrators from 15 major university libraries, research centers, and archives, together with five scientists, selected the new agenda from a number of suggested projects that would either further advance previous PSC work or introduce new, needed research.

In developing a research agenda
for preservation of existing collections–paper, film, magnetic, and other formats–the PSC links scientific research with preservation administration concerns in order to produce final products that are grounded in scientific validity, meaningful in preservation practice, and useful as management tools.

This year’s work was considered in a new light: the redefinition of the PSC’s role within a broad context of larger digital and economic issues. Each recommended project addresses a different aspect of preservation and access concerns. However, each project also was chosen for its ability to contribute to a growing body of knowledge that enables preservation administrators to serve as managers of information resources. The PSC’s objective was to frame a research agenda that will help institutions to cost-effectively preserve information in all formats.

Other filters in deciding projects for the agenda were:

  • Focus on materials that are culturally important.
  • The problem addressed reflects a serious preservation need.
  • The project is realistic: there are resources for accomplishing it.
  • Results will be meaningful to preservation practice.
  • The ultimate product will be a management tool, communicated in a form the profession can use.

The identified projects address:

  • the methods for providing an optimum storage environment at the lowest possible cost using existing HVAC equipment;
  • the longevity of adhesives now used or under development in library binding;
  • the creation of a management tool to allow preservation managers to understand how rapidly or slowly books, tapes, and films equilibrate to changes in temperature and RH, including the ability to estimate how common enclosures (book stacks, encapsulations, boxes, and compact shelving systems) slow down the rate of equilibration;
  • the applicability of a life cycle cost analysis tool developed for digital tape storage systems for use in managing the costs of continuing access to existing collections of paper, film, and magnetic media;
  • the magnitude of the effects of repeated recycling of paper on the strength and color of papers that will find their way into collections in the future; and
  • the creation of software and computer infrastructure for EMIS (Environmental Management Information System)–a lower-cost, more comprehensive system for delivering environmental data and interpretive assessments to preservation managers than currently exists.

Work groups composed of at least one scientist and several preservation administrations will develop full project descriptions over the next several weeks. The projects and other results will be announced later this year. PSC work is supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Preservation Science Research initiative began in 1989, and a first research agenda was announced in 1993.

PSC members are from the following institutions: University of California, Berkeley; University of Chicago; Columbia University; Conservation Analytical Laboratory, Smithsonian Institution; Getty Conservation Institute; Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center; Harvard University; Image Permanence Institute; Library of Congress; University of Michigan; National Library of Medicine; National Media Laboratory; New York State Archives & Records Administration; Northwestern University; Ohio State University; Stanford University; University of Texas at Austin; University of Toronto; and Yale University

CLR Awards Grants to Study The Economics of Information


rojects to study the economics of information services will be launched under three grants awarded by the Council on Library Resources (CLR). The grants, which are the first of their kind awarded by the Council, are made to study various aspects of the economics of information, a newly emerging research field that analyzes costs of library services and information delivery systems.

The awards were made to:

  • University of California-Berkeley Library–for a planning project to study performance measures for research library collection and information services. The planning effort will develop a set of qualitative and quantitative measures for evaluating the performance and costs of research library collections and related information services. Due to the shortage of existing models, the measures themselves should make a significant contribution to the field.
  • Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Washington, DC–for a project to study the character and nature of research library investment in electronic resources. The study will examine data on research libraries’ expenditures by refining the database ARL has developed over several years of gathering statistics from its members and using it for analysis and comparison.
  • Johns Hopkins University, Milton S. Eisenhower Library, Baltimore, MD–for a project to provide comprehensive access to print materials. The grant will support a continuing project at the university to develop a system that uses a combination of new technologies–including robotics, digital cameras, scanners, and high-speed telecommunications–to give scholars and students access to print materials stored offsite.

In today’s atmosphere of budget-cutting in public and private agencies at all levels, the demand for both traditional and new electronic services calls for attention to the economic issues. More relevant studies on the economics of traditional libraries are needed, as well as research on electronic library systems and the costs of transition to them. Librarians are hampered in their efforts to compare the costs of delivering electronic information with those of more traditional methods because of the shortage of economic data on current operations, the lack of models for cost accounting and economics, and the difficulty of developing such models.

To respond to those needs, CLR this year launched its Economics of Information Small Grants program, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. An Economics Advisory Committee comprised of academic librarians, economists, and information specialists assists the program. The committee has established a priority list of subjects, which guides the evaluation of grant proposals. (See the March 1996, no. 87, newsletter for program background and a summary of priorities.)

Next Deadline Approaches

The next deadline for submitting proposals to CLR is  September 15, 1996. For grant guidelines and more information, contact Glenn W. LaFantasie, Senior Program Officer, CLR, 1400 16th St., N.W., Suite 715, Washington DC 20036-2217, 202-939-3370, fax

202-939-3499, e-mail

 What's new on the web


The Library of Congress National Digital Library

Program (NDLP) has made available technical discussions,

documentation, reports and proceedings through the American Memory

home page:

The URL for the technical information is:

Documents include “Recommendations for the Evaluation of Digital

Images Produced from Photographic, Microphotographic, and Various

Paper Formats,” prepared by the Image Permanence Institute, and a

report about the NDLP.



The Council on Library Resources has agreed to

provide support for the creation and maintenance of a Web site on

Fair Use and Copyright. The address of the new site is:

Boston College New Sponsor

Boston College (Boston, MA) has made a three-year commitment as a sponsor of the Commission. Boston College’s support–like that of the 64 other sponsors–provides an important contribution to the collaborative preservation and access mission. Sponsors receive complimentary copies of all publications. Other benefits of sponsorship are detailed in a brochure available from the Commission. 

Land-Grant Universities Join to Preserve Agricultural Literature

N inelibraries of land-grant institutions across the United States have joined with the U.S. Agricultural Information Network (USAIN) in a cooperative effort to identify and preserve historical literature about agricultural development and rural life from 1820 to 1945. The project is part of the National Preservation Program for Agricultural Literature commissioned by USAIN and published in 1993.

Initial work will be funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The project includes the following institutions: Auburn University, University of California-Berkeley, University of Connecticut, Cornell University, University of Florida, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Pennsylvania State University, Texas A&M University, and University of Wisconsin-Madison. Selection will focus on rural life as documented in agricultural and farm journals, histories, grant and agricultural society documents, natural histories, and records of rural growth and community development.

Cornell University’s Mann Library will coordinate and manage the effort. For more information, contact Project Director Sam Demas or Project Manager Wallace C. Olsen, 607-255-8939. 

The Commission supports access to a back list of over 60 publications through on-demand scanning and printing services. A catalog of new and back-listed Commission publications is available upon request. Complete texts of older reports also are available on the Commission’s World Wide Web site.

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.

Deanna B. Marcum–President
Maxine K. Sitts–Program Officer, Editor


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