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CPA Newsletter #96, Feb 1997

Commission on Preservation and Access Newsletter

The Commission on Preservation and Access


February 1997

Number 96

Board Members Speak Out on Library Preservation


t the close of 1996 and in early 1997, two Board members had opportunities to express their views on preservation issues in widely read magazines. Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, National Librarian of Germany, was interviewed by editors of Der Spiegel in connection with a feature article on three new national libraries in Europe and Sidney Verba, Director of the Harvard University Library, contributed an article on the value of research libraries to The Economist.

Lehmann Interview Highlights Books


he German weekly Der Spiegel (51/1996) published an article in December 1996 with the title “The Last Cathedrals,” introduced as follows: “Paris, London, Frankfurt–in three European cities new national libraries will soon be in operation. Critics see these big buildings as obsolete temples of knowledge and put their faith in electronic networks. But even in the future, the cultural memory will require paper that needs to be collected in easily recognizable buildings.”

Following the article is an interview by the magazine’s editors with Board member Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, National Librarian of Germany, entitled “Books Do Have Advantages.” The interview, held in Lehmann’s office in Die Deutsche Bibliothek, covers a range of issues. Examples of the questions-and-answers follow.


Why does a dying medium require such temples?


This building is not a temple. Did you approach it in a solemn mood? This should be a place of work. And as far as the dying medium is concerned: Of our 300,000 acquisitions per year, about 2-3,000 are in digital form. Everything else continues to arrive in printed form. This ratio will change very slowly, if at all.


Even though, the challenge is here. How do you plan to deal with it?


Those who insist that the dissemination of knowledge should be exclusively digital are not considering the reader. I am in favor of choice. Of course, the new medium will be added, but one has to consider the advantages of the book. Significantly, the Internet is used primarily by researchers with pressures for timely information, who work internationally, live widely dispersed, and know English as a research language.


You are obviously not a “Media-thekar,” but remain a “Biblio-thekar.”


Yes. Networks cannot replace the library. Networks are only for dissemination. There has to be a source somewhere. Of course, we will work differently than in the past. In the future, books and collections can be dispersed all over the world and the librarian selects them with the help of digital search mechanisms. What remains is the basic principle of order. Librarians have to master the chaos.


Electronics is supposedly the storage medium of the future. Some years ago, many were still committed to microfilm as a storage medium.


This is still the case today. Silver film is not a dead-end street, but the most reliable storage medium–better than magnetic tape or CD/ROMs, which last only about 50 years. For example, we are preserving newspapers and periodicals on film or fiche. The image of a page can at any time be scanned and used digitally.


Are some of your colleagues too quick to adopt the newest technologies?


In many ways, there is too great a rush. If you change the medium, you have to be careful not to discard the old collections. Digital networks are not wonder drugs for all our problems.


Is preservation your major concern?


A very important one, as you can tell from our efforts to deacidify paper and now also to strengthen it. These efforts prolong the life of a book by a factor of seven. A book with a life span of 80 years will now last 560 years.


And your library will become an old-age home for rare information?


It’s unavoidable. The digital age is taking us out of the frying pan into the fire. Software is changing every five to eight years. The Internet is even worse. Imagine that someone published an article on the Net. Many have read it and cited the work. Then the author deletes the text and you can no longer find the source. We have to do something about that, perhaps with a form of authentication of the original. We have to preserve the original. After all, we are protecting intellectual property. 

–Translation by Hans Rütimann, International Program Officer

Verba Affirms Value of Research Collections


wo major libraries, the British Library at St. Pancras and the Bibliothèque nationale de France at Tolbiac, are due to open this year at a cost that, between them, amounts to $1.7 billion. But in this digital age, are such huge physical repositories still needed? In an article in The Economist (January 1997, “The World in 1997”) entitled “Evolution of the Bookworm,” Board member Sidney Verba, director of the Harvard University Library, concludes that they are. “For one thing,” Dr. Verba writes, “the great historical collections are not in digital form and, with some selected exceptions, never will be. Libraries must continue to store them, make them available, and, most important, preserve them.”

At the same time, Dr. Verba notes, libraries face the challenges of archiving digital material. They must grapple with copyright issues, for example, and figure out how to deal with hardware and software that are constantly changing. Further, he writes, libraries perform the vital role of helping researchers navigate through both types of information, printed and digital. “By building new libraries,” Dr. Verba concludes, “Britain and France have shown themselves not only to be keen guardians of the past but societies that well understand the needs of the future.”

–As quoted in the daily online alerting service of The Chronicle of Higher Education

CLR Supports Latin American Book Price Index


he Council on Library Resources has awarded a grant to the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) in support of a project to develop and test a methodology for a Latin American book price index. The work will be carried out for ARL under the direction of Dan C. Hazen, Librarian for Latin America, Spain and Portugal in the Widener Library of Harvard College Library.

The project will use prices provided by book dealers from the region rather than acquisitions reports from a restricted number of libraries. The resulting database, covering all countries of Latin America, will provide the basis for long-term longitudinal studies of price variations. For further information contact: Deborah Jakubs, ARL Visiting Program Officer, Duke University Library. E-mail:

–Adapted from ARL Press Release

Preserving the Whole: A Two-track Approach to Rescuing Data and Metadata

The following is excerpted from a mid-year report from Yale University on a pilot project to preserve digital information in the university’s Social Science Data Archive. The project, conducted under a contract from the Commission, employs a two-pronged preservation strategy of migrating digital files and digitizing related paper records for enhanced access. For more background, see Newsletter #91, July-August 1996.

Complete Mid-Year Report available on Web 

by Ann Gerken Green, Acting Director, Social Science Statistical Laboratory, and JoAnn Dionne, Data Archive Librarian

At the half-way point of the project, we have made considerable progress in evaluating the alternative formats for migrating the original data files from tape and have focused upon the benefits and drawbacks of each alternative.

Over the years, Yale has copied its data from one form of digital storage to another as mainframe computer technology has dictated. Now, as users move from the mainframe to distributed computing systems and from one hardware and software configuration to another, digital formats require not just simple duplication, but restructuring. The migration of data from tapes is becoming more urgent as access to and support in using the Yale mainframe is being discontinued.

The project leaders selected datasets for the project, conducted a literature search, and engaged in the first stage of data migration activities. Some initial findings are available mid-project:

  • Conversion of column-binary format into SAS and SPSS transport and export files required recoding of the original data file, a process that is lengthy and potentially error prone. The archival limitations also are significant. Once the recoding is done, future researchers will be unable to re-create the original data set.
  • If an archival standard is defined as a non-column-binary format that reproduces the complete structure of the original files, only the spread ASCII format meets these conditions. This spread format, however, is at least 600% larger than the original file and requires recoding.
  • The column-binary format itself begins to look more attractive as a long term archival standard than we had anticipated. It conserves space, it preserves the original coding of data and matches the column location information in the codebooks, it can be transferred in standard binary, and it can be read by standard statistical packages on all of the platforms we have used in testing. Unfortunately, it is difficult to locate and decipher information about how to read in the column binary data with SAS and SPSS, as the latest manuals no longer contain information about this format.

Documentation conversion activities included investigating format options and starting the scanning operations.

The second part of the project will continue the two-pronged approach and will evaluate alternative methods and costs. The Data Conversion section will include investigating more fully the structure, size, and production of the spread ASCII format, including a sample data dictionary. We also will address the issues of proprietary formats in an archival context.

The Documentation Preservation activities will:

  • Investigate alternative image formats, especially the production of PDF format files in Adobe Capture.
  • Address archival standards implications of PDF format and precedence at other locations (ICPSR and the US Bureau of the Census).
  • Illustrate examples of searching and displaying the PDF files and ASCII text in Adobe Acrobat via the Internet.
  • Produce a sample marked-up HTML document for the project’s Internet site.
  • Address the application of the Data Documentation Initiative SGML Document Type Definition to the Roper Report documentation.

The final report will include: an evaluation of findings, a glossary and bibliography, technical descriptions of software and equipment, and a WWW site with sample programs, datafiles and documentation.

The report will be summarized and presented at the IASSIST/IFDO Conference, Odense, Denmark, May 6-9. 1997. IASSIST is the International Association for Social Science Information Service and Technology and IFDO is the International Association for Social Science Information Service and Technology and IFDO is the International Federation of Data Organizations. The URL for the conference is

Web Statistics Report

The Web sites of the Commission and Council are maintained by Stanford University Libraries. Reports indicate that use of the Web sites increased considerably during 1996. Among the most-used features is this newsletter on the CPA site. A search capability enables users to search Commission newsletters and publications by topic.

February 1996 December 1996
Total completed requests: 5,589 21,323
Average completed requests per day: 197 696
Number of distinct files requested: 305 1,089
Number of distinct hosts served: 596 3,018

NDLF LogoNDLF and DLI Get Acquainted


very six months, representatives of the six institutions participating in the Digital Libraries Initiative (DLI) funded by the Federal Government convene to discuss progress in their local university-based projects and to share research findings. The latest meeting, convened at Stanford University December 15-17, included a large number of invited representatives from National Digital Library Federation (NDLF) member libraries.

After an introduction by Deanna Marcum explaining the purposes and activities of NDLF, Bill Arms of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI) spoke about the volume and kinds of digital library activity across the nation and paid reference not only to the applied academic research work within the DLI, but also to programs and projects of the research library community such as NDLF’s Making of America II and transformations occurring in graduate education for librarians and information specialists.

NDLF representatives addressed major areas of collaborative inquiry and practice within member libraries. Michael Keller, University Librarian at Stanford, discussed economic issues of research libraries in a mixed print and electronic environment and the intellectual perishability of digital information and its costs. Don Waters, Associate University Librarian at Yale, spoke about some of the dilemmas in preserving, migrating, and converting digital information especially as they relate to rights. Carol Mandel, Deputy University Librarian at Columbia, described the variety of inquiries and benchwork being performed in NDLF institutions regarding discovery, retrieval, and metadata.

The conference’s significance for NDLF and DLI was not only more direct knowledge of each other’s work, but the emerging widely held view that the applied research orientation of the DLI institutions and the programmatic work of the NDLF libraries have moved considerably more toward each other, with the probability of mutually beneficial crossover from each domain. 

–Reported by Tony Angiletta,
Acting ProgramDirector, NDLF

Electronic Content Licensing Project Announces Internet Discussion List

January 10, 1997. The Yale University Library, Commission on Preservation and Access, and Council on Library Resources are pleased to announce the creation of LIBLICENSE-L, an Internet discussion list on the topic of Electronic Content Licensing for Academic and Research Libraries. (See Newsletter #91, July-August 1996.) This list will be of value to librarians, information providers, publishers, attorneys in the field, and other interested parties. To join the list:

  • Send a message to:
  • Leave the subject line blank.
  • In the body of the message, type: subscribe LIBLICENSE-LFirstname Lastname.

LIBLICENSE-L is an outgrowth of the Electronic Content Licensing Project, whose URL is:

Increasingly, libraries are being inundated with information created in digital format and transmitted and accessed via computers. This list is designed to assist librarians and others concerned with the licensing of information in digital format in dealing with some of the unique challenges faced by this new medium. Information providers (creators, publishers and vendors) who deal with libraries are welcomed as members of LIBLICENSE-L. Potential areas of discussion include:

  • Drafting library and educational license agreements for digital information content,
  • Insuring that license agreements do not inordinately restrict the use of digital information,
  • Reconciling license agreements with the fair use provisions of the U.S. Copyright Act,
  • International agreements relating to the copyright of databases and other digital information in their relationship to content licenses. 
–Adapted from an online announcement from Yale UniversityLibrary
Update on NEH
The Division of Preservation and Access has received $18 million of the $110 million provided to the National Endowment for the Humanities in fiscal year 1997. At the July 1996 deadline, the division received a good number of applications representative of the range of preservation and access activities that the Endowment supports. The review process is on track and applications are scheduled to go to the National Council on the Humanities at its March meeting. Applicants will be notified of the Chairman’s decisions in early April. The division’s next deadline is July 1, 1997. 

Publications Order Text

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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