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CPA Annual Report: 1997 – 1998

CPA Annual Report: 1997 – 1998

Preservation and Access
The goal of library and archival preservation activities is to ensure long-term access to information that is of enduring value. The responsibility for preservation goes far beyond the staff of a preservation and conservation department, and far beyond the walls of the traditional library. Collaborative relationships between preservation experts, computer programmers and scientists, institutional managers, and private and public funders are critical for the persistence of information and the transmission of knowledge over time. This year, CLIR’s Preservation and Access program has focused on bringing together the communities of experts, scholars, managers, and funders who make decisions that affect collection development and custody. One element central to effective collaboration is communication. We have concentrated many of our activities on ameliorating a core problem: these communities, with their specialized expertise and vocabularies, do not always understand each other’s problems and approaches to solving those problems.
“This year, CLIR’s Preservation and Access program has focused on bringing together the communities of experts, scholars, managers, and funders who make decisions that affect collection development and custody.” CLIR has put much of its efforts into articulating to a broad audience what the challenges of preservation in the digital world are and who needs to address them. It has made serious efforts to communicate these problems and possible solutions to everyone with whom libraries should be working. In partnership with the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), and with generous funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Xerox Foundation, CLIR produced a one-hour documentary film, Into the Future, which was released in January for broadcast on public television stations. The film is available in hour and half-hour versions, in formats suitable for domestic and foreign audiences. To accompany the film, CLIR developed promotional and educational materials and dedicated part of its Web site to additional information about digital preservation. CLIR staff members met with leaders in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government, and with members of the computer science community, to address their concerns about policy and research and development implications of the film’s message. Through a public relations campaign, CLIR got this message communicated nationally in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Business Week, U.S. News & World Report, and several wire services. Deanna Marcum wrote op-ed pieces that appeared in both The New York Times and The Washington Post.

The exponential explosion of information in digital form has been a central issue to libraries for several years and will be so for a long time. CLIR will continue to advance collaborative programs that help libraries manage the broad implications of digital technology. The Preservation and Access program is especially focused on issues surrounding the scanning and conversion of analog materials to digital. Often, this process is lumped together with other reformatting techniques, such as microfilming, into the catchall category of “preservation.” Scanning is not now a preservation technology, but it is effective as a tool of access. CLIR issued two reports this year, one by Stephen Ostrow, former chief of the Library of Congress’s prints and photographs division, on digitizing historical collections, and another by Dan Hazen, Jeffrey Horrell, and Jan Merrill-Oldham of Harvard University on a methodology of selecting research materials for digital conversion. Both addressed the general issue of selection for digitization and the nature of the digital surrogate and its use in research and teaching institutions. CLIR sponsored the Web publication RLG DigiNews, edited by a team of experts at Cornell University, which brings together current information in the fast-changing world of digital library technologies. CLIR’s support allows the publication to appear bimonthly instead of quarterly.

A critical issue in digital persistence is ensuring the integrity of information over time and through the cycles of software development and obsolescence. CLIR commissioned Jeff Rothenberg, computer scientist at the RAND Corporation, to survey existing models of digital archiving. He found that the only model in use today is that of migration. CLIR has developed a project with Cornell University on the risk factors of migration associated with various types of file formats. It also commissioned Rothenberg to investigate the feasibility and costs of another model of archiving—emulation—in which programs are developed to mimic obsolete hardware and software configurations so that information stored in old formats can still be read.

An unintended consequence of the growth of digital technology applications in libraries has been the tendency to overlook problems in the care of our print and media collections. Consulting with the Preservation Managers Council, CLIR engaged in outreach efforts to keep the needs of hybrid collections at the center of libraries’ agendas. Through speeches, representation at professional meetings, and publications including CLIR Issues, CLIR continues to advocate for cost-effective preservation of print and nonprint sources in their original formats. Informed by the work of the CLIR/ACLS task forces and by the advice of the Preservation Managers Council, CLIR found that the ultimate challenge for any library is to continue to develop and sustain the historical collections in a broad mix of media that form the backbone of great research libraries. The Preservation Managers Council, first convened as a standing committee of the Commission on Preservation and Access in 1992, recommended that CLIR disband the group and develop ad hoc advisory teams that will incorporate a greater range of library functions and expertise.

CLIR testified before a congressional appropriations committee in support of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Brittle Books program. It provided financial, organizational, and publishing support to a group funded by NEH to support preservation nationwide. The Regional Alliance for Preservation (RAP), made up of five regional preservation groups (the Northeast Documentation Conservation Center, the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, the Southeastern Library Network, AMIGOS Bibliographic Council, and the Upper Midwest Conservation Association) continued work on its project to develop new models of communication and cooperation to serve its users more effectively. In the course of the one-year Shared Preservation Training Resources Demonstration Project, they published three newsletters and developed a Web site. Both activities have been moved to sites within RAP and show how beneficial such sustained collaboration can be in meeting the needs of the centers.

Looking ahead, digital technology will continue to change the way we think about preservation and access because of the ease of creating faithful copies from digital surrogates. We are beginning to understand that digital reformatting costs a great deal, although we cannot pinpoint the exact costs. Conversion projects, no matter how carefully circumscribed and focused, place great burdens on an institution to maintain electronic files through costly migration strategies. The challenge will be the closer integration of preservation planning with decisions about what to acquire and what format to use, and how to maximize access without compromising preservation.

International Projects

International program officers work abroad to raise awareness about preservation and to help identify methods and strategies for dealing with problems of access in libraries and archives. Often, CLIR provides modest financial resources to allow institutions to take the next steps in a preservation strategy. Although conditions differ among countries, needs are always great. It is not easy for custodians of historical materials to know where to begin, especially when information and funds are scarce. CLIR encourages and supports activities where the need, receptivity, and opportunity to work with regional institutions exists.

Although the projects have focused on institution building abroad, staff members also are engaged with several CLIR initiatives to strengthen international connections between scholars and the resources they use. For example, international program officers represented the Digital Library Federation at a European meeting on the Preservation of Digital Information. They also continue to promote development of new nodes for an international register of microform masters. The register helps scholars locate available surrogates and allows institutions to spend their resources most efficiently by knowing what others have already preserved.

CLIR maintains a broad network of institutions and individuals throughout the world, even in countries where the program does not support specific projects. Members of this network depend on CLIR for advice, contacts, information, location of resources, and more. An active exchange of information also gives CLIR an overview of a growing preservation movement worldwide, allowing staff to link activities in one country to related activities in another. In March, CLIR launched a new quarterly publication, Preservation and Access International Newsletter, which reports on preservation initiatives worldwide.

South Africa

A highlight of the year was the initiation of a new program in South Africa. In September, program officers Hans Rütimann and Kathlin Smith visited South African institutions to learn about preservation efforts there. Training in conservation and preservation management is an urgent need: There is little capacity for conservation training and professionals must seek training abroad at great expense. Professionals need not only to improve conservation skills, but also learn how to manage the preservation of large collections of endangered materials. CLIR will sponsor short courses aimed at the basic and immediate needs of participants.

In March, 20 South African library and archives staff members attended a week-long preservation workshop in Durban supported by CLIR funds. The program examined why and how paper-based records deteriorate, and it presented options for reformatting print, audio, visual, and digital materials. The workshop served as a model for a second one, in April, directed at all of Anglophone Africa, for which CLIR provided training materials.

CLIR will continue to support training activities in the coming year and will support a meeting of librarians and archivists from the Cape Town area to discuss regional preservation needs.

Latin America

Latin America remains central to CLIR’s international preservation and access agenda. Two projects with the National Library of Venezuela were completed. The first was the library’s contribution of more than 22,000 records of Latin American holdings in microform to the European Register of Microform Masters (EROMM). The records represent microfilm holdings from several libraries in Venezuela, and from the National Libraries of Chile, Peru, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Brazil, and the Biblioteca Hispánica in Spain and the Universidad Interamericana Simón Bolivar in Panama. This contribution will help EROMM build a resource for scholars and preservation managers to find out if specific titles have been reformatted and how to obtain copies. The records eventually will be made available through the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN) as part of the RLG-EROMM record-sharing agreement.

The second project translated selected preservation literature into Spanish. The Spanish translation project was similar to an effort in Brazil in 1995-97, which led to the publication of 52 titles in Portuguese. This year, CLIR helped coordinators of the Brazil project to plan for a continuation and expansion of its translation, workshop, and data collection project.

In a separate effort, CLIR concluded agreements with six countries for the distribution of the Portuguese translations in Lusophone Africa and Macao. The titles cover topics ranging from disaster preparedness to the long-term archiving of digital information. As in Brazil, the literature and other materials may form the basis for preservation workshops.


In December, Fudan University in Shanghai completed microfilming more than 4,000 titles of monographs published between 1932 and 1945 that were at risk because they had been published on especially poor paper. The CLIR-sponsored project, which was supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and The Henry Luce Foundation, brings a significant new body of work in literature, history, philosophy, law, economics, popular culture and society within easy reach of U.S. scholars. The microfilms will be available for loan or purchase from the Center for Research Libraries by the end of this year.

Judith Henchy issued a report entitled Preservation and Archives in Vietnam that provides an overview of the largely unexplored corpus of Vietnamese textual resources in research institutions and an examination of the state of their bibliographic control and preservation.


In June, the National Library of Poland finished creating the infrastructure for the collection of bibliographic information about microform masters held by the National Library and other libraries in Poland. Under contract with CLIR, the library created several thousand bibliographic records and shared them with EROMM. That information already is available on RLIN, and the National Library’s staff can now offer advice to other Eastern European institutions on how to establish similar nodes for collecting information about microfilm masters.

CLIR continued its affiliation with the European Commission on Preservation and Access (ECPA) to copublish and distribute reports. CLIR published Digitization as a Means of Preservation?, a report originally published by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Association) and translated into English for the European publication by the ECPA.

International program officers held discussions with colleagues in Greece and Italy about extending their work into southern Europe in the coming year.

St. Catherine'e Monastery

With a special grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, CLIR organized a five-week visit to the United States by Father Justin from St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai, Egypt, and photographer Anastasios Christodoulides. Both have been working to catalog and conserve the monastery’s collections of icons and manuscripts. When the work is completed, the monastery will have digitized about 4,500 complete manuscripts and 40,000 fragments of its rich collection and can share these resources with scholars without exposing the fragile originals to use. The two attended the Cornell Digital Training Workshop and visited the Digital Scriptorium Project at the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University.

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