The Commission on Preservation and Access
Newsletter December 1988 Number 7
Funding for Preservation: A
Year-End View Nearing the end of what has been a productive year in pursuing the “preservation enterprise,” it is both encouraging to note some successes and important to restate some desired outcomes. On the national level, the voting by Congress of a significant increase in funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Office of Preservation ranks as an important event in several ways. It reflected the federal system’s ability to look at and respond to a difficult and complex problem, as shown by the intensive involvement of key leaders in Congress, the Endowment, and the Library of Congress. It showed the effectiveness of collaborative efforts by a variety of institutions–universities, foundations, libraries, nonprofit organizations–in stating the case for preservation. Not least, it began to bring the problem of acid paper and brittle books from the “insurmountable” category into the realm of “difficult but possible.” Many who read this Newsletter have had their share in making it happen. Other institutions–notably foundations–have provided continuing and significant funding for cooperative microfilming projects, for a regional microfilming facility, and for other activities needed to establish the necessary infrastructure to help make a nation-wide preservation program a reality. When comparing the financial accomplishments of the last year to what had been only imagined in years past, preservation has come a long way. What remains to be done after a good launch is the necessity of keeping the preservation ship steaming and fitting it out for the long haul. Keeping the nation-wide program steaming will require encouraging Congress to continue funding for preservation along the lines of the NEH capability budget, which in order to work needs to be reauthorized each Congressional session. It will require encouraging foundations to begin, to continue and to expand their support of this national effort, both in the filming of brittle materials and in the establishing of a centralized facility for storage and retrieval of preserved materials. It will require state and local governments to assess, much as the federal government has done, appropriate responsibilities in working to preserve the collections within their jurisdictions. And, it will require university administrations to continue to realize that the costs of establishing effective preservation programs in libraries cannot be accommodated only within traditional library operating budgets. As for “fitting out,” there are several continuing roles the Commission can play in the coming years to assist in the overall preservation program. The Commission’s mandate to be involved in research and demonstration projects continues. Among the items being addressed–and for which continued funding is required–are the development of the concept of the centralized storage and retrieval facility for preserved materials; analyzing the special needs of differing academic disciplines in reformatting their deteriorating materials; fostering the increased production and use of acid-free paper for publications of enduring value; monitoring new technologies that may be used in preservation activities; assessing the potential for international cooperation and collaboration in preservation; and exploring educational requirements to provide the necessary talent for institutions as they “fit out” for the long haul. An important start has been made in getting preservation planning, filming and research launched in the past year. The challenges cited above, applying to everyone involved with preservation, will continued to be addressed as we move into the next stage of institutionalizing preservation as an ethic in American libraries and culture.
Activity Creates Need to Assess Education, Staff As preservation activities increase in research libraries and archives throughout the nation, a parallel need has emerged for new educational programs and a reassessment of existing staff functions and alignments. These and other concerns were addressed during a day-long meeting in October, sponsored by the Commission and attended by a group of library directors, senior library officers, preservation specialists, and foundation representatives. There was general agreement that a greater share of financial and staff resources would be required than in the past, and that expanded educational programs would be needed to provide the necessary talent to manage and integrate increased preservation activity into library systems. How those resources will be obtained and allocated, and the structure of the necessary educational programs, were seen as open questions with a variety of solutions. The preservation challenge was likened to the automation and retrospective conversion activities of the past two decades, in which libraries generally were required by financial and other circumstances to integrate major project activities into existing staff structures and to seek both outside funding and outside vendors to meet goals. It was further suggested that, in dealing with an emerging and expanding preservation challenge, libraries would need to lead with programs and priorities that focus on the inclusion of preservation as a shared staff agenda, so as to minimize overhead costs and to produce solutions within existing staffing structures. Educational requirements appear to have both short- and long-term needs; brief courses and training opportunities for mid-level managers as their working responsibilities are restructured, and formal degree programs to develop the specialized skills and knowledge base required for the future. Also seen as educational needs were teaching management how to plan and implement comprehensive preservation plans, and providing technical staff education in conservation and preservation techniques. A variety of educational experiences–from classwork to on-the-job training–could be offered to begin to address learning needs. Several specific strategies for responding to educational requirements were outlined. The long-term, continuing needs include an analysis of currently available education programs, and how they might be evaluated and expanded; the need for more formal education programs such as the Columbia model for those wanting to develop a preservation specialty within the library profession; development of preservation components in the MLS curriculum for all students, regardless of specialization; stronger faculty expertise in both teaching and research in collection preservation; integration of archivists’ concerns into MLS programs; and development of programs for technicians and two-year colleges and vocational institutes. Short-term needs were seen to include short courses for mid-career librarians in preservation administration, such as those offered by the University of California for six-to-nine month periods; formal year-long programs in library schools for mid-career librarians with management strengths; short courses and workshops for curators, bibliographers and others to make easier the reorganization of responsibilities to include preservation concerns; and a series of technical training videotapes to substitute for or add to workshops. Finally, the group recommended that the Commission establish a committee of library educators and librarians to specify in detail the requirements of recommended programs and ways to establish them.
Establishment of Scholarly
Advisory Committees on Preservation As noted in an earlier Newsletter, the Commission has embarked on the establishment of several Scholarly Advisory Committees, which are being asked to help develop a strategy for preservation and a set of priorities for selecting what is to be saved in each of the major fields of scholarship. The first committee to be constituted is the Scholarly Advisory Committee on History. Its members are Professor John Howe, Department of History and Interim Director of Libraries, University of Minnesota (Chair); Dr. Margaret Child, Assistant Director, Smithsonian Institution Libraries; Dr. Larry J. Hackman, Director, State Archives and Records Administration, University of the State of New York; Professor Anna Nelson, Department of History, Tulane University; Professor Emiliana Noether, Department of History, University of Connecticut; Professor Mary Beth Norton, Department of History, Cornell University; and Dr. David H. Stam, University Librarian, Syracuse University. The first meeting of the committee is scheduled for January 23-24 in Washington. Additional committees of scholars in philosophy, art history, and modern languages and literature are in the process of establishment and will be announced in the next Newsletter.
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
Peter Winterble–Program Officer Return to CLIR Home Page >>