CPA Newsletter #13, Jun 1989

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access

Newsletter June 1989 Number 13

Importance of Images,

Catalogs Cited by Scholarly Advisory Committee on Art History Some of the distinctive preservation needs of art-historical scholars were discussed during the first meeting of the Commission’s newly formed Scholarly Advisory Committee on Art History on May 12. As with most other disciplines, art historians are concerned about complete runs of North American and European scholarly periodicals in their fields of interest, as well as classic monographs. Art historians draw upon the materials of many disciplines and subjects in the humanities, arts, sciences, and technology. On the other hand, the products of art-historical scholarship are considerably more limited in scope, which makes it more possible to define preservation needs. Images are of prime importance to art historians, and image reproductions that are suitable for scholarly purposes are usually difficult and expensive to achieve. In some cases, however, preservation microfilming may be relatively simple to accomplish. Pre-photographic images such as woodcuts or lithographs were used prior to the 1880s, for example, and are easy to reproduce photographically. A category of materials that is of prime importance to art history is catalogs of various sorts–exhibition catalogs prepared for gallery shows, sales and auction catalogs, and catalogs of permanent collections, for example. These materials may present some additional bibliographic control problems during preservation microfilming, because they may not be included in main library collections.

Special Report Inside on

International Cooperative Preservation Another distinctive need for art historians concerns the popular illustrated periodicals of the nineteenth century (chiefly from Europe, with some from North America) that served as outlets for the works of well-known artists, but that are not considered “scholarly.” The seven members of the Art History Committee are: Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University; Phyllis Pray Bober, Department of Archaeology, Bryn Mawr College; Richard Brilliant, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University; Lorenz Eitner, Stanford University Museum of Art; Alan Fern, National Portrait Gallery; Larry Silver, Department of Art History, Northwestern University; and Deirdre C. Stam, School of Information Studies, Syracuse University.

Breadth of Issues Addressed

in First Meeting of Technology Assessment Advisory Committee Much discussion at the first meeting of the Technology Assessment Advisory Committee on May 11 centered on the breadth of the technologies and expertise involved in copying, preserving, storing, requesting, and disseminating preserved materials in the various formats and multiple media that are anticipated in the long-range objectives of the Commission. Four of the initial six members of the Committee attended the meeting at the Commission’s offices, spending a full day reviewing its charge, planning its agenda, and discussing the broadening activities of the Commission. There was general consensus and enthusiasm for organizing a conference next year drawing upon experts from the various technologies involved and the major information sectors impacted by these technologies to help meet the Commission’s long-term preservation and access goals. Committee members are: Rowland C. W. Brown, Chair, President, OCLC (retired); Douglas van Houweling, Vice Provost for Information Technologies, University of Michigan; Michael Lesk Division Manager, Computer Sciences Research, Bellcore; M. Stuart Lynn, Vice President, Information Technologies, Cornell University; Robert Spinrad, Director, Corporate Technology, Xerox Corporation; and Robert L. Street, Vice President for Information Resources, Stanford University.

International Cooperative


A Ten-Month Report on the International Project of the

Commission on Preservation and Access by Hans Rütimann, Consultant Based on a speech presented at Managing the Preservation of Serial Literature,” an international symposium sponsored by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, May 22-24, 1989, at the Library of Congress From its inception, the Commission on Preservation and Access has operated on the principle that preservation efforts cannot be solely a national concern. As in all Commission projects, a primary goal is to improve access to deteriorating and preserved materials that are often difficult to locate and use. Since “international cooperation in preservation” is a broad area, the Commission has focused first on exploring options for an international mechanism–a clearinghouse or database–to answer the basic question, “Which countries have preserved what materials?” The initial pilot project, which began in September 1989, encompasses the following three phases:

  1. Conducting an exploratory study with the national libraries of GreatBritain, France, West Germany, East Germany, Austria, and Venezuela. The study is meant to determine the extent to which preservation records exist in each country; to identify the difficulties of converting these records to machine-readable form and of entering them into a common database; to decide on the level of bibliographic detail needed to exchange records easily; and to determine the best way to proceed in creating a shared database capacity.
  2. Developing an agenda and organizing a meeting “on the working level”of representatives from the participating countries–the meeting to be held in a convenient European location.
  3. Preparing a report to document the findings, outline the next steps, and provide the basis for grant proposals in support of identified projects.

Survey of Foreign Libraries’ Preservation Records

I have now visited the national libraries in Austria, East and West Germany, England, France, and Venezuela, as well as several university and regional libraries and the relevant agency of the Commission of the European Communities. I have talked with directors of libraries and department heads in automation, conservation, reference and user services, and others, and I have heard many views and suggestions. My findings support the assertion that in the global society, our similarities are greater than our differences and our policies and practices should reflect that elemental truth. [Patricia Battin, “Information Collection, Preservation, and Sharing in the Global Context,” Speech at IFLA Conference cited above] No one I met abroad disagrees with this assertion. Of course, opinions vary on how to solve the problems or to what extent a crisis really exists. At the Zentralbibliothek in Zurich, for example, I was assured that the situation is really not that bad. On the other hand, at Berne’s Swiss National Archives I was given the extremely pessimistic assessment that about 90% of Switzerland’s 17 million books are in jeopardy because of high acidity. In neighboring Germany, the assessment falls somewhere between these two extremes: the results of a study by the Deutsche Bibliotheks-lnstitut are that, of the 152 million books in research libraries, about one third is in jeopardy. But despite variations in the assessment of the situation and in local conditions, funding, and policies, the similarities still outweigh the differences. Ongoing plans need to be known by all involved in preservation efforts if we are to avoid a massive duplication of effort and wasted resources–or worse, the loss of books and periodicals due to uncoordinated expenditures for preservation on the national and international levels. What follows is a random selection of the types of developments that should be known–but are not–to everyone in a position to influence preservation activities in any given country:

  • At Japan’s Waseda University, efforts have been underway since July1988 to film all imprints of the Meiji period. The first step is filming all imprints at Waseda University Library; the second step will involve securing either films or originals to be used for filming in collections abroad, primarily in Europe and the United States. Professor Yamamoto, the project director, insists that international collaboration is absolutely essential to the project. He adds that questions concerning the format of a register have yet to be resolved.
  • At the Biblioteca Nacional of Venezuela, filming of newspapers, magazines, and books is proceeding, with an emphasis on Venezuelan items. The library’s annual microfilm production is some 300,000 images; there are ambitious plans for increased filming; and the register is maintained in admirable detail in machine-readable form. In my judgment, the register would be of immediate use in an international database.
  • In West Germany, the German microform project is underway, partly funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. Coordinated at the Stadt- und Universitätsbibliothek in Frankfurt-am-Main, the project involves several important libraries, and the responsibility for systematically filming important collections is shared among the participating institutions. Some of these collections are probably unique: “Flugschriften” from the reformation in Marburg and unpublished German dissertations between World Wars I and 11 in Berlin. Others, such as the collection of German literature from 1850 to 1900 at Frankfurt’s Rothschild Library, are probably duplicated at least in part elsewhere. The list of collections to be filmed in the German microform project is, by itself, a strong argument for international collaboration and the sharing of such information. Whenever I mention this project in the United States, I am asked for a list of the collections targeted for filming, just in case we plan to film in similar areas.
  • The European Community of 1992 will significantly affect libraries.Directorate General XIII B of the EC has issued a “Plan of Action for Libraries in the European Community” and commissioned a “Feasibility Study into a European Register of Microform Masters (EROMM).”
  • The National Library of Australia has conducted a pilot study on the feasibility of developing a national register of microform masters. A national listing of microform masters is planned.
  • At the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, an important study is underway on the acquisition, control, and use of microforms in German libraries. The 150-page interim report includes the results of a survey of microform holdings and establishes coordinated production guidelines; it is a valuable overview of one country’s activities and plans in preservation filming.

The Case for Participation

Why should a library in Europe or Asia or South America take part in an international register for microform masters? There are a number of reasons:

  • To make the contents of the originals more accessible while preserving them.
  • To increase access to information about microfilmed items (and to the microforms themselves) across institutional and national boundaries. Obviously, in most cases it is cheaper to buy a copy of the film than to film an original item.
  • To avoid duplication of effort and therefore stretch the funds for preservation.
  • To restrict the use of valuable originals and prolong their lives by making films available instead.
  • To build an informational infrastructure for filmed items that would allow better coordination with the private sector.

There is another important reason to take the long-term and global view, and this has to do with improved forms of access. In the future, locating and purchasing microform masters will be even more important than today. It is probable that new technology will allow us to convert microforms to a digitized form; this in turn will create an extraordinarily rich depository of texts in machine-readable form. With widely available technology–computer-based phototypography–the texts could be committed to print again (on acid-free paper, one would hope). Thus, our efforts will not only preserve and enhance access to the text in a form familiar to us today. They also will add an increasingly valuable feature to a vast body of literature: photo images and machine-readability. In turn, this will permit manipulability and applications to disseminate texts in media such as CD-ROM, optical disk, and other formats as yet unknown.

Reflections After Ten Months

It is too early to provide a detailed analysis of activities abroad and potential overlap in the filming of collections (if such an analysis is possible at all). I have, however, drawn some general conclusions, and the most important conclusion is this: We know what our ideal is–nothing less than a worldwide, totally integrated database system giving instant access to our entire preserved cultural heritage, with texts recorded on a medium that lasts forever, mechanisms to facilitate the purchase of texts on alternate media, and ways to move with ease from one technology to the next. However, with today’s pressing international preservation needs, we do not have the luxury of the ideal. We must move rapidly on all fronts. If we spend too much time trying to reach ideal solutions in all areas–deacidification, forms of alternate media, level of bibliographic details for registers, and structure of international networks–the very material we are trying to save will turn to dust. Therefore:

  • We cannot wait until ideal alternate media are developed and agreed upon. Microform is today’s large-scale alternate medium. It should be viewed as an archival as well as a temporary measure, to be converted to other media at a later point, if desired.
  • We cannot wait until agreement is reached on the ideal record structure for a register. We should go ahead with whatever record structures individual countries and institutions can afford. These structures should be fairly uniform (and usually they are) and differences can be settled later. I know that there is debate on this point, but if filming is to proceed at full speed (and in some countries it is), then the record has to keep pace with it. Also, it is worth considering that a standard for an intricate record, imposed by the larger institutions and expensive to maintain, will discourage many smaller institutions from participating.
  • We cannot wait until national registers are in place, ready to be linked to an international framework. During my travels I met many dedicated individuals who were grateful to learn about the activities and plans elsewhere. Let us merge, combine, and share what we have today, using a building-block approach. The structure–an international register of microform masters–will always be a work in progress, but one that will be increasingly valuable in coordinating our efforts.

International Cooperation

We see some beginnings. Bibliographic information about items filmed by the British Library has been added to the records of the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN), and RLIN records will be available through the British Library’s BLAISE program. Also, the Bibliotheque Nationale will begin, on an experimental basis, a register exchange with the British Library. International cooperation requires the involvement of many institutions, with inevitable political and economic sensitivities. Any organization that can facilitate effective international collaboration will be making a major contribution to preservation. What, specifically, can concerned organizations do?

  • Continue to work toward standards for register information.
  • Continue to apply pressure–on all fronts–for the use of alkaline paper.
  • Explore all technological developments relevant to preservation.
  • Facilitate cooperative ventures. For example, the Deutsche Bücherei in Leipzig does not have a comprehensive microfilming project for want of equipment and supplies. A partner in the West could provide hardware and, in exchange, receive copies of master negatives of items filmed under the exchange agreement. * Disseminate information about funding prospects. In some countries, lack of funds is the biggest obstacle to effective preservation efforts. Some libraries abroad are unaware of how–in conjunction with a U.S. partner–they can seek federal funds in the U.S. available for preservation.
  • In general, try to improve communication and exchange of information.

We are continuing to work with the pilot project libraries to collect additional information that will form the basis for several models of cooperation. At the March 1989 Library of Congress symposium on “Managing the Preservation of Serial Literature,” a participant from Australia asked when additional countries will be included in the International Project. The answer is that although of necessity we must start with a small number of countries, we urge anyone who knows about plans relevant to this project, anywhere in the world, to let us know. As I told the Australian representative, “Please don’t wait until we get to you; by all means, come to us.”

From the Conference Podium

of the Society for Scholarly Publishing

May 31-June 2, 1989

Heard in a session on “What Libraries Really Want from Publishers?” A (somewhat) humorous wish list of 13-or-so desires of librarians included such items as totally free information… absolutely no litigation… and… only good published research.” Speaker Katrina Strauch, head of collection development at Robert Scott Small Library, College of Charleston, also called for… every (published) thing pristine, acid-free, and preserved…and available to users instantaneously…” She went on (in a more realistic tone) to emphasize to publishers the importance of current preservation activities, including increased federal funding through the National Endowment for the Humanities; the March 7, 1989 publishers’ pledge day at the New York Public Library; and the recent decision of Choice magazine to include information on alkaline-paper-status as a part of its book reviews. photo omitted John Moore, director of Columbia University Press, checks out varying degrees of brittle paper on display during the 1989 Society for Scholarly Publishing meeting in Washington, D.C. photo omitted Three library directors test paper for acidity during the 1989 Society for Scholarly Publishing meeting in Washington, D.C. From the left, Joan Chambers, Colorado State University; Barbara von Wahlde, sum Buffalo; and Paula Kaufman, University of Tennessee

Thumbs Up for Paper

Awareness to D.C Printing Company Catterton Press which published this Question-and-Answer in its May 1989 Newsletter: Q&A on Permanent Paper “I’ve been hearing a lot about acid-free paper lately. What’s so special about it? Can anyone purchase it? Is it really as permanent’ as the news items I’ve seen claim it is?”–FJR Acid-free paper, also known as permanent paper or alkaline paper, has been around for several years. Recently, though, a group of <emph>otherwise very quiet people</emph> [emphasis added] have been loudly promoting its use. Librarians are lobbying publishers in an effort to get more books, journals, and records printed on alkaline paper. In the normal production of paper, manufacturers use acidic rosins and sulfides. To see how quickly the cheaper grades of acidic paper deteriorate, just dig out an old paperback novel. The pages will be yellowed and much more brittle than when you originally bought the book Imagine the extent of the problem for archivists trying to preserve books, government papers, and other important documents. At least a dozen paper manufacturers make acid-free paper meeting government specs, and anyone can purchase it. Such paper should last several hundred years without significant deterioration under library conditions. In some cases, alkaline paper is even less costly to produce than acidic varieties, and it is also naturally brighter.

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 Pamela D. Block–Administrative Assistant Return to CLIR Home Page >>