CPA Newsletter #16, Sep 1989

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access

Newsletter September 1989 Number 16

New Reports Available on

International Project, Selection Strategies Two new reports–one on the International Project and one on selection strategies for preservation–have been issued by the Commission on Preservation and Access. The International Project Progress Report (August 1989, seven pages) is a report of a June 1989 visit by Hans Rütimann to libraries and other organizations identified for this pilot project. The report provides updates on preservation microfilming activities in Deutsche Bibliothek, Frankfurt-am-Main; Deutsches Bibliotheksinstitut, Berlin; Stadt-und Universitütsbibliothek, Frankfurt-am-Main; Council of Europe, Strasbourg; and Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, Provins, Sable. The International Project was begun in June 1988 to explore the feasibility of creating an international database of bibliographic records for preserved materials. Its main goals are to determine the extent to which preservation records exist in other countries; facilitate agreement on the level of bibliographic detail needed to exchange records; and determine how to proceed to create a shared database capacity. Selection for Preservation of Research Library Materials Report (August 1989, four pages) is being distributed to stimulate further thinking on the part of the community of scholars and librarians who must develop judicious selection strategies. As the national preservation microfilming program reaches higher levels of activity, librarians and scholars are facing the challenge of establishing priorities for choosing which materials to preserve when not everything can be saved. The report discusses disciplinary differences in the needs and objectives of preservation, possible approaches to selection strategies, and factors that affect the choice of an approach. Several hundred complimentary copies of both papers are being distributed with the cooperation of a number of library preservation organizations. Additional complimentary copies are available from Pamela Block at the Commission.

Progress Reported on

Scanning Technology The Research Libraries Group, Inc. (RLG), which is conducting research under a contract from the Commission, has reported considerable progress in planning a test of Optiram’s technology to convert bibliographic records to machine-readable format. The project is one of a number being sponsored by the Commission to increase the efficiency of the preservation microfilming process. Although focusing on issues of immediate benefit to the emerging national preservation program, the project also should result in tangible benefits for retrospective conversion of other bibliographic records. The research is being done in cooperation with the Library of Congress (LC). Based on decisions made in a June meeting, RLG and LC are proceeding with a pilot project to convert sample fiche from both the NYPL (New York Public Library) Register and the Bibliotheque Nationale (BN) Register. In addition, LC is selecting 250 sample cards, and several RLG libraries have chosen another 250 sample cards, intended to test Optiram’s ability to scan and convert into MARC format records reflecting a wide range of cataloging practices, card formats, and typical problems encountered.


Libraries have been charged for centuries with preserving and presenting the elements of our cultural heritage. If they allow their electronic systems to embrace a diverse and physically remote universe of materials and [if] user interactions are designed in a sensitive, educationally sound fashion, they can become the provider of that common base. They are a natural for the role.

From “Rethinking OPACS: The Design of Assertive Information

Systems,” by Patricia B. Culkin, in Information Technology and Libraries, Vol.8, n.2, June 19851.


Special Report

Development of a Technology Assessment Agenda

By Rowland C. W. Brown

Chair, Technology Assessment Advisory Committee With the establishment of the Technology Assessment Advisory Committee (TAAC), the Commission on Preservation and Access is pursuing a broad technological assessment agenda to undergird its program development and help guide and support those who are undertaking and financing long-term, collaborative preservation efforts. A current focus is large-scale preservation microfilming projects, with other options rapidly developing. Elements are already in place from a technological standpoint: Standardized equipment, supplies, and services (both non-profit and commercial) are available for microfilming and storing masters of relatively standard black-and-white print materials. Progress continues in the exploration of high-volume production methods of microfilming and alternative methods of deacidifying vulnerable but still preservable materials. Looking further ahead, libraries and funding agencies are seeking out electronic alternatives to filming as well as investigating electronic access to filmed materials. Within this context, the Commission needs to explore whether investment in current preservation methods will continue to be feasible as these technological developments occur. Obviously, the goal is not only to produce a copy of a deteriorating item with relatively permanent life and of comparable or even enhanced quality and definition, but to provide copies that can be electronically stored, searched, disseminated, and reproduced in suitable print form from remote locations in a manner that is both convenient and cost-effective for the library and its users. This type of remote access must be provided in ways that are acceptable and comfortable to people who have been accustomed to finding these materials on library shelves. Such an approach to enhanced access will require a collective effort and centralized dissemination strategies on a significant scale. With these new patterns of use of print collections, there are a myriad of issues and concerns regarding appropriate collection and dissemination policies, the governance and economics of any collective effort, and copyright and fair use implications. Many of the solutions will depend in large part upon technological developments and the resulting electronic infrastructure that will be available to libraries in the United States and internationally. The TAAC is addressing these technological issues to help provide guidance to the Commission, its institutional sponsors and funding agencies, and all those involved in the preservation effort. Over the next few years, the Committee expects to concentrate on such areas as electronic image capture or scanning, compression and enhancement, optical character recognition, storage devices, transmission networks, workstations, user interfaces, searching algorithms and printing devices. One of its charges is to alert the Commission to promising developments and possibilities for useful demonstration projects. To do so, it will collaborate with institutions such as the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the National Library of Medicine, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Agricultural Library, various university and commercial consortia, the National Science Foundation, EDUCOM, OCLC, and RLG, as well as the research departments of the commercial hardware, software, and communications sectors. Attention will be given to current and proposed efforts to support–through more advanced, technologically structured telecommunications networks–the linking of research efforts of academic institutions, government and industry. The Committee also will track on developments regarding supercomputers, scholarly communication, and library bibliographic resource sharing and document delivery efforts to determine how and when these efforts might provide the infrastructure for access to preserved copies as well as to current materials. Likewise, the Committee will be in touch with the publishing industry as it explores future strategies for electronic publishing of current material that will, in all likelihood, have significant import for access to preserved materials. It appears to the Committee that the situation for electronic storage and access in the preservation program is highly propitious, not only because of rapid development of several congruent and interdependent technologies, but because of several other factors as well. These factors include the enormous effort, interest, and investment in electronic record retention and access by industry and government; the above-mentioned networking activities that are being spurred in part by a growing national interest in our competitive stance in research; and a similar national competitive interest–as well as enormous profit potential in the entertainment industry for the emerging high-definition television and the necessary national fiber optic infrastructure that it demands. It is quite likely that one or more of these developments will ultimately play a role in how libraries and library users will obtain access in the future to our priceless print and film heritage. The TAAC intends to assist the Commission in sorting out these diverse developments and in determining their importance to our collective efforts. The task is made all the more difficult, albeit exciting, by the fact that these developments are taking place in many parts of the world, so the focus cannot be limited to developments within the United States. The Technology Assessment Advisory Committee is a small group of senior people from universities, industry, and the publishing community who will be exploring technologies with potential for preservation activities. The Committee has several initial objectives:

  • Active consideration of the potential of new technologies forstorage and retrieval within the context of a national collection of preserved items, including technologies for capturing information and networking capacities;
  • Recommendation and review of research and demonstration projects tobe funded by the Commission;
  • Consideration of issues involved in the preservation of electronicformats and the preservation of media including motion picture film and sound recordings.

Committee members are: Rowland C. W. Brown, Chair, President, OCLC (retired); Adam Hodgkin, Director, Electronic Publishing, Oxford University Press; 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.

ARL Adopts Guidelines for

Bibliographic Records for Preservation Microform Masters As plans for large-scale microfilming move forward and national funding for preservation microfilming increases, an essential requirement is the establishment of a cooperative database that provides users with information concerning the identity and location of existing microform masters. To help move toward that goal, the Association of Research Libraries has adopted a set of Guidelines for Bibliographic Records for Preservation Microform Masters (Books), which balances the cost of record creation with the need for reasonable access. The Guidelines are intended to provide mutually acceptable rules for record fullness and consistency. More information is available from: Association of Research Libraries, 1527 New Hampshire Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20036.

Hewlett Foundation Grant

Continues Support of Cooperative Preservation Programs The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has announced the awarding of a $300,000 grant to the Commission on Preservation and Access to help support national and international preservation and access programs. The two-year grant provides a continuation of support from the Hewlett Foundation, which was one of the charter supporters of the Commission three years ago. The grant will contribute to the support of a broad range of preservation programs and projects, both currently operating and to be developed over the next two years. Ongoing programs of the Commission include an international initiative to explore cooperative microfilming, a communication program to maintain national visibility and support for the preservation cause, scholarly advisory committees to assist in the identification of selection criteria for filming, and a number of technological explorations.

Newsletter Subscription

Reminder A primary purpose of the Commission on Preservation and Access is to establish a two-way communication link with university administrators, scholars, government officials, library directors, and key library staff members about the national preservation program. With that goal in mind, this newsletter is produced and funded to provide a direct, regular information flow among individuals involved in preservation issues. To keep our costs at a reasonable level, the circulation is controlled to reflect the above primary audiences. We are not able to provide complimentary copies to Serials Departments for processing. As noted previously, directors of libraries that are members of the Association of Research Libraries and the Oberlin Group receive TWO copies of this newsletter, sent separately by non-profit bulk-mail rate. The second copy can be distributed within your institution to staff members, college/university administrators, and others who are interested in national and international preservation efforts. The newsletter is not copyrighted and may be freely reproduced.


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 >>