CPA Newsletter #18, Nov-Dec 1989

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access

Newsletter November-December 1989 Number 18

New Paper “On the

Preservation of Books and Documents in Original Form” On the Preservation of Books and Documents in Original Form by Barclay Ogden (5 pages, October 1989) explores issues involved in preserving materials that have scholarly value as objects. The publication was developed with the recognition that the national preservation program can save the contents of millions of brittle books through mass microfilming, but that other library materials with value as artifacts also are in need of preservation.

“When the original form or format contributes to the scholarly value of the record, the record becomes an artifact,” Ogden suggests. From the perspective of making a preservation decision, should not we consider the original format to be “information’ of scholarly value comparable to the words and illustrations more typically thought of as information?” The paper examines possible preservation selection strategies based on the scholarly value of the materials and on urgency of need. However, the paper concludes, no matter which strategies are developed, they must include “a justification for resources, methodologies for selection, and a range of preservation technologies able to match problems with needs.”

The success of any effort, Ogden cautions, will depend upon the involvement of scholars and librarians, not only in identifying books and documents that must be preserved in original format, “but in fully understanding the nature of the preservation problem to be solved and in developing a strategy for its solution.” On the Preservation of Books and Documents in Original Form has been distributed on a complimentary basis to the Commission’s mailing lists. Additional copies are available upon written request from Pamela Block at the Commission.

Regional Commission Meeting

Addresses Preservation Strategies Members of the Commission met on November 9 in Chicago with 22 sponsors and representatives of the Committee on Interinstitutional Cooperation (CIC). The day-long event was structured to enable open discussions of coordinated strategies for preservation efforts. A continuing theme throughout the discussions was interaction of national-level preservation activities with state, regional, corporate, and local institutional activities. The agenda developed by CIC included such issues as bibliographic control for microform masters, mass deacidification, film and video preservation, non-humanities preservation, use-based selection, repair and conservation activities, centralized storage and retrieval service, formats other than microfilm for storage and retrieval, education and training, and international cooperation. CIC has made a decision to take the lead in investigating deacidification as a mass preservation technique. A CIC Task Force is planning a project that will develop criteria and then evaluate mass deacidification processes. The CIC plan includes contracting with a testing laboratory and raising the necessary funds for the project from multiple sources.

Preservation Librarians

Look at Research Needs, Priorities Several preservation librarians met with Commission staff on October 30 in response to a letter from Margaret Byrnes on behalf of the Preservation of Library Materials Section (PLMS), Association of Library Collections and Technical Services, American Library Association. The agenda covered a series of information needs, priorities and possible action plans for preservation research developed over a number of years by the PLMS Policy and Planning Committee and the Preservation Administrators Discussion Group. A basic initial need, the group decided, is for a more complete shared knowledge of research–both under way and recently completed–with implications for current preservation needs and activities. Although a great deal of relevant research has been and is being conducted, the dissemination of findings tends to be uncoordinated and inadequate. In particular, there appears to be little crosscommunication among three key communities: libraries, archives, and science. To assist in exchanging research information among these groups, the Commission will develop an initial list of relevant preservation research projects for dissemination to the library and archival fields. The group plans to meet again in early 1990.

Technology Assessment

Advisory Committee Tackles Far-Reaching Complex Issues Technological developments as they relate to preservation planning were reviewed in some depth by the Commission’s Technology Assessment Advisory Committee (TAAC) at its October 2 meeting in Washington, DC. As the committee looked at the current technological environment in which it will be working, chairman Rowland Brown asked members to do so from the perspective of the practical issues facing librarians, preservationists, and conservators. The group paid particular attention to the role of microfilming and its relationship to developing digital formats. The members concluded that a simple and clear taxonomy of the rather complex field of digitization and electronic encoding should be developed, to be used by the Commission and its constituents in understanding options, trade-offs, economics, and suitability of current technologies for preservation purposes. Along with this taxonomy, the committee will prepare a report on the implications for access arising from developments in the telecommunications field. The Commission expects to make both reports available later in 1990. Given the current status of electronic alternatives, quality microfilming remains an appropriate method of preserving print images, committee members agreed. The archival quality of film has been well established, and the costs of storage of microfilm are attractive in comparison to other alternatives. Electronic versions of preserved materials, which would provide easier remote access and convenience, can be generated at a later time from film masters. The committee reviewed a number of possible demonstration projects involving electronic digitization of and access to preserved materials, in preparation for assisting the Commission in their identification and implementation. The committee also discussed the economics of current large-scale preservation activities and the need to begin assembling reliable economic statistics that could be applied in analyzing the costs and benefits of alternative approaches to be explored by the Commission. In addition to chair Rowland Brown, committee members are: Adam Hodgkin. Director, Electronic Publishing, Oxford, England; 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.

Preservation Developments

on Fall Agenda of State Legislators The problems facing states and their libraries as they attempt to preserve existing historical documents and the steps they can take to assure a longer life for documents printed in the future were discussed at the fall meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Assembly on the Legislature held October 19 in Sante Fe, NM. At the invitation of NCSL’s Arts, Tourism and Cultural Resources Committee, Maxine Sitts provided approximately 30 state legislators and staff members with an overview of national preservation efforts and suggestions for statewide action in the coming months and years. The presentation included information from the National Conference on the Development of Statewide Programs held last March at the Library of Congress and from a report by Howard Lowell on Preservation Needs in State Archives, available from the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators, Council of State Governments. The session also called attention to the increased efforts on the part of LSCA programs and the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Office of Preservation to provide funding to states for preservation planning.

Task Force on Environmental

Conditions Developing Physical Plant Managers’ Course A joint task force of the Commission and the Association of Physical Plant Administrators (APPA) met December 5 at Commission headquarters to develop a workshop on environmental conditions for books and museums. APPA plans to offer the workshop to its members sometime during 1990, and will be publishing a complementary article on the subject in its quarterly magazine. The task force of librarians and plant managers will be developing the curriculum and deciding on instructors and printed resources over the next several months. Tentative general subject areas include¬†: environmental requirements, communication and responsibilities, building maintenance, building security, and emergencies. Further information is available from either Maxine Sitts at the Commission or Wayne Leroy, Associate Vice President, Association of Physical Plant Administrators, ]446 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-3492. Task Force members from the Commission are: Patti McClung, RLG; Joel Clemmer. Macalester College; and Don Kelsey, University of Minnesota.

Test Project for

Preservation Reprints Moves to Next Stage Following an exploratory meeting held under the auspices of the Commission on October 11, representatives of three university libraries and a reprint publisher have decided to continue developing a demonstration preservation reprint project. The Commission sponsored the meeting of the ad hoc group to encourage the further development of choices of access and format for preserved materials. The meeting serves as an example of the Commission s facilitative role in bringing together representatives of varying constituencies to plan new joint programs. The preservation reprint project seeks to provide libraries with inexpensive reprints–on acid-free paper in library standard binding–of materials identified during preservation screening as being prime candidates for quick return to the shelves for circulation in book form. The libraries at the University of California at Berkeley, Columbia university, and Yale University will be building sample lists of potential titles for the project. Titles will be grouped around broad topics in the humanities and social sciences. The publisher is contacting about 75 libraries to determine the level of interest in purchasing the reprints, either by individual title or by subscription. There is an intent to make microform master copies of all materials as well. More information is available from Maxine Sitts at the Commission or Leo Balk, Vice President, Garland Publishing Inc., 136 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016.


The technology of recording human information is constantly changing, so we’re never going to be done with the preservation challenge. I think our magnetic media–video and computer–are going to be the “brittle books” of the next fifty years…. We’re always going to haLe to re-record the human word, just like the monks who had to copy other the classic texts. That’s essentially what we’re doing when we microfilm [brittle books].

Carolyn Clark Morrow, Harvard University’s first

Malloy-Rabinowitz Preservation Librarian

Slow Fires Wins Again

Slow Fires, the award-winning film/video portraying the slow destruction of a large part of our nation’s intellectual heritage due to embrittled books printed on acid-based paper, has won yet another award. This time, it is the recipient of the Grand Prix, Science Section, at the Salerno Film Festival. A certificate and trophy were presented to Commission President Pat Battin at an International Awards Luncheon on December 1 in Washington. Loan copies of Slow Fires in video and film formats are available from the Commission at no charge for one-time, institutional viewings.

Commission Exhibit in Atlanta December

28-30 The Commission will be exhibiting at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Atlanta, GA, December 28-30, during a meeting of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association. The exhibit will feature examples of brittle philosophy books, testing pens used to determine the state of acid/alkaline paper, and other information of interest to philosophy scholars and faculty. Join us if you can!

Correction to Commission

1988-89 Annual Report Please add the following two names to the National Advisory Council on Preservation (page 24): Alan Calmes, National Archives and Records Administration Leslie Kulp, National Agricultural Library These two members temporarily disappeared during electronic typesetting, but they are now “preserved” for the future.

Two Months of News in one

Issue Please note that this newsletter issue covers two months–November and December 1989. Regular monthly mailings will resume in January 1990.


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 >>