CPA Newsletter #47, Jul 1992

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Commission on Preservation and Access


July 1992

Number 47

Commission Recognized as Partner in EROMM Project

In a letter received in early June, the Bibliotheque Nationale has acknowledged the Commission as an official partner of the preparatory phase of the EROMM Project to set up a pilot machine-readable European Register of Microfilm Masters. The Commission is providing supplemental funds for the project, which has been established by the 12-member Commission of the European Communities (CEC) as part of a program dedicated to the libraries in Europe.

Hans Rütimann, Program Consultant for the International Project, attended EROMM’s initial meeting in Luxembourg in December 1989, during which the feasibility study for such a register was reviewed. CEC is providing 60 percent of the total cost for the first year’s operation (Phase 1). The Commission, through its Mellon Foundation grant for international activities, is providing support for the remaining 40 percent of the initial costs, or ECU’s 67,960.

In the letter to the Commission, Jean-Marie Arnoult, Director of Technology at the Bibliotheque Nationale, writes:

(Commission translation): On behalf of the partners, I would like to express the satisfaction of EROMM’s Management Committee to be able to work with the Commission on Preservation and Access, not only in terms of financial assistance but also in terms of partnership. This partnership implies our acceptance of mutual differences no matter how restricting these may be at times. We know that we can consider you a staunch and attentive partner.

As you know, the Bibliotheque Nationale takes its projects at the European level very seriously. The National Library well knows that in Europe–and beyond Europe in all matters of international cooperation–it is dealing not only with planning questions, abstract and technical, but also with libraries that have their own individual identities reflecting their particular interests and history. Our common goal, undertaken with reasonable optimism, is to unite these interests….

The Bibliotheque Nationale considers partnerships between European libraries and North American libraries… a historical landmark that will contribute greatly to the concept of [a united] Europe…. EROMM constitutes only a small part of what is at stake. This new kind of partnership between Europe and North America will have unknown consequences for the libraries and their users. It is therefore essential that we move carefully into a political environment designed for the long term and not just for the benefit of the moment.

The EROMM contract calls for making available in a common database bibliographic information about preservation microfilms. Participating in the first phase of the CEC project are the British Library (England), the Bibliotheque Nationale (France), the Biblioteca Nacional (Portugal), and the Staats-und Universitütsbibliothek Göttingen (Germany).

The pilot phase is to take input from the four countries and create a UNIMARC-based file, expected to be compatible with the minimum data requirements for an international register of microform masters being developed cooperatively by several nations that attended a May 1990 Commission-sponsored meeting in Zurich.

Rockefeller Foundation Supports Scholars’ Conference on Preserving the Intellectual Heritage

The interest of several of the Commission’s Scholarly Advisory Committees regarding the need for preservation of intellectual resources in European libraries has led to a successful request for support from The Rockefeller Foundation for a conference at the Foundation’s Study and Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy. The June 1993 invitational conference will provide an international forum for scholars to participate in developing strategies to rescue library materials important to their disciplines.

In its proposal to the Foundation, the Commission pointed to the vital importance of scholarly involvement in the preservation process to develop strategies for setting selection priorities and choosing from a variety of alternative technologies for storage and dissemination of preserved materials. The first objective of the conference will be to share awareness and concern about the problem among North American and European scholars. A second objective will be the initiation of a European-centered effort to collaborate with scholars in the U.S. while still addressing preservation issues that may he unique to some of the participating Europe.m countries.

A third objective will be the reinforcement of existing scholarly linkages between Europe and the U.S. in fields that depend heavily on the endangered literature on both continents. The three-day invitational meeting will bring together scholars, librarians, technology experts, and administrators or officials of scholarly agencies with direct concern with preservation problems.

European Quarterly Reprints Commission Feasibility Study

A 41-page feasibility study of the means, costs, and benefits of converting large quantities of preserved library materials from microfilm to digital images originally published by the Commission has been reprinted in European Research Libraries Cooperation (ERLC), the LIBER Quarterly. “From Microfilm to Digital Imagery” was written by Donald J. Waters, Systems Office, Yale University Library, under contract to the Commission. In addition to identifying requirements for a major project to convert microfilmed texts to digital images, the study investigated intra- and interinstitutional access to the stored images and the broader implications for enhanced intellectual access to digitized scholarly materials

That reprinted report is the lead article of Volume 1 (1991), No 3 of ERLC, the Quarterly of the Ligue des Bibliotheques Europeennes de Recherche (LIBER), which covers all aspects of research librarianship, with special attention given to library cooperation in Europe and to the comparative approach to librarianship Copies of the original report remain available from the Commission for $5.00 (no charge for sponsors)

Slow Fires Available in Spanish; Perhaps in Chinese?

The U.S. Information Agency has developed a Spanish-language voiceover translation of the one-hour version of Slow Fires, the award-winning documentary film on the preservation of the human record funded in 1987 by the Council on Library Resources, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The translated version is available in VHS in either NTSC or PAL formats from the American Film Foundation, Box 2000, Santa Monica, CA 90406, for the same price as the English version. Because of an increasing number of requests for the video in other languages, the Commission is pursuing grant support for additional translations, in particular a Chinese-language version.

Microfilming Handbook Provides Improved Guidance for Expanded Preservation Activities

A new manual of preservation microfilming guidelines for library and other cultural institutions engaged in the nationwide effort to preserve deteriorating materials has been published by the Research Libraries Group (RLG). The 204-page RLG Preservation Microfilming Handbook was developed by 18 preservation microfilming specialists representing libraries, commercial micropublishers, filming bureaus, and related organizations.

The handbook features detailed guidelines based on national and international standards for pre-filming, targeting, and filming of monographs, pamphlets, and serials. Packaged in spiral-binding with stiff covers, printed on alkaline paper, indexed and illustrated, and including a fold-out chart for identifying defects in camera negatives, the publication is a major contribution to both newcomers and veterans who are part of the expanding preservation agenda.

RLG also offers preservation microfilming workshops that assist institutions in implementing the guidelines. For more information about workshops contact Nancy Elkington, The Research Libraries Group, Inc., 1200 Villa Street, Mountain View, CA 94041-1100. The Preservation Microfilming Handbook is available for $75.00, plus applicable sales tax and $5.00 for shipping and handling, from Distribution Services Center at the same address. It also is available from the American Library Association, Chicago, IL., and the Association for Information and Image Management, Silver Spring, MD.

New Commission Brochure Available

A new four-page brochure–printed on recycled, alkaline paper–provides a broad description of 1992-93 initiatives and a list of Commission board and staff members. The brochure is available in single and multiple quantities for use as handouts for displays and conferences. Also available are a newly formatted publication list as well as procedures for borrowing Commission exhibits. Please include a short description of the intended use for these materials with your request, and address the request to the Communications Program at the Commission.

Science Panel Reviews Research on Storage of Modern Vellum, Paper Strengthening and Deacidification

The following reviews are from a panel of librarians, archivists, and conservators convened by the Commission to report on research of interest to preservation administrators. The first report from the Getty Conservation Institute is a thorough piece of research on a very specific topic–the effects of relative humidity on modern vellum. The report contributes to understanding of both the material itself and its storage and is of particular interest regarding special collections of rare books. The second report by Donald Sebera of the Library of Congress–more theoretical in approach–asserts that combined strengthening and deacidification treatments can result in large synergistic increases in permanence of paper

As part of its science initiative, the Commission is sponsoring an invitational workshop for preservation program managers in September 1992 Among the faculty are Sebera, James Druzik of the Getty Conservation Institute, and James Reilly of the Image Permanence Institute. The workshop, which focuses on the use of scientific research information in preservation decision-making, is being developed with the assistance of Peter G. Sparks.

The Effects of Relative Humidity on Some Physical Properties of Modern Vellum: Implications for the Optimum Relative Humidity for the Display and Storage of Parchment, by Eric F. Hansen, Steve N. Lee and Harry Sobel. Draft submitted January 1992 by the Getty Conservation Institute, 4503 Glencoe Avenue, Marina del Rey, CA 90292
This study presents more detailed information than would be of use to most non-conservators but the results of the study will have far-reaching possibilities for the preservation of documents created on parchment. Simply stated, the study finds that the current standard for the optimum level of relative humidity (50%) for the display and storage of skin materials is not conducive to long-term preservation. Tests were carried out on samples over the range of 11%-60% RH. The results indicate that relative humidities under 25%, are “incompatible with long-term maintenance as are relative humidities above 40%, which increase hydrogen bond breakage, gelatinization and biological growth” An optimum level of 30% RH, with allowable cycling of +/-5% has been recommended on the basis of this studyThis paper reviews several implications for the storage of parchment at the suggested lower RH level that are important to consider before making any changes. Complications could occur because of the composite nature of a document (ink on surface of parchment, for instance, which might tend to flake in lower relative humidity). In addition, parchment that is brittle at lower RH levels and subject to manipulation (handling) may experience damage. Finally, lower RH levels could cause buckling or curling (not damaging, but aesthetically objectionable). In these cases, the authors suggest that the lowest safe level of RH be that which allows for mechanical requirements and considers other composite elements of the document and its aesthetic requirements.

This is very practical information, but its implementation may require the services of a conservator who can monitor the effects of the humidity on the documents. In any event, this study stresses that it is not only the physical property of the parchment that must be considered when determining the appropriate level of RH for its storage. Of consequence for those of us who have substantial holdings on parchment is the fact that those higher levels of RH for which we have been striving may not be in the long-term interest of the documents after all.

Christine Ward, Chief, Bureau of Archival Science, New York State Archives

The Effects of Strengthening and Deacidification on Paper Permanence: Some Fundamental Considerations, by Donald K. Sebera, Chemist, Library of Congress. Draft submitted by author in late 1991.
Donald Sebera’s draft paper provides a useful framework within which to examine the benefits of paper strengthening and paper deacidification, both separately and as complementary treatment procedures. Sebera poses a series of questions, the answers to which have not yet been explored well, e.g., “What is the minimum amount of strengthening which is useful and economically justifiable?” “How much is the permanence of… paper extended [by strengthening]?” and “What… are the relationships among paper strengthening, paper deacidification, and paper permanence?”After defining terms, Sebera proceeds to develop several mathematical models for predicting, under different conditions, the permanence of papers that are initially acidic and have an initial fold endurance of 1,000 MIT double folds (an arbitrary but useful baseline). Graphs illustrate the anticipated effects of deacidifying paper at various points in its life span, and of strengthening paper in various ways at various points in its life span–both in relation to longevity. One especially instructive graph compares the effects of deacidification alone, strengthening alone, and deacidification and strengthening together, on the permanence of paper.

The relationships among alternative approaches to treatment are clearly articulated, and nine conclusions are reached. Some of the concluding observations are significant, for example, “Deacidification processes alone do little to increase the permanence of very weak papers,” “Treatment parameters sufficient to achieve useful increases in permanence by strengthening alone are probably unattainable,” and “Maximum permanence increases result when deacidification and strengthening procedures are carried out in combination.” An appendix explains the mathematical procedures used to create the tables and graphs that appear throughout the text.

While some readers may have difficulty grasping the formulas and principles that undergird this paper, the premises assumed by and conclusions drawn by the author are lucid. Of particular note for those interested in advancing the field of library and archives preservation is one closing remark, that “although the relationships developed follow from known behavior of paper and the assumptions and approximations made, it would he valuable to confirm them with experimental observations.” The verification of Sebera’s informed hypotheses in a laboratory setting could have a profound effect on local and interinstitutional preservation decision-making, as would further development of the paper deacidification and strengthening technologies that have begun to emerge in the marketplace. Support for the enhancement of existing research capabilities is critical.

Jan Merrill-Oldham, Preservation Librarian, University of Connecticut

University Training Stresses Preservation Sensitivity, Skills for Library, Custodial, Physical Plant Staff

A recently developed preservation orientation program at the University of California, San Diego, focuses on the major responsibilities of staff for the preservation of library materials and features practical steps that individuals can take to aid in protecting the library’s collections The university also has incorporated responsibility for preservation-sensitive handling of materials in all library staff job descriptions.

Julie Page, Preservation Librarian, and George Soete, Associate University Librarian for Collections, worked together in developing the orientation sessions as basic skills training focusing on print materials. The 1-1/2 sessions begin with data on the size, importance and worth of UCSD’s collections Staff are actively drawn into the training–they learn about the ways in which library materials suffer from both natural enemies (e.g., paper acidity) and human abuse (book drops), handle brittle paper and acid-free containers, examine moldy hooks, and see a hygrothermograph in action.

The sessions also have been given, in slightly modified form, for library custodians and the campus physical plant administrators. A session for campus policy is planned for Fall 1992. Page and Soete have found their training to be particularly effective. The report that staff have demonstrated greater awareness of and commitment to preservation, for example by responding generously in a couple of minor disaster situations. Response of physical plant personnel also has improved dramatically, according to the trainers. Questions about the program can he directed to either Page or Soete at (619) 534-1234

Adapted from an article submitted by George Soete

… Perhaps 90 percent of the research collections at the Eisenhower Library are printed on acidic paper, with a life span of only 50 years, according to Scott Bennett [library director]. One-third of these (more than 600,000 volumes) are now so brittle they can’t be circulated…. Bennett says that the greatest number of books affected are acidic but not yet brittle…. The most urgent problem, however, lies with books that are already brittle. For these volumes, steps must be taken in the next few years, by microfilming, photocopying, or scanning into computer systems. The idea here is not to preserve the hooks–it’s too late for that–but to preserve the information they contain.

“The Log-on Library,” by Aaron Levin, in Johns Hopkins Magazine,
February 1992, pp. 12-19

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