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Structured Glossary of Technical Terms–

Commission on Preservation and Access

[Document Tree]
The Selection Process


2. The Selection Process 18
The Selection Process refers to the means whereby original documents are selected for preservation purposes. The choice of selection strategy may be intrinsically affected by the choice of preservation or media conversion technology used (see 3.1), since the latter may well affect costs and other parameters associated with the former. Thus, the total costs of preservation will be a complex combination of the effects of selection strategy and choice of technology.

Thus, for example, with the use of microform (3.1.4), it is highly desirable (if not imperative) to obtain a complete copy of the document to be preserved prior to recording. This may require replacing missing or damaged pages from the prime copy being microfilmed, and the expense of obtaining these pages from copies held in other libraries. Microfilming also places a premium on recording only once. With the use of digital technologies (3.1.5), on the other hand, such replacement pages could be scanned at a later date and electronically “edited” into the main electronic document: with digital technologies, it may in fact be cheaper to scan more than one copy to facilitate such “editing” rather than to expend excessive manual labor on assembling the most perfect paper copy possible prior to microfilming.

The following is a brief–and very over-simplified–classification of selection methodologies. It is only intended to sketch the range of possibilities and not to do full justice to the complexity of this subject. It merely indicates some of the main lines of strategy or process used in selecting documents for preservation. Furthermore, often a combination of approaches is used rather than any single approach, with the actual condition of the document being the dominant factor in the choice.

In all cases, the “universe” of documents to which the selection strategies outlined in this Section are applied is those documents that are deteriorating or are likely to deteriorate, such as brittle books or, more generally, books printed on acidic paper. “Preservation”, however, may also be applied to the conversion onto other media of materials that, while in quite good condition, are scarce or unique, thus allowing patrons to handle facsimiles instead of the precious originals.

The term “essentially all documents” is used below to define documents from within the former universe that fit within the indicated selection strategy, while allowing that a number of these selected documents may yet be rejected following review for various reasons (such as having deteriorated to the point that preservation is not possible, or because it has been determined that the document has already been preserved elsewhere).

2.1. By Title
Selection is made from among individual works, perhaps by professional bibliographers who, possibly working in consultation with others, make a determination of the value of the selected work to a given collection, discipline, or field of study.
2.2. By Category
Selection is made by choosing essentially all documents from a within a given category, such as within a given time period, or of a given format (for example, all newspapers), subject classification, special collection, or, say, American imprint. The essence of this approach is that all documents within the category be readily and conveniently definable and accessible, without having to resort to time-consuming selection processes.

Colloquially, this approach is sometimes erroneously termed the vacuum cleaner approach”, an appellation that is overly pejorative insofar as some prior review is almost always made to reject materials within a category that for various reasons are not suitable or desirable for preservation. In particular, a check is made to ensure that the material has not already been preserved.

Selection, for example, by time period permits the focus of effort on those periods of highest risk of deterioration with respect to paper-manufacturing processes.

2.3 By Bibliography
Selection is made by choosing essentially all documents specified in a published bibliography.
2.4. By Use
Selection is made by choosing essentially all documents in poor condition that are actually used by patrons as judged by some criterion such as, for example, frequency of circulation.
2.5. By Condition
Selection is made by preserving the documents in the worst physical condition.

The foregoing are examples of selection according to certain established criteria. Selection may also be made according to established procedures:

2.6. By Scholarly Advisory Committee
Selection is made with the assistance of a committee of scholars knowledgeable in a particular field who choose the material they consider to be of most importance to that field.
2.7. By Conspectus
Selection is made from institutional collections determined in a program initiated by the Research Libraries Group (RLG) 19 and described in the RLG Conspectus. The Conspectus describes collections on various levels from Level O (Out-of-Scope, a level which is in fact non-existent), through Level 4 (Research), to Level 5 (Comprehensive). Collection development officers (selectors) in about 50 major research libraries in the U.S. have evaluated their own collections to provide such brief descriptions. The Conspectus can be used as one of several means to determine “Great Collections.”
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