The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 10, Number 4
Aug 1986


An Unprecedented Conference

by Ellen McCrady

The Library Association's annual conference at Harrogate, September 8-11, is described by the LA and its co-sponsor, the National Preservation Office of the British Library, as a major event. This is not an exaggeration. It has the best title of any conference on preservation, ever: "Preserving the Word: Past imperfect, Future Imperative." Speakers and session chairmen include Alex Wilson (president of IA); Chairman of the British Library Board; Dr. Ratcliffe (author of the Ratcliffe Report, announced in AN Feb. 1985; and University Librarian at Cambridge); David Clements (Director of the Preservation Service at the BL); Kenneth Cooper (Chief Executive of the British Library); and many other administrators already involved in preservation. David Stam and Sandy Dolnick from the U.S. will also speak. Well-known conservators and preservation administrators John McIntyre, Alan Howell, Brian Hutton, Anthony Cains, and Nicholas Pickwoad are on the program. There will be three post-conference seminars: Access to the Historical Record, European Conference on Library Automation, and Museums of the History of the Book, all on 11-12 September.

The significance of this conference can only be appreciated by Americans if they try to imagine the American Library Association putting aside all their other concerns for one year, and devoting the entire annual conference to conservation and preservation. The conference would be co-sponsored by the Library of Congress. There would be no concurrent sessions. Topics covered would include international programs in preservation, policy planning, preservation in Texas and New York, preservation in academic, public and special libraries, practical issues (conservation), fund raising, use of commercially available preservation services, edition binding, education, the Florence Flood, optical disc technology for preservation, and mass storage and treatments. Daniel Boorstein, the Librarian of Congress, would speak on the future of preservation. The new head of the Society of American Archivists would chair one session, and there would be reduced rates for SAA members.

In reply to a letter of inquiry, R. E. Palmer, Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive of LA, wrote, "We have chosen conservation as the exclusive subject of our Annual Conference, as a subject very close to the heart of our current President, Alex Wilson, who established the National Preservation Office of the British Library, of which, I am sure, you have heard. In terms of size, however, you must not equate our annual event with the ALA' a June gathering--our event is much smaller and of a somewhat different nature to yours."

I disagree about the comparability of the two events. The United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland) has a population less than a quarter as large as that of the United States, but the Library Association has 24,000 members, 63% as many as the ALA with 38,000 members.

The fee is £75 for members, £95 (about $140) for nonmembers; no refunds after August 4. Write Rob Palmer, the Library Association, 7 Ridgmount St., London WC1E 7AE, England.

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