The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 12, Number 6
Sep 1988

Reformatting Discussed at ALA

by Ellen McCrady


Preservation photocopying has been exciting some interest among PLMS and RLMS members--that is, people belonging to the Preservation of Library Materials Section and the Reproduction of Library Materials Section. It was discussed in the Preservation Administrators' Discussion Group, in the RLMS Committee on Copying and the Discussion Group, and in a group chaired by Wes Boomgaarden that is exploring the possibility of a photocopying pre-conference or institute. It came up in the PA Discussion Group as a form of preservation that small and medium sized research libraries could carry out in connection with a national preservation program, if they are not in the Big League that will be doing 95% of the microfilming. (Nearly everyone at the table had seen the Commission on Preservation and Access's draft outline of a plan of action for getting those three million significant brittle books filmed, and did not like the way it proposed to get the job done through major grants to about 20 major institutions.) Even though many smaller libraries may never have a microfilming program, they don't want to be left out.

Randy Silverman presented his plan, "Shared Archival Photocopying for Titles Out of Copyright." Questions were raised concerning standards, searching, bibliographical control, storage of masters, distribution of copies, and costs. Although some at the table were still opposed to it in the end, the discussion generated serious interest in photocopying as a possible component of a national preservation policy. The discussion took place in the context of the first item on the agenda, "Participation in a National Preservation Effort." There was no time to discuss the other two items. Barclay Ogden, the chair, will try to get more than two hours allotted next time.

In the RLMS Copying Committee, the results of an exploratory survey on photocopying on alkaline paper were reported, giving respondents' preferences in various equipment features, and their use of various papers and machines. There will be no written report because it was not a controlled study and does not accurately reflect current usage. The whole meeting was spent on preservation photocopying, although this committee is usually concerned only with public service and interlibrary loan. The charge of the committee will be rewritten to include preservation. Most of the people at the meeting were from preservation.

Wesley Boomgaarden is spearheading the consideration of a future photocopying institute. He has invented a new abbreviation, which I have a feeling we'd all better get used to: p.x., which stands for preservation xerography. Some of the issues he has identified, besides some of those brought up in the PA Discussion Group, are: retention of illustrative materials, contractual vs. in-house arrangements, and the future of color photocopying.

In the RIMS Discussion Group, Gay Walker and Wes Boomgaarden described the photocopying programs at their libraries. At Yale, worn materials from Circulation are searched and reviewed with bibliographers. In deciding what to do with each book, they ask the following four questions:

a) Do we want to keep this book in the collection? b) Do we want it in the original format? c) Is the paper brittle or flexible? d) If it is to be replaced, which new format do we want--a purchased reprint, photocopy or microfilm?

A photocopy costs half as much as a Copyflo paper copy from microfilm.

At Ohio State, the conditions that dictate xerography are pretty much the same as elsewhere: heavy use, color or high quality black and white illustrations, or large or odd format. Colored illustrations are encapsulated and bound into one of the copies they make, and the copies are not let out on loan. They are shelved in a restricted area because there is no master.

Some concern was expressed because these programs were preserving without increasing access--i.e., without making a master from which other libraries could purchase copies--and because no national record was made of the search. The next library that needed to replace their copy of that title would have to search all over again. It was suggested that these objections could be overcome if the national master was a digital record, from which any type of copy--microfilm, fiche or paper--could be made.

There were two photocopy machines designed for safe copying of books in the exhibit hall. They are described in the equipment section of this issue.


Everyone agreed that the panel on "Preservation Micro-filming: The Art of Contracting for Services" was well done and useful. It was taped for ALA, so anyone who wants to can have their own record of everything that was said. Ask for Tape #LA 8880ab, which costs $20 plus shipping and handling, from ACTS, Inc., 14153 Clayton Rd., Ballwin, MO 63011 (314/ 394-0611).

Several large libraries are now contracting out their microfilming successfully. Representatives from the University of Chicago (Sherry Byrne), the National Library of Medicine (Margaret Byrnes), Ohio State University (Wes Boomgaarden), and Harvard Law Library (Harry Martin) described their experiences and so did three filmers. Two sample microfilming contracts were handed out, one of them for micropublishing work.

Because preservation microfilming is slower and more exacting than the usual run of work, much attention has to be given to good clear communication, quality control and costs. A contract on a piece of paper is not as important as a clear understanding, which may be spelled out in a letter to start with, especially for a short-term agreement. Trial periods are useful for assessing costs and specifications. Quality control is the responsibility of the library, though not all libraries exercise that responsibility; it may be necessary to buy special equipment to monitor quality, and arrange for a lot of special training. A number of different services can be contracted for: searching and preparation (including collation and preparation of targets), bibliographical control, storage and distribution of the microfilm. As with library binding, it is a good idea to visit the plant, ask questions, and stay in touch with the contractor.

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