The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 13, Number 7
Nov 1989


ALA in Dallas, June 1989

The American Library Association met in Dallas last June and as always, it was the place to be to keep up with the latest developments in library preservation and even to hear informally about developments still in the pipeline. Although events cannot be reported in this Newsletter until they actually take place, trends can. What follows is taken from papers and notes generously sent by two people who attended.

There seemed to be five salient topics in the discussions in the various committees of the Preservation of Library Materials Section (PLMS): library construction and renovation, retention of volumes after microfilming, collections conservation, needed and ongoing research, and education for preservation.

Library construction and renovation was discussed in the Physical Quality and Treatment Committee and the Education Committee. In PQT, Lisa Fox of SOLINET said there was a growing interest, in the southeast at any rate, in minimum specifications for building design, and perhaps making them mandatory for construction and rehabilitation projects funded through the Library Services and Construction Act. Somebody mentioned their appropriateness for members of LIBER, the European Community's version of ARL. And in the very active Education Committee, they were considering sponsoring a program on "Preservation Considerations in Library Construction and Renovation." The scope of this suggested conference or preconference program is given:

In addition to the obvious, the program should address such issues such as: adding modern improvements (such as HVAC systems and sprinkler systems) to older buildings not designed to support them, remote storage facilities, compact storage, and balancing aesthetics, service, comfort, and preservation requirements.

If the California earthquake had happened before the meeting, earthquake resistant construction would probably have been in that list too.

There seems to be a groundswell of interest in retaining volumes after microfilming, because it came up at three different times: the PLMS Discussion Group, and the PLMS/ RLMS Reporting Session (twice). It was suggested in the discussion group that the number of volumes discarded after filming be included in the ARL Preservation Statistics. Merrily Smith of the National Preservation Program Office said that at the May 1989 symposium in Washington, "Managing the Preservation of Serial Literature, a big issue was whether to preserve in the original format: in Europe they preserve one copy of everything in the original format. And Margaret Byrnes, in describing the national program for preservation of the biomedical literature, said that the National Library of Medicine was requesting that the originals of filmed books be preserved by participating libraries.

The topic of collections conservators--their training and duties--came up in three committees and will probably be developed further at the next meeting in January. The preservation of discrete collections, such as the Newberry' s collection on book arts, is a different matter. It was discussed in the PQT Discussion Group, because concern is growing about the effect of microfilming programs on the integrity of subject collections built up over many years and regarded by scholars as mother lodes. To microfilm a volume that needs another sort of preservation, or to split up a collection by microfilming only a part of it, or to leave a gap because that title is being preserved by another library in the cooperative plan, destroys the integrity of that collection. It was felt that it was not enough to make a title available to a reader through other libraries, or to use only one means of preservation; a range of preservation methods should be used for deteriorated books, appropriate for the variety of problems they exhibit, and these methods should be used first on the titles in the most precarious condition, for which there is reader demand.

Research needs were discussed in two committees, and a list was compiled in order of priority. The top item, a cost analysis of the effectiveness of controlling environmental conditions to extend the lives of books, certainly could use some attention and has had very little. The second, comparative data on mass deacidification, is already getting attention. There have been three publications comparing them recently, and there are three or four groups and one scientist busy comparing the different methods in this country and Canada, including the Library of Congress, which will evaluate the different methods very closely before accepting a bid. Paper strengthening, the third item, will be commercially available at a modest cost by 1991, as a side effect of the Lithco deacidification process. There has been a great deal of research on this topic already.

Education, always a central concern where preservation is involved, was discussed in two committees besides the Education Committee. In the reporting session, it was announced that NEH was accepting applications for two new categories of grants: 1) a preservation administrator training stipend of $27,500, which would enable an experienced librarian or archivist to attend the Preservation Administrator Program at Columbia University School of Library Service, and 2) statewide preservation planning projects to create cooperative long-range plans for the preservation of a state s resources, including not only printed books, but archival, manuscript, visual and documentary materials. For further information about these two activities and any other types of possible grant support, contact the Office of Preservation (National Endowment for the Humanities, Room 802, 110 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20506, 202/786-0570). The office continues to maintain two deadlines per year: December 1 and June 1.

In another group discussion, those present deplored the too-common assumption, by librarians not familiar with preservation, that anyone can do it, and furthermore, that any amateur can write a preservation manual. The problem here was the low value sometimes put on education for this work.

The Education Committee itself is hitting on all cylinders. Part of its time at this meeting was spent considering an annotated list of program possibilities, submitted by the Subcommittee on Future Programs. There were 14 items, of which 11 were classified as high priority. Notes under each gave scope/rationale, format, and possible cosponsors. Unfortunately, only a few of these can be implemented. The Committee will also work on preservation input for Library Week, 1992.

At this June meeting, there was a two-hour open program on "The Evolving Nationwide Preservation Program: A Report on Progress." It was sponsored by PLMS and the ALA/SAA Joint Committee on Library-Archive Relationships. Speakers were Patricia Battin, Carolyn Morrow, Paul Conway, George Farr, and Barclay Ogden. Topics covered were alkaline paper, statewide programs, the SAA program of preservation education and outreach, and NEH Office of Preservation, the Commission on Preservation and Access, and the Berkeley program.

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