The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 16, Number 2
Apr 1992


LC Has an Action Plan for Deacidification Program

[The following text is from the first few pages of a report issued January 1992 by the Preservation Directorate at the Library of Congress. Entitled "Action Plan for the Mass Deacidification Program and Survey of Mass Deacidification and Paper Strengthening Activities, " it describes in its 42 pages each of the 25 different institutions or deacidification facilities visited.]

In September of 1990, the Library issued a Request For Proposals for deacidification of its book collections. On August 30, 1991, the Library canceled the solicitation because the Library's panel of experts who reviewed the vendors' proposals determined that none met all of the Library's technical requirements.

The panel found that one firm, Akzo Chemicals which uses diethyl zinc (DEZ), met the preservation requirements, but found an unacceptable level of odor and an iridescent discoloration on some of the demonstration books. The evaluation panel found that the Akzo process had the potential to resolve these problems and thus meet all of the Library's requirements.

Congress denied funds requested in the FY 1992 Budget for deacidification services. Funds available from prior appropriations were "frozen" pending a survey of current activities in deacidification and review of the Library's plan of action.

In the last few months, Gerald Garvey and Dr. Donald Sebera visited most of the firms and major institutions in the world offering or evaluating mass deacidification services (25 in all). As a result of the survey, the Library has determined that there is currently no alternative superior to Akzo Chemicals' DEZ process. Other processes, however, may have potential for future commercialization.

Therefore, the Library proposes the following plan of action to correct the remaining problems with Akzo's DEZ technology and to contract for deacidification services in graduated increments.

Action Plan

A. Award a development contract to Akzo Chemicals.
FY 1992

Objective: Resolve odor, discoloration, and other problems.

Duration 12 months Estimated cost: $375 K
Discussion: Akzo has indicated that they would cooperate with the Library in a series of tests focused on resolving the outstanding concerns. They are willing to provide without cost chemical engineers, plant operators and other experts to assist in designing tests and analyzing the results of tests to resolve specific problems in processed books. The Library will provide preservation and scientific expertise, as well as analytical support. Operational costs would be shared between the Library and Akzo Chemicals. This would result in reasonable contractor risk and provide incentive for efficient and economical performance.

If the Library decides that problems with processed books have not been corrected, it would not proceed to "B."

B. Award a contract to Akzo for limited services
FY 1993

Objective: Demonstrate successful deacidification services at a limited production scale.

Duration: 12 months Estimated cost: $750 K

Discussion: Based on Akzo's success in meeting all technical requirements, item "A" above, the Library would contract for deacidification services at a limited production level that would allow meaningful experience with preserving library collections. Priority might be given to materials that are coming to the Library from former Republics of the USSR and the Eastern European countries. These books are historically valuable but are frequently printed on paper which is highly vulnerable to acid embrittlement. The quantities of materials are manageable. The Library plans on contracts that do not exceed 50,000 books.

C. Contract for mass deacidification services.
FY 1994-1999

Objective: Implement, as soon as is prudently possible, the mass deacidification of the collections.

Duration: 5 years Cost: $4.5 million per production year
Discussion: After successful experience with deacidification operations at a limited production level, the Library would solicit proposals for deacidification of 300,000 books per year from the General and Law collections.

Consider soliciting in three ways:

  1. Contractor owned, contractor operated facility
  2. Government owned, contractor operated facility
  3. Government owned, government operated facility

The long term goal for the mass deacidification program continues to be treatment of one million books a year.

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