The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 16, Number 4
Aug 1992


RLG Preservation Microfilming Handbook. Nancy E. Elkington, editor. Mountain View, Calif., Research Libraries Group, 1992. x, 203 p., 28 cm. Wire binding.

Reviewed by Ralph W. Manning
Manager, Canadian Cooperative Preservation Project, Ottawa

This work was first published in 1983 as the RLG Preservation Manual--it was revised in a second edition in 1986. Between 1986 and 1990 much progress was made in streamlining and improving procedures and techniques for preservation microfilming. The experience gained through the numerous cooperative preservation microfilming projects coordinated by RLG provided significant input to the changes reflected in the present version of the document. The guidelines were revised through an ambitious effort coordinated and funded by RLG to develop a consensus of a knowledgeable and well-respected group of experts.

The result is a handsome, convenient reference tool which is must reading for anybody undertaking preservation microfilming. It is also an excellent review for those already involved in preservation microfilming. The document is divided into several sections. The "overview" is a concise and extremely useful 10-page summary of the procedures involved in preservation microfilming. The Guidelines themselves are succinct and clear. They are supported by 22 appendices which provide detailed information on many diverse aspects of microfilming such as sample RFIs and RFPs, reel programming, defects on camera negatives and polysulfide treatment of microfilm. A detailed index guides the reader to the appropriate sections of the handbook.

Appendix 2 ("Operational impact of filming projects on library units") and Appendix 3 ("Considerations when expanding preservation microfilming capacity") are particularly recommended as excellent preparation for libraries considering preservation microfilming; they are well-written, well organized and thorough.

Although many of the guidelines and appendices refer to procedures and techniques specific to RLG, their inclusion can provide expert guidance to other organizations. This handbook is very readable and easily understood. It is an invaluable document for preservation microfilming and an important addition to the literature.

It is important to return to RLG the reply card contained in the Handbook. This will ensure that the purchaser receives copies of errata sheets that may be issued from time to time. There has already been a revision to the guideline which describes production and inspection procedures for microfilm density.

A Library, Media, and Archival Preservation Glossary by John N. DePew, with C. Lee Jones. $59 from ABCClio, 130 Cremona Dr., PO Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911. 1992 192 pp.

Reviewed by Ellen McCrady

This book will be most useful to people who are getting into preservation microfilming, because 25% of the entries relate to that field. They are provided by Lee Jones, President of the MicrogrAphics Preservation Service.

The rest of the entries will not be so useful. They were apparently compiled mostly from printed sources in a variety of fields, like the entries in the Roberts & Etherington dictionary, Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books. This book suffers from the drawbacks of that method. Sometimes obvious sources of good definitions have been overlooked (Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, ABC for Book Collectors), or words are included that are never used in preservation circles at all (black liquor, couching roll). Some topics are not covered well enough. There seems to be nothing on particulate or gaseous pollutants, smoke detectors or sprinkler systems, though Halon does rate an entry.

Some definitions are too narrow, others unclear. Too many of them are wrong or questionable: Polyvinyl acetate (PVA) adhesive is said to be internally plasticized (though not all are) and safe to use (though some kinds or batches may contain unreacted monomers, which are not safe-see AATA 29/1, p. 26); rag paper is defined as "paper made from rags, especially cotton rags," but before 1800 or so it was linen rags because cotton was scarce and expensive, and for most of this century cotton linters, not rags, have been used to make most "rag paper"; "wove" is said to mean "a wire mark on a sheet of paper" (wove paper has no wire marks); and the author seems to have "white water" (which is the circulating water in a paper mill) confused with both black liquor from a pulp mill and waste water from a photo processing lab. Now, most of the entries are appropriate and the definitions for them reflect current usage; but there are too many errors in this book to make it dependable.

The problem with glossaries, according to the McCrady theory, is that the people who feel the need for a glossary don't know enough to write them for other people like themselves, and after they learn enough to write one, they no longer want to. I think they can see, in retrospect, that what they really needed anyhow was more knowledge, not a book to look up words in. This is why good glossaries are few and far between. (Even ABC for Book Collectors has some strange entries.)

The average person who is working in an isolated area, or who is new to the field, might do better to use that $59 purchase price toward working up their network of knowledgeable friends and advisors by going to conferences, corresponding and making long-distance calls. Such networks will supplement reading, formal study and experience in the person's educational program and will considerably reduce the need for a glossary. (lC2)

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