The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 17, Number 2
Sep 1993


ISO Paper Permanence Standard Approved

The news traveled by fax and phone around the world as soon as it was known, about two weeks before press time: The international standard for paper permanence, ISO 9706, has been approved by the ISO Central Secretariat. Soon the countries that have been doing without a standard or making do with the standards of other countries can adopt it as their own. No one can use it till it is published, months from now.

CEN, the European standards body, decided in 1990 not to write its own standard, but to wait for the ISO standard then in the works. It will be mandatory for all CEN members to adopt any standard accepted by CEN.

The full title of the new standard is "ISO 9706 Information and Documentation--Paper for Documents--Requirements for Permanence." ("Document" is defined as "paper upon which information is recorded," so it includes books too.) It was drawn up by a working group with the daunting title of "ISO/TC 46/SC 10/WG 1," which, translated, means:

International Organization for Standardization
Technical Committee 46
Subcommittee 10
Working Group 1.

Its members are drawn from collection-holding institutions, the paper industry, and related organizations, and come from a dozen or so countries, including the U.S. Rolland Aubey of Wisconsin is the U.S. delegate to SC 10, and Rolf Dahlø of Norway is the SC 10 convener (chair). Per Olof Bethge of Sweden is the WG 1 convener.

Working Group 2 in SC 10 is working on a standard for archival paper (i.e., paper for very long-term use and storage).

The new standard's requirements in the next-to-last revision, which are probably unchanged in the final version, are very similar to those of ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992. They cover tear resistance, alkaline reserve (2%), resistance to oxidation (kappa number less than 5.0) and pH 7.5 to 10.0 for both inner and outer layers of the paper (by aqueous extract, or manufacturers' certification). Since use of standards is voluntary, consumers may refer either to ANSI/ NISO Z39.48 or to ISO 9706, or to any other standard they choose, when they buy paper.

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