The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 5, Number 6
Dec 1981

Priorities in Library and Archival Conservation II.
National Preservation Program Conference

by Ellen McCrady

Last April this Newsletter published a survey of leading opinion on "Priorities in Library and Archival Conservation," in which needs and priorities were listed under major headings and identified by the initials of the person or group expressing them. Seven such persons or groups--call them sources--were surveyed, four of which had been present or represented at an earlier colloquium called "Funding and Identifying Priorities in Archival and Library Conservation" in May 1980 at the University of Maryland.

One significant source had to be omitted from the compilation at that time: the Planning Conference for a National Preservation Program, held at the Library of Congress in December 1976. The proceedings of this conference were not published soon enough to be included in the compilation in April, so they are presented separately here. To facilitate comparison with the original survey, the needs and priorities identified at this conference are listed under the same major headings used for the first list. Each entry is identified by speaker and page number in A National Preservation Program: Proceedings of the Planning Conference (Conference convened by the Library of Congress Preservation Office, Washington, D.C., December 16-17, 1976. Order from Superintendent of Documents, USGPO, Washington, DC 20402. Order No.: 030-00000121-4. $4.00. 126 pp.).

For several reasons the 1976 conference has to be described more fully than the programs and recommendations in the first article. The agenda for discussion was comprehensive in mature and was consciously oriented to the suggested program's historical antecedents. It was discussed for two days by 60 leaders in library and archival conservation. Over 25 participants took part in the discussions, the transcript of which makes up about 40% of the published proceedings.

The proceedings, by the way, name so many needs and priorities, and offer so many recommendations, cautions, and facts, that it was impossible to extract all the relevant material in the time available. The proceedings probably should one day be systematically and thoroughly analyzed to bring out the less explicit points as well as the more obvious ones, so that the proceedings cam be more easily used for reference purposes.

Frazer C. Poole, who served as chairman, provided participants with a working paper containing a statement of the problem and a suggested 18-point program to deal with it. This working paper was somehow omitted from the published proceedings. Since it provided a framework for the discussions and is not easy to find elsewhere, it has been reprinted at the end of this article. The November 1976 version of that paper is used in preference to the later version reprinted in Baker & Soroka1 . It was distributed as a separate, and also appeared in the Association of Research Libraries SPEC Kit 35, Preservation of Library Materials (August 1977).

Warren J. Haas made a 10-point summary of the conference which appears on p.123 and 124 of the proceedings. Every point made in his summary or in Poole's working paper is included in the list. Most of the statements about needs that were made by other participants were included too, even if they did not directly recommend any changes but only implied that a need existed. Statements about bad conditions which must be taken into account or gotten used to were passed over. Many participants' statements about which other participants disagreed were included. Among the participants, the degree of consensus for items in the list varies all the way from meager to complete.

It seems in the mature of discussions like this that people assign priority only to a) significant goals which seen b) possible to achieve, and which c) are not making satisfactory progress at the moment. Importance is a factor, but not the only one. This results in some odd omissions here. For instance, mass deacidification was not explicitly put forward as a priority at this conference, though it was a matter of widespread interest. Perhaps the listeners were satisfied that things were progressing well in that area, because at the beginning of the conference John Williams had reported on progress in the Library of Congress's research in mass deacidification.

There is another interesting phenomenon in the goal--and priority-setting process. This is the way that a problem loses visibility and its solution loses status just as soon as a solution is found that works. The solution, at first so welcome and so magical, becomes just something prosaic that someone has to do now, perhaps as an annoying extra step in a complex process.

Although yesterday's needs are stale news, they should be kept track of as tine goes by and as the goals related to them are accomplished, so that progress can be measured, and credit given where it is due. More than anyone else, Pamela Darling has been keeping track of recent developments on the national scene, and making sure the National Preservation Program stayed in the spotlight even when the ad hoc Advisory Committee seemed to be accomplishing little in the way of planning and coordinating the implementation of the national plan. In an article in the Library Journal for April 1, 1980, she drew attention to several significant advances since the 1976 conference, including greater public and professional awareness, increased coverage of preservation topics in library school courses, the preservation institute at Columbia University in July 1978, the new training program for conservators and conservation administrators, the establishment of CAN and PLMS and the increase in professional books and journal articles about preservation. These recent advances should be kept in mind as one reads the 5-year-old recommendations.


The participants quoted here, and their positions at the time of the conference, are:

Norbert Baer (Co-Chairman, Conservation Center, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU)

Paul Banks (Conservator, Newberry Library)

Daniel Boorstin (Librarian of Congress)

George H. Cunha (Director/Conservator, New England Document Conservation Center)

Pamela N. Darling (Chairman, RTSD Preservation Committee, American Library Association)

Robert L. Feller (Director, Center on the Materials of the Artist and Conservator, Carnegie-Mellon University)

Warren J. Haas (Vice-President, Information Services and University Librarian, Columbia University Libraries)

L. Clark Hamilton (Deputy Register, Copyright Office, Library of Congress)

Joseph Leiter (Associate Director for Library Operations, National Library of Medicine)

Lachlan F. MacRae (Associate Librarian, National Library of Canada)

Frazer G. Poole (Assistant Director for Preservation,

Library of Congress)

Lawrence S. Robinson (Preservation Microfilming Officer, Library of Congress)

Rutherford D. Rogers (University Librarian, Yale) Stephen R. Salmon (Executive Director for Systemwide Library Planning, University of California, Berkeley) James Skipper (President, Research Libraries Group) Richard D. Smith (Conservation Scientist, Wei T'o Associates)

David H. Stan (Director, Association of Research Libraries) Alphonse F. Trezza (Executive Director, National Commission on Libraries and Information Science)

Allen B. Veaner (Office of the University Librarian, University of California Santa Barbara)

Forestier Walker (Director, W.J. Barrow Laboratory)

Peter Waters (Restoration Officer, Library of Congress)

Gordon R. Williams (Director, Center for Research Libraries)

List of Needs and Priorities

1. Surveys, Study and Planning Projects

a. Small steering committee to steer toward action beginning immediately - Haas p.123

b. Set up a commission to study ideas advanced at the conference and make recommendations on how to solve then - Feller p.91

c. Surveys of major research libraries to develop preservation microfilming priorities - Poole, working paper (NP)

2. Recruitment, Education, Training

a. Training program for conservators of library materials - NP

b. Thorough training for conservation administrators, conservators and conservation technicians, with first priority going to the training of a cadre of conservators - Banks, p.51-59

c. National workshops in conservation for librarians, on a regional basis - NP

d. Education of librarians and archivists about conservation problems through publications, programs, courses and seminars - Banks p.55

e. Library schools should integrate information about preservation matters into their curricula - Salmon p.63

f. More trained people, at different levels - Haas p.124

g. The Library of Congress (LC) should participate in local and regional workshops and seminars - Salmon p.63

h. Supervision, counseling and instruction in book repair for library mending personnel - Darling p.102

i. Public awareness; awareness among professionals -Haas p.124; Feller p.49-50

3. Publications, Communication, Information Services

a. LC should expand its information program in the entire preservation area - Salmon p.63

b. ALA, ARL and other professional organizations must play a more interested and active role [in dissemination of information] - Salmon p.63

c. Regularized communication and easy flow of information - Haas p.124

d. A journal publishing refereed articles on conservation research, research in progress, or information ready to put to practical use - Baer p.114, Feller p.116, Veaner p.116, Salmon p.63

e. Conservation columns in the major library journals for disseminating reliable information - Baer p.114

f. Continuing and widespread publicity on the availability of disaster handbooks and recovery facilities - Salmon p.62

g. Training aids (films or videotapes) for librarians, especially for use in LC workshops or seminars - WP

h. Accurate and authoritative information available at the right place, at the right time - Salmon p.62

i. Mending manuals: a widely distributed series of illustrated, instructional mending manuals for nonprofessional personnel engaged in mending, and emphasizing safe repairs Darling p.102

5. Accurate, reliable information on requirements for space, equipment and personnel for various types and sizes of preservation facilities Salmon p.64

4. Scientific and Technical Aspects

a. More manpower in scientific research and technical support - Feller p.48

b. A balance between basic, applied and developmental research, with more attention being given to developmental research - Feller p.48

c. Continuous (not one or two years at a time) basic support of the scientific labs in the field - Feller p.49

d. Leadership in conservation research - Feller p.49

e. Effective collaboration among the Library of Congress, the Barrow Lab, the National Bureau of Standards, and whoever else is working in this area -Waters p.114

f. Improvement of book paper - NP

g. Organized economic pressure by libraries on the book industry to improve the quality of books - Leiter p.121

h. Persuade publishers to improve structure and binding of books currently produced - Stam p.120

i. A "Seal of Approval," perhaps by the ARL, for books that are printed on permanent/durable paper -Skipper p.120

5. Investigate how to strengthen deteriorating books -Walker p.112, Smith p.113

k. More empirical study of the effects of cold storage on paper - Smith and Poole p.113

l. A much wider testing program for the kind of routine materials that are being used daily in libraries -Darling p.115

m. Raise consciousness of suppliers of materials -Darling p.102-103

5. Conservation Labs and Programs

a. Active, effective conservation activity in every research library - Haas p.124

b. Improve storage conditions in existing libraries -Banks p.84

c. Bring existing mending practices into line with what we already know about conservation principles -Darling p.102

6. Reproduction (Text Preservation) and Reproduction Equipment

a. Microfilm the brittle materials published during the last century - WP

b. Develop standards (both bibliographic and technical) for microfilming materials in the national program - NP

c. Facilities for microfilming the national preservation copies of books when library copies become too deteriorated for use - WP

d. Diazo and vesicular microfilm copies for reference use, to save the originals - MacRae p.117-118

e. More durable microform products - Veaner p.116

f. Information on the problem of 5-spots, or negative microfilm blemishes - Salmon p.63

7. Regional & Cooperative Centers & Programs

a. A procedure under which participating research libraries would contribute master microfilm negatives to the national preservation center - NP

b. Regional centers for the conservation of library and archival materials, supervised by the Library of Congress - WP

c. Regional preservation and conservation centers, not necessarily under the Library of Congress, to perform services and disseminate information - Salmon p.62, Cunha p.105

d. Guidelines for regional centers that will encourage getting them started at once - Trezza p.111

8. Legislation, Grants, National Policy

a. Low temperature storage, perhaps underground and at a distance from cities, for master microfilm negatives, deteriorated books and national preservation copies - NP

b. A national preservation copy of each copyrighted item, under a revised copyright law that night specify a third deposit copy for the purpose - NP

c. An effective mechanism [in dealing with future materials] to determine what is a publication, capture it, and provide security and preservation, perhaps supported by the author fee on copyright material - Hamilton p.67-71

d. A reduced temperature storage facility if this proves technically and economically feasible - Haas p.123

e. A national preservation microfilming center dedicated solely to microfilming deteriorating materials - NP

f. A national collection of master negative films -Haas p.123

g. Effective bibliographic control procedures for microfilmed materials through a national network and clearing house - NP

h. Bibliographic control system that indicates location, format, character, condition, and maybe even the intellectual value of each item - Haas p.124

i. A suitable record-keeping facility to record the materials taken into the preservation collections and to disseminate such information when necessary - NP

j. Emergency salvage teams provided by the LC - NP

k. Develop a national capacity that will provide us with options among which individuals, acting in their professional capacities, can choose - Haas p.124

l. The National Collection of Microform Masters has to be reliable and response tine must be fast - Haas p.124

9. Ethics, Philosophy, Workmanship

a. Guidance for selection of books to retain or copy -Waters p.26, Poole p.71


The Planning Conference from which this list was drawn predates (and therefore could have influenced) all but one of the sources included in the previous list, and there is considerable overlap of personnel. Therefore, it is not surprising to find the two lists similar in most categories. It is surprising, however, that the NPP Conference made almost no mention of standards, while the combined list included twenty!

Section #4, on scientific and technical aspects, is fuller here and includes several points that did not appear in the combined list. However, Sections #5 and 7, on conservation labs/programs and regional centers, are relatively skimpy, perhaps because the emphasis of the conference was on the national and administrative aspects of the problem. In Section #8, which covers national policy, this is clearly the case. The NPP list is longer and concentrates on the brittle book problem.

Debatable Issues

An interesting part of the task of teasing out and compiling these statements of need has been the discovery of controversy ranging in importance from basic to trivial and sometimes paralleling social and political issues in the larger society. Some of these issues were recognized or debated at the conference; more of then came out when the various statements were compiled and compared.

One wonders, of course, how disagreements among leading professionals might affect achievement of a national program, but it is reassuring, first of all, to see in this field a healthy degree of consensus on major goals, and secondly, to recall how a certain degree of dissent has historically accompanied most group action toward common goals, the most famous example being the framing of the United States Constitution.

Probably, in the future, the greatest and earliest progress in conservation will take place in areas of greatest consensus. In some areas, progress may not be handicapped or even affected by dissent, because it will not need to take place through centrally-made policies, or because such policies may be set without consulting professional opinion (as might happen if underground storage were made necessary by war). In other areas, progress may have to take place through compromise, by domination or persuasion of one group by another, or by alternate application of contrasting policies. In still other areas, an informed and intelligent consensus may be the direct result of free discussion of controversial matters. In any case, in the interest of informing the electorate, the issues are outlined below.

Of the eight disagreements or controversies that were spotted in the discussions, three (#1-3 below) related to a more fundamental issue: How much shall we concentrate our resources and focus our efforts in order to get the best effect? This is an issue that seems to crop up in many fields of endeavor and never to be settled for good. Perhaps it is a functional part of the endeavor itself, a reflection of a need for a dynamic balance between two principles like affection and strictness in parenthood or speed and accuracy in typing (which are not really mutually exclusive) or steering neither too far to the right nor too far to the left in driving a car, or balancing science and the humanities in a model curriculum (which are mutually exclusive).

1. Selective vs. balanced development of the various parts of a national plan

Banks p.105: ... The most urgent task is to enlarge that body of really competent people. I believe it is essential to expand this base of knowledge first; then the other things [manuals, workshops] can start happening.

Poole p.85: I think we are pinpointing some of the things that have to be done in developing what Paul Banks designated as a grand scheme.

Darling p.102: [Speaking of training] Even if we had the tine to start at the top and take advantage of a "multiplier effect," it won't happen that way. Society will leap in to fill that vacuum at a variety of different levels, and we must try to incorporate all aspects of these different kinds of training and educational needs into a coherent program.

Poole p.124: [Speaking of the entire program] We must look at what we can do easily and do that immediately.

2. Centralized vs. decentralized implementation; the role of the Library of Congress

Arguments were advanced pro and con the following ideas: LC sponsoring the first major training plan in library and archival conservation (p. 57); LC setting up and directing a series or regional centers (p. 104-105, 108); LC greatly increasing the amount of information it publishes (p. 103-104); LC taking leadership in establishing a national program (p. 13, 124-125); LC providing emergency salvage teams; and a "grand scheme" involving a national preservation collection, vs. improvement of storage conditions in existing libraries (p. 84). Speakers were Banks, Boorstin, Cunha, Darling, Poole, Salmon and Waters. Perhaps Feller was addressing this issue too when he said (p. 92) that a person skilled in problem-solving would recommend a multiple-solution approach to the problems of preserving "brittle books."

3. Length and kind of training

Concepts put forward in discussion of this issue included widespread information and education, a crash program for training conservators, and a small number of influential graduates with clout. Those taking part in the discussion were Robinson, Waters, Poole, Baer, Rogers, Banks, Cunha, Horton, Darling and Waters (p. 94-99, 101103, 105 and 108-109).

4. Public identification of proprietary products evaluated in conservation labs

Darling and an unidentified participant advocated this on p.115, and Feller and Poole on p.115-116 defended the present practice of issuing this information only directly and privately to conservators.

5. Should mending be done in libraries? Horton, Darling and Rogers argued this on pages 99, 102 and 105.

6. What about microfilm? Is it the best way to store information?

No alternative was seriously proposed, but Salmon (p. 63) and MacRae (p. 117) give reasons to doubt its permanence; Salmon reports a study on the relative expense of microfilming, on p.64-65.

7. How much bibliographic control is necessary for a centralized storage facility?

Poole's working paper includes bibliographic control as a recommendation. MacRae on p.88 says that in the National Library of Canada they have had to do without adequate control ever since a major fire about 25 years ago, and because of the amount of work involved, they may have to give up the idea of bibliographic control entirely for their still uncatalogued collections.

8. Selection for retention

This matter is discussed from a great variety of points of view on p.25-26, 29, 71-72, 80, 121, and 124; and the discussion continued in at least one meeting of the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee for a National Program (the second, on September 22, 1977). Discussants were Waters, Gordon Williams, Poole, Boorstin, Salmon and Haas. Some points made were: selection will cost more than preservation unless you expect to throw away a very significant number of books; one should take into account the remaining percent of a document's life span; the academicians would know which books were worth keeping; it is impossible to tell today what will be considered important in the future; the librarians sending books to the Center for Research Libraries apparently select then by blocks rather than by the individual book (CRL operates in some ways like a national preservation collection); and finally, we are already selecting books for preservation every day through our various library procedures.

Library Conservation: Preservation in Perspective. John P Baker and Marguerite C. Soroka, eds. Hutchinson & Ross, P0 Box 699, Stroudsburg, PA 18360. 459 pp. $45. 1979 or before.


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