The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 11, Number 5
Jul 1987

PLMS in San Francisco

by Ellen McCrady

The meetings of the Preservation of Library Materials Section in San Francisco June 27-30 addressed the needs and duties of librarians in charge of preservation programs, as they do twice a year at the annual and midwinter meetings of the American Library Association, of which PLMS is a part. It seems to be getting more effective: more and bigger projects are being completed, and discussants at meetings seem more knowledgeable. (More people from the fields of binding and conservation are turning up at meetings, which helps provide the technical expertise necessary for some of the projects.) This meeting began with a 4½-hour open program on education of staff and readers in care of library materials, and six more are planned. Two separately held institutes, like the three sponsored in recent years by LC and ALA, will cover disaster preparation and library binding; and four more conferences or institutes are in the early stages of planning (on teaching, planning of programs, implementing of programs, and disaster recovery)--still quite tentative.

The Preservation Education Program

Some good advice was given in the preservation education program, e.g.: consider who you want to reach and what you want them to do; don't use sarcasm, don't hint, do be clear; use existing posters and audiovisual aids rather than making up your own; and give preservation orientation sessions to new personnel once or twice a year, with an audiovisual program, examples of damaged books, discussion, and handouts. Each participant was given a packet of bookmarks, leaflets and other educational material currently used in members' libraries.

The excellent new hour-long film, "Slow Fires," which describes the preservation crisis, was shown at this meeting and on three or four other occasions during the MA meeting. LC is currently planned for release in the fall over national television, and is already available for purchase from the American Film Foundation (see Literature section).

Preservation Administrators' Discussion Group

A surprising consensus was expressed after discussion of the preservation administrator's (PA's) role in money-raising for the library ("library development"): The PA should work together with the development officers of the library and the university to raise money for preservation, because this increases the amount raised and helps make sure it gets earmarked for preservation. No one is in a better position to do it. Development officers know how to contact the people who want to give to the university--and individuals are a very important source of outside funding. If the PA has prepared a long list of outstanding needs for the department, the potential donor is likely to find something that appeals to them. It is not unusual to spend a good part of one's time on money-raising activities. (In a later meeting of a different committee, PAs were urged to get on the university's agenda, because preservation grants often involve matching funds; three out of every four dollars may have to be raised by the university.)

Another kind of advocacy was seen as important for PAs. The systems people in libraries have to be kept aware of the needs of the preservation department while they are designing their computer systems. One should get in on the ground floor and be persistent. Archivists were seen as good allies because they are generally more experienced with computers, especially in functions that relate to preservation. A strong need was expressed for exchange of information among PAs on ways in which computers were being used in preservation, but no regular channel was set up through which this might be done, except the twice-a-year meetings.

Appropriately, word come before the meeting ended that an entire MARC field and parts of two others had been approved for preservation information on individual books: physical characteristics (e.g., pH), actions taken (e.g., microfilming), date (e.g., date queued for treatment or copying) and so on. (A national meeting to select the subfields for this use was reported in National Preservation News #5, July 1986.) When this is implemented, at least six months from now, it will be possible for libraries to keep track electronically of any and all books that need treatment, and to identify those which have been treated or copied. Counts and compilations can be made for planning and reporting, and eventually it will be possible for libraries to see how other libraries have dealt with different copies of the same deteriorating book.

Policy And Research Committee

Both ACRL (part of MA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) are compiling agendas for research, including preservation research, and assigning priorities. George Farr, new head of the NEH Office of Preservation, said he had discovered that the scientists do not want to set research agendas. They urged him to ask the librarians. But it is apparently very bard for either librarians or scientists to think of all the things we need research on. Readers who have ideas on what should be tested, looked into, explained, invented, developed, given a new application, etc., should call or write George Farr at the NEH Office of Preservation, Room 802, 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20506 (202/786-0570).

PLMS Discussion Group

Errol Somay, microfilming officer at the New York Public Library, reported on their World War I collection's preservation project, funded by Title II C of the Library Services and Construction Act. There were 35,000 volumes all together, mostly brittle and in terrible shape because they were published on poor paper in wartime. If you define as rare any book that the National Union Catalog shows to be held by no more than three libraries, 50% were rare. About 25% were unique copies. Most of them were microfilmed (or tagged for later filming). Many were boxed or repaired.


Archival Aids, a British conservation materials supplier, had two innovations there: a deacidification spray containing an unnamed cellulose ether to strengthen the paper simultaneously, and a bleaching chamber that looked like a vacuum table with a transparent cover, a sort of flat dome. It works by introducing ozone, which reacts selectively with premoistened parts of the paper until the vacuum draws it out.

These were only some of the high spots. Discussions covered a wide range of topics and many interesting plans were described, which cannot be reported as news until they result in action. Some of the information gleaned at this meeting will, as usual, appear in other parts of this Newsletter. And apologies, as usual, for inaccuracies introduced in the note-taking process. Corrections are invited.

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