The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 15, Number 2
Apr 1991

Description of Cooperative Preservation Photocopying Project

by Linda Nainis

Linda Nainis was Assistant Law Librarian for Collection Management when she shepherded the reproduction project for Georgetown University Law Library, Washington, DC.

In 1988 Georgetown University Law Library, together with more than 40 other law libraries nationwide, completed a cooperative preservation photocopying project, involving a 31-volume legal reference set. They contracted with LBS Archival Products in Des Moines Iowa to disbind and reproduce the brittle volumes on acid-free paper and then bind the reproduction. Archival Products uses high-speed photocopy equipment that provides an image superior to most in-house library photocopiers.

Since the successful completion of this project, there has been a great deal of interest in how it was done, and questions about whether copies of the duplicated sets are still available. For that reason, we are providing this description of our experience and the results.

Initially, it was not the intention of Georgetown University Law Library to administer a large-scale cooperative preservation photocopying project. However, the library needed a serviceable copy of Federal Cases, 1789-1880, an important legal reference set.

The original Federal Cases was published over a three year period in the late 1890's. It was a reprint itself. It combined the lower federal court decisions that had appeared in 233 different reporters at various times up to the establishment of the Federal Reporter in 1880. The practicing law community had accepted Federal Cases citations as a substitute for the original reports. Federal Cases is an essential part of the federal core collection of any law library.

Georgetown University law Library owned two sets, but a detailed inventory showed that both were in poor condition. Sam volumes were worse than others, but many of the bindings were becoming detached. The paper in most volumes was brittle or weak, so they could not easily be rebound or repaired. The set was available in microfiche through Law Library Microform Consortium, but Georgetown Law saw a need to have a hard copy edition of this reference set to meet the daily research needs of students and faculty.

Georgetown Law contacted several other major academic law libraries that acknowledged their Federal Cases volumes were also very deteriorated. We began discussing how we might persuade West, the original publisher, or some- other reprinter to reprint the set. We also considered whether our respective libraries would be interested in having the set reproduced on acid-free paper by commercial high-speed photocopy methods. We wondered whether we could obtain a reduction in the price of preservation photocopying if we did several copies at once.

In answer to further inquiries, West Publishing Company stated that Federal Cases volumes were no longer available, and that they did not intend to print more. They had no objection to our finding another reprinter. We asked the major law reprinters if they could reprint, but found that for the most part they lacked interest. We were told it is not economical to reprint with a limited market of potential customers (one reprinter suggested that 100 customers was the minimum order needed). In addition, some reprinters ,were not using alkaline paper. One quoted a very high price. We began discussing the project with Archival Products in April 1987.

Several libraries had used Archival Products' Brittle Book Replacement Service, and had been pleased with the quality of their product for individual monographs. We had seen examples of their ability to eliminate the yellowing, cracking, foxing and crumbled edges seen in original pages that, in sane cases, nearly obscured the original text. We liked their policy of providing a wide binding margin of at least one and a half inches. They demonstrated that a preservation photocopy could be much clearer and easier to use than an original.

Furthermore, the price of preservation photocopying compared favorably to earlier quotes we had received from reprinters. The only reprinter who had offered to reprint the set estimated the cost to be close to $200 per volume. At its then standard per-page pricing-each Federal Cases Volume contained about 1000 pages-Archival Products could produce one set for $4,836, or $156 per volume. The cost could be lowered to $75 per volume if 10 or more copies were ordered at once. We expected that a further reduction might be possible with increased sets.

In June 1987, a letter was sent to over a hundred and fifty academic law library directors from the Georgetown Law Library director, not to market the product, but to invite others' participation. By early September, twenty-one law library directors had tentatively agreed to participate in the project and twelve additional librarians indicated possible interest. Only six had said no, and over 100 had not yet responded at that time.

A follow-up letter was sent out encouraging the remaining libraries, and at this time a first-time letter was sent to about 10 major bar association, federal and county court law libraries. By the time production was started in the late Fall, more than 41 libraries from all over the United States had requested the set. Archival Products made the decision to produce several additional sets, for any libraries that may want to join the project after it was underway.

We wanted the preservation photocopy to look as much like the original as possible, in size and binding style. We sent Archival Products an original volume, with its black and red labels with gold letters, so that they could ask their bindery to match it exactly. They manufactured a "mock up" with blank pages, so that we could check the appearance of this large-size volume, and verify that the paper weight chosen would produce a volume of an acceptable .thickness.

The work began after Georgetown law originals were shipped to Archival Products in mid-September 1987. The best copy of each volume was sent. Nevertheless, it was evident that Archival Products would need more copies. As expected, the inspection done prior to reproduction caught numerous problem pages.

About ten different times during the reproduction process, Archival Products contacted us because they had encountered pages that were unreproducible-for example, missing, soiled, tom, defaced by library stamps. Several different library stamps showing earlier ownership showed on the various copies used. Archival Products masked these whenever possible, but sometimes the stamps overlapped text.

We then searched for and found other libraries that could supply the volumes or pages needed. In addition to Georgetown Law's collection, Harvard University Law Library, New York University Law Library, and American University Law Library all contributed pages or volumes to compile a complete reproducible original set.

From the complete set, a "make ready" printing master was produced. All copies were made from the printing master. We understood that having a printing master greatly simplified the procedure at the photocopy machine and made it easier to improve the image of the original through masking and filtering. But we were concerned that the quality of the second generation copy would be noticeably inferior to the original. When Archival Products sent us a crisp, clear sample page our fears were allayed.

Because of its size, the project threatened to become a logistical nightmare; it did present a definite challenge. Archival Products had successfully completed a similar large-scale project involving the Florida Territorial Laws in which about 400,000 page-copies were made. The Federal Cases project, however, was even more massive. When completed, 1.8 million pages of Federal Cases had been photocopied.

In order to prepare for this size job, Archival Products had to add equipment and purchase an enormous quantity of paper; about $25 thousand was spent on the paper alone. One of the few glitches that occurred in the course of the project involved the paper. The first paper order had to be returned to the manufacturer, because it had been cut in the wrong direction in relation to the paper grain. The paper ultimately used was Gilbert Neu-tech 20 lb. weight paper. It met ANSI Standard Z39.48-1984, and performed well in the photocopiers.

In addition, a solution had to be found for an error made during the binding process. The date span 1789-1880 that was part of the spine title was incorrectly stamped in gold as 1780-1800. This date designates the beginning inclusion date for the court decisions compiled in the set. The stamping error was not caught, however, until after distribution to all the libraries. All thirty-one volumes had been duplicated, bound, arranged in sets and shipped out in May 1988.

The solution was to write to all libraries that had purchased the set and offer than replacement labels. A complete set of replacement title labels, to be applied by the library, was sent to each library requesting it. Not every library requested the labels, so some sets of this reproduction will be forever distinguished by a mistake on the spine.

The message on the verso of the title page of the finished volume, reads:

In compliance with current
copyright law, Georgetown
University Law Library in
cooperation with several other
libraries and LBS Archival
Products produced this
replacement volume on paper
that meets the ANSI Standard
Z39.48-1984 to replace the
irreparably deteriorated original.


The infinity symbol within a circle symbolizes our compliance with the permanent paper standard. We did not have the camera-ready artwork with infinity logos of various sizes that is now available from the National Information Standards Organization (NISO). We printed the trademark sign next to the infinity symbol, because that is how the infinity logo was shown in the 1984 standard. Since that time, however, NISO has made the decision not to require the "TM' as part of the compliance symbol.

The last reproduction set of Federal Cases was sold in 1990. Since that time an additional request has been received. As it is Archival Products' policy to retain printing masters for all sets, they will be able to reproduce more sets. Considering the size of the job, it may be economical to wait until several requests are received and run them at the same time. In the meantime, Archival Products continues to improve their equipment, supplies and processes. Any librarian interested in obtaining a copy of Federal Cases may wish to contact LBS Archival Products directly at (800) 526-5640.

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