The Library of Congress has turned down offers from three industrial firms to deacidify its millions of books, because none of the offers received could meet all of the technical and business requirements.
In September 1990, the Library issued a "request for proposals" (RFP), the performance requirements for which were set after year-long Library consultations with conservators and preservation scientists from around the world. The Library also solicited comments from industry; six firms responded at this early stage with information on their various processes. The General Accounting Office reviewed the RFP before it was issued.
The final RFP included requirements for toxicological and environmental safety, process efficacy and other preservation needs, and the esthetic appearance of treated books, as well as the firm's business plans and financial information.
In addition, potential contractors (or "offerors") were required to treat a set of 500 books to confirm technical information contained in their proposals and to show conformance with the Library's specifications. The Library, by a competitive process, picked an independent testing laboratory, the Institute for Paper Science and Technology (IPST) in Atlanta, to test the treated demonstration sets of books.
Although a half-dozen firms had initially shown interest, in the end only three firms applied for a contract They submitted their written proposals last spring.
The 500-book sample batches were tested by IPST, and the analyses were documented in a set of reports relating to extension of book life, alkaline reserve, appearance, odor, and other factors. In March of 199 1, the 14-member Source Selection Evaluation Board, headed by Peter Johnson of Congress's Office of Technology Assessment, met to evaluate the offerors' submissions. The Board evaluated written proposals submitted by the offerors, the data obtained from IPST, and first-hand information gained from site visits to the treatment facilities. Data collected from the 500-book demonstration sets persuaded the Board that no offeror satisfied all the technical requirements of the solicitation. The Board submitted its findings to the Library in July.
Following extensive study of the Board report, the Library decided to cancel the procurement, and the offerors have been so notified. The Library, with the support of Congress, will continue to look for a suitable mass deacidification technology.
The Library has obtained permission from the companies to release the IPST test data, and is publishing it in a limited number of copies. Interested parties can contact Gerald Garvey, Preservation Projects Officer, at the Library (202/707-5213)