The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 15, Number 7
Nov 1991

A Resolution from the Distant Past

Robert Frase, of Falls Church, Virginia, sent in a letter he had received from Carol Henry, Executive Officer of IFLA, in which she tells how IFLA's archives dating from 1927 to 1945 were "discovered" in late 1987 at the United Nations Library in Geneva when they were cleaning house. The archives were shipped to IFLA headquarters in The Hague in early 1988. Some of the papers have been indexed, but not the earlier ones, among which the following resolution was found when a few of the boxes were opened to see what they contained. The name "R.C. Binkley" is written in the margin, and a note at the top says, "Can you put this on agenda with Section 6 tomorrow?" It was apparently presented at the first IFLA meeting, not too long after August 1928.


In view of the responsibility which rests upon the librarians of the world to preserve for the future the records of the past and of the present, the First World Library and Bibliographical Congress calls attention to the fact that in the past fifty years the use of highly perishable [sic] paper in the publishing of books, magazines, newspapers and public documents has made the proper preservation of the records of our civilization impossible.

The circumstances demand a world-wide effort:

First to bring about such a reform in the practices of publishers that it will be possible for libraries to collect and preserve permanent copies of all printed matter worthy of preservation, and

Second, to rescue, by means of devices for preserving decaying paper, or by means of photographic copying, everything that can be rescued of the fifty years legacy of decaying paper that lies on our hands.

In order to carry out the first object, the reform of the publishing trade, it is necessary that scientific research should establish durability specifications for papers, that the life probability of the paper used in each publication should be known by the purchaser thereof, and that publishers should be induced to inaugurate the trade custom of printing enough durable copies of every work to satisfy the demands of libraries. It is especially important that Government Printing Offices should print upon durable paper at least as many copies of each document as are intended for permanent deposit. The World Library and Bibliographical Congress expresses hereby its emphatic approval of the resolutions and recommendations of the Committee of Experts, approved by the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation at Geneva, August, 1928, namely:

"That the attention of the Governments should be drawn to the necessity of using for documents of permanent value, and especially for those of an official character, only papers manufactured according to given specifications."

In order to carry out the second object, the salvaging of our legacy of decaying paper, it is necessary that scientific research should establish the best and cheapest means of preserving poor paper stock in so far as that is possible, and the best and cheapest means of copying, whether by reduced scale photography or by any other method, whatever documents cannot be preserved integrally. When these methods are known, it will rest with the librarians, with the aid of all other agencies of intellectual cooperation, to carry out the great task of saving the records of a whole period of our civilization.

In order that the Librarians may better carry out their own part of this enterprise, a Committee of the International Library and Bibliographical Association should be established to keep in touch with all the many agencies which are working on the problem, and to help to coordinate, by stimulating the interchange of information, the activities of librarians in various lands. There should also be organized, in the next World Congress, a Section in which progress made in this direction could be reported, and further efforts stimulated.

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