The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 16, Number 2
Apr 1992

Update on the Permanent Paper Resolution, Part 2

A joint resolution encouraging the use of "acid free permanent papers" was signed into law by President Bush in October 1990. One of its provisions was that reports on implementation of the law should be made to Congress in December 1991, 1993, and 1995. The heads of the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the Government Printing Office were given the job of putting these reports together, and they turned in their first joint report last December. The first part of this report, with the exception of the introductory material, was published in the February issue. The appendices are omitted from this installment because most of them have already been published in this newsletter. The full report has been published as a committee print from the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress, "Report on Progress in Implementing National Policy on Acid-Free Paper," Feb. 28, 1992, S. Prt. 102-82, available from the USGPO. ISBN 0-16-037660-2.

VI. Agency Reports

Given the clearly separate duties of the Government Printing Office, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives and Records Administration, it was decided to devote this section of the report to individual updates from each of the three agencies on their activities of the last year related to the implementation of Public Law 101423.

Government Printing Office

At the direction of the House Committee on Appropriations, the Government Printing Office (GPO) prepared and furnished to the Committee in April 1990 a report and plan on the use of alkaline paper in Government printing. The plan is based on the use of regular alkaline stocks but provides for the use of permanent paper meeting the requirements of Joint Committee on Printing (JCP) Specification A270. Of the 11 elements that constitute the plan, 10:

GPO has suggested to the joint representatives that all plan elements be adopted as a prelude to monitoring the Federal Government's progress in implementing the national policy. Specific elements, which directly correlate to the successful implementation of jointly monitoring the national policy, and the status of each, are:

pH value on selected government papers. During the past year, attempts to monitor "acid-free permanent papers" on an "as received" basis have been limited to determining whether the paper stock is acidic (pH value less than 7) or alkaline (pH value greater than 7). These determinations, however, do not address the "permanent" portion of this equation. There are still questions as to which measurable properties should be used for specifying permanent papers.

For the bulk paper purchased by GPO, the following statistics were compiled for the period August 1990 through July 1991:

  1. 77 percent of 33,355 tons total of uncoated printing and writing paper, postal card stock, and plain copier papers were alkaline.
  2. 94.5 percent of the printing and writing paper (12,743 tons) was alkaline.
  3. 55 percent of the plain copier paper (8,227 tons) was alkaline.

In GPO's printing procurement program, the data obtained is limited and at present represents only 64 jobs. Many of the jobs evaluated were printed on coated text paper. Over 90 percent of these were alkaline, which included both the coating and base paper. The uncoated printing and writing text stocks were also, in the main (over 90 percent), alkaline. The acid stocks were the specialty papers, such as tracing paper and index paper. Since this is a very small sampling of the paper used in commercial printing jobs, this information should be used cautiously. The GPO normally buys over 68,600 commercial printing jobs yearly.

Recycled materials. The impact of recycled materials upon the longevity and endurance of paper will be of major concern in the immediate future. While the papermaking industry is rapidly converting to an alkaline process, recycling is moving toward the requirement that a percentage of paper fibers be recovered from postconsumer waste. In this forecast, the presorting of postconsumer waste would have to be performed at a high degree of competence to exclude paper and paper products that contain groundwood fibers. The introduction of groundwood fiber into the source material would be detrimental to the enduring qualities of the paper and defeat the purpose for which it was manufactured.

Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has long been a strong advocate for the use of permanent paper. A staff member of the Preservation Directorate is serving on the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) committee that is revising and updating American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard ANSI Z39.48-1984 (Permanent Paper). The revised standard, which now addresses coated as well as uncoated paper, will be circulated soon to member organizations for voting.

Through its Preservation Reference Service, the Library has provided considerable information to the Congress in support of efforts to pass PL 101-423. The Librarian of Congress has testified before Congress on the gravity of the brittle paper problem and on the importance of using permanent paper for records and publications with enduring value. Both prior and subsequent to the passage of the law, staff in the Preservation Directorate have worked with the American Library Association (ALA), the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), and the International Council on Archives (ICA) to develop resolutions advocating national and international production and use of permanent paper for records and publications of enduring value.

The Library also has a long history of commitment to scientific investigation into practical solutions to the brittle paper problem. A high priority of the Library's Research and Testing Office is the development of laboratory methodology in support of permanent paper standards. For example, a new accelerated aging test is being developed that will reduce artificial aging time for paper. Other research work in progress addresses such fundamental issues as the effect of lignin and other components of wood pulp on paper permanence.

In addition to working with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) to devise workable strategies for monitoring the implementation of PL 101-423, the Library has initiated an assessment of its own policies and practices regarding the use of permanent paper. Several Library offices--including the Congressional Research Service, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the Copyright Office, the Catalog Distribution Service, Office Systems Services, and the Publications Office--have GPO procurement authority. The Publications Office always requests permanent paper for Library publications; the other offices request permanent paper for their publications when appropriate.

Library policy requires that all offices and divisions submit their annual reports on permanent paper. Furthermore, the Library requires that all books that are commercially bound on contract for the Library have permanent end papers that bear the Library of Congress seal. All paper-based housing and storage containers specified or constructed for the rare and special collections by the Conservation Office are made with permanent paper. When a publisher indicates in a volume that it was published on permanent paper, the Library records this information in the catalog-in-publication (CIP) record that appears on the verso of the title page.

As part of its program to implement the intent of PL 101-423 in its own activities, the Library has initiated a review of its policies on permanent paper use. In FY92 Office Systems Services will institute ongoing analysis of the need for permanent paper in both controlled forms and in library records. During the next two years, the Library expects to initiate a review of its policy on the use of permanent paper for all publications, whether produced in-house or through GPO. The Library will also initiate a study of the costs and benefits for full and partial conversion to institution-wide use of alkaline and permanent paper. Concurrently, the Library will mount an education program to raise the level of awareness and understanding of both staff and users about the importance of producing records and publications of enduring value on permanent paper.

National Archives and Records Administration

As stated by the Archivist of the United States, in his testimony before the House Subcommittee on Government Information, Justice, and Agriculture:

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the repository of Federal records judged to have enduring value, addresses the crisis of deteriorating paper records directly and daily. The approximately 3.25 billion paper documents held by the National Archives comprise census records, immigration records, citizens' petitions, correspondence files, tax assessments, engrossed laws, treaties, manuals, program files, policy statements, and much more that bear witness to activities and operations of the Federal Government.

NARA was a strong advocate of Public Law 101-423 and has historically been in the forefront of the movement for a national policy on permanent papers. As early as 1974 the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) passed a resolution requiring the use of permanent papers in the printing of documentary publications funded by Commission grants. Senator Pell, in introducing his National Policy on the Use of Permanent Papers on the floor of the United States Senate, credited that NHPRC policy with influencing the large number of university presses that use permanent papers today.

With the passage of Public Law 101-423, NARA took several immediate actions to fulfill the agency's obligations under the law. The Archivist wrote a "Dear Colleague" letter to the members of the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA) informing them of the new law, clearly stating NARA's support for the policy, and requesting feedback from state and local officials on similar initiatives in their jurisdictions. That was followed by NARA's publication of articles in the newsletters of both NAGARA and the Society of American Archivists (SAA) to further inform the professional community about the policy. Between these two newsletters alone, the largest part of the archival community throughout the United States has been informed about the new Federal policy and its objectives.

As a result of these communications, a number of states and standards-setting organizations have informed NARA of their activities and the agency remains in touch to provide advice and assistance.

Secondly, the Director of NARA's Policy and Program Analysis Division presented a paper on the National Policy on Permanent Papers to the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, and held discussions with senior officials of the National Archives of Canada, Ottawa, on the U.S. policy and its Canadian counterpart.

Thirdly, the Archivist assigned NARA's Executive Staff Director the responsibility of convening an internal policy development group to discuss the implementing of options available to the Archives. Within the last year the group has discussed the NARA prerogatives and coordinated possible implementation actions with the Government Printing Office, the Joint Committee on Printing the Library of Congress, and the General Services Administration....In summary, it is the position of the National Archives that:


  1. the extreme difficulty in identifying records of enduring value at the point of their creation, the most effective policy would be one that required a more permanent paper for all recording and publishing activities of the Federal Government;
  2. permanent papers are generally papers of an alkaline pH with a fiber content and performance characteristics that make them not only chemically stable, but also durable enough to be considered "long-lasting";
  3. permanent papers, while readily available, are considerably more expensive than their acidic equivalents, and any implementation of the national policy that would advocate across-the-board usage would have a negative budget impact;
  4. alkaline paper of any given fiber content and performance characteristics is much more long-lasting than its acidic equivalent;
  5. alkaline paper is now generally no more expensive than acidic paper of like grade, making across-the-board usage economically neutral.


It is the policy of the National Archives and Records Administration to promote the use of alkaline papers for all Federal records as an interim step toward the ultimate goal as stated in Public Law 101-423.

In order to implement this interim step, several elements need to be in place. The NARA policy group is continuing to work with the Government Printing Office, the Joint Committee on Printing, and the General Services Administration to establish the alkaline paper standards, procurement specifications, and implementation time table necessary to carry out our interim and long-term goals,

The National Archives continues to be a strong advocate for the National Policy on Permanent Papers and will work for its full implementation in the years ahead. As stated by the Archivist in a press release on the policy shortly after its passage:

This legislation marks a victory for all Americans committed to preserving their documentary heritage. I regard PL 101-423 as official recognition by the Congress and the President of the importance of using acid-free permanent paper. The implementation of this act will ultimately save millions of dollars in conservation costs. I look forward to working with my colleagues in encouraging the private and public

 [Contents]  [Search]  [Abbey]

[Search all CoOL documents]