The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 20, Number 4-5
Sep 1996

Final Report to Congress
on the Joint Resolution to Establish a National Policy on Permanent Papers
Part I

This is an abridged transcription of the 32-page document of the same name. The two tables have been minimally edited for clarity. All the appendices and the first three of the tables have been omitted, along with some of the passages that probably mean more to government employees than to the readers of this newsletter.

The document does not bear a date or publisher, but it was supposedly issued in December 1995 by the three agencies. The National Archives can supply copies on request: contact Bonnie Rose Curtin in the Office of Records Administration (301/713-7100).

This transcription appeared in the July 1996 Alkaline Paper Advocate. It is reprinted here in two parts. Part II will appear in the next issue of the Abbey Newsletter.

Executive Summary

This report to Congress is the last of three in which the Librarian of Congress, Archivist of the United States, and the Public Printer summarize the Federal Government's progress on implementing Public Law 101-423. Much has been accomplished since the law was passed in October 1990, particularly during the period 1994 through 1995. Highlights of these achievements, discussed in detail in the following report, include:

Submission of this report discharges responsibilities assigned to the Librarian of Congress, Archivist of the United States, and the Public Printer, as set forth in Pub. L. 101-423. However, since important work remains to be done, they have agreed to continue monitoring, on an ad hoc basis, progress in the implementation of the Government's permanent paper policy.


Public Law 101-423, A Joint Resolution to Establish a National Policy on Permanent Papers (Section 3), states the following:

The Librarian of Congress, the Archivist of the United States, and the Public Printer shall jointly monitor the Federal Government's progress in implementing the national policy ... regarding acid free permanent papers and shall report to the Congress regarding such progress on December 31, 1991, December 31, 1993 and December 31, 1995.

The Librarian of Congress, the Archivist of the United States, and the Public Printer (the monitoring agencies) have been working together to monitor implementation of the law since it was signed by the President on October 12, 1990. In addition, the agencies worked jointly to enhance the general level of knowledge in the Federal Government about the national policy on permanent paper, and to ensure that Federal agencies understand the criteria to be used to determine whether documents have enduring (i.e., long-term) value. This report is the last of three reports to Congress required by Pub. L. 101-423.

Progress in Monitoring Pub. L. 101-423

Definition of permanence

Pub. L. 101-423 recommends the use of "acid free permanent paper" using the specifications established by the Joint Committee on Printing (JCP). For purposes of clarity, this report adheres to the JCP specifications. Thus, an acid free permanent paper is defined to be a fully bleached sheet with a pH of 7.5 or above, an alkaline reserve of 2 percent or more, a minimum MIT folding endurance in either direction of 30 double folds, and a minimum tearing strength in either direction of 25 grams for a 30 lb paper and proportionately higher tearing strengths for heavier papers. This definition matches most closely the first specification for permanent paper, ANSI Z39.48-1984, developed by the National Information Standards Organization, which has strong support in the archival and library communities.

Standards and specifications

Federal. When Public Law 101-423 was passed five years ago, the Government had only one specification for permanent paper: JCP A270, uncoated permanent book, white and cream white. [In July 1994, four new permanent papers were made available for government use]: JCP G40, 25 percent bond; JCP G60, 25% opacified bond; JCP H30, imitation parchment, laser-finished; and JCP O-60, plain copier, xerographic. A number of alkaline papers have been added as option A to many existing specifications. The specification standards advise that option A should be specified if the printed product must have above average performance. The alkaline option is available in 16 paper grades.…

The monitoring agencies have been working with the GSA to ensure that some of the same papers available to Federal agencies in the Washington, DC area through the GPO will be available nationwide. GSA now offers three permanent papers and two alkaline papers [four copier grades and one bond grade].…

[ASTM's standards for the permanence of paper are briefly described.]

In the course of revising these ASTM specifications, the question arose whether an alkaline paper might still be considered permanent if it also contained more lignin (a component of wood that is almost completely removed by "traditional" chemical pulping and bleaching) than any of the specifications allowed. Because lignin-containing papers have traditionally been produced by an acidic process, no studies of historic papers exist to which scientists can refer in their search for an answer to that question. Valid methods for determining the potential longevity of alkaline papers with a high lignin content are needed because increasing quantities of these papers are now coming on the market. To facilitate this research, valid and reliable methods of artificial aging must be developed. The Library of Congress Research and Testing Office has been engaged in such research for the past three years, and has recently received support from ASTM to accelerate this effort.

To spearhead this effort, ASTM (under the auspices of their Institute for Standards Research (ISR)) held a workshop in 1994 on the effects of aging on printing and writing papers. From this workshop evolved a series of research proposals pertaining to the development of aging methods using light, pollutants, heat, and humidity; and to the fundamental chemistry of the aging phenomena. The proposed research was estimated to require 3 years and to cost over $2.5 million. Although the research is not yet fully funded, initial work is proceeding on two projects. One is an investigation of the fundamentals of light aging to determine how aging can be accelerated without altering the chemical reactions from those that occur during natural aging. The second is an investigation of the effects of aging in low levels of air pollutants (including nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and ozone).

International. The body that develops standards for the international community, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), works closely with NISO. Thus, it is no coincidence that the requirements of the standard, ISO 9706, "Information and Documentation - Paper for Documents - Requirements for Permanence," are similar to those of ANSI standard Z39.48-1992. ISO 9706 differs slightly from ANSI Z39.48-1992 in fiber content (lignin, groundwood pulp, and unbleached pulp) and tear resistance measurement. In 1995, ISO developed a standard for archival papers, ISO/DIS 11108, "Information and Documentation - Archival Paper - Requirements for Permanence and Durability" (Appendix 3, omitted).

A number of countries have developed standards for permanent papers that will probably be replaced by the ISO standard. The most debated of these is undoubtedly the German standard, DIN 6738, which has not met acceptance from either the archival or library communities, even within Germany. Like the United States, the Canadian Government has established a policy on the use of permanent paper. However, in trying to devise specifications for that paper, it met with even stiffer resistance than had NISO, ASTM, or ISO to the requirement that the paper not contain a significant quantity of lignin.

As a result, the Government of Canada, together with the Government of Alberta and a consortium of Canadian pulp and paper manufacturers, joined forces to fund and carry out its own research program on the effect of lignin on paper permanence. This research may supplement the ASTM/ISR program. However, it concentrates on Canadian pulps and does not address the problem of light aging, so cannot supply all the answers.

Guidance to Federal agencies

On September 8, 1995, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) issued NARA Bulletin No. 95-7, "Procurement of Writing, Copying, and Printing Papers for Federal Records" (Appendix 4 ). The bulletin advises Federal agencies to procure either permanent or alkaline paper grades when creating all federal records. Permanent paper is recommended for routine use in offices that create and file a high proportion of long-term and permanent records, whereas alkaline paper is recommended for routine use throughout agencies for all other documents.…

The NARA bulletin was completed after extensive discussions with records officers, printing officials, GPO, and GSA. NARA representatives met with records officers to discuss drafts of the bulletin in order to ascertain problems that could arise in the agencies upon issuance of this guidance. Representatives also worked with GPO and GSA to ensure that adequate quantities of permanent and alkaline papers, a list of which is attached to the bulletin, were available to agencies for purchase.

Ordinarily, NARA bulletins are distributed to agency heads and records officers only. Since this bulletin has wide-ranging implications for the Government in the printing and procurement field, copies were also distributed to printing and procurement officials as well as to State Governors and records officials.

During the past 2 years, representatives of the monitoring agencies also spoke at conferences, meetings, and training courses on implementation of the Public Law (Appendix 5). The monitoring agencies perceive that if agencies are to grasp the significance of preserving permanent documents through the use of permanent and alkaline papers, more was needed than mere words in a bulletin. It was important to get out and physically communicate with those Federal officials that will have a major part to play in the implementation of the law.

Information dissemination

Federal. In addition to advising and assisting the Federal community, the monitoring agencies are communicating with all those who have a part in making Pub. L. 101-423 work. In 1994, the Librarian of Congress, Acting Archivist of the United States, and Public Printer sent each State Governor the "Second Report to Congress on the Joint Resolution to Establish a National Policy on Permanent Papers" to acquaint them directly with the law's agenda and encourage their participation (Appendix 6). Recently, the Archivist sent NARA Bulletin No. 95-7 and information on accessing this and other Federal records guidance via Internet to each State Governor, archivist, and records officer as a model for State and local action.

Efforts of the monitoring agencies have been strengthened by other Federal components in addition to the Joint Committee on Printing (JCP) and GSA mentioned throughout this report. The National Library of Medicine (NLM) sponsored a Permanent Paper Task Force from 1987 to 1991 to advance the use of alkaline-based paper for biomedical literature. When the task force began, only 4 percent of 3,000 journals indexed by NLM were on alkaline paper. This figure rose to 91 percent by April 1995.1 The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Smithsonian Institution, and other Government agencies have participated in meetings concerned with the quality of paper for Federal records, including the September 28, 1994, meeting of the NARA Advisory Committee on Preservation. Also the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Historical Publications and Records Commission, which fund public and private projects in support of our Nation's documentary heritage, mandate the use of permanent and alkaline papers for documentary materials and additionally maximize their longevity by prescribing appropriate storage materials and conditions.

State and local. ... States that have developed legislation or administrative policy on permanent paper include: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Some States are working to establish or strengthen provisions in response to opportunities afforded by a decrease in comparative cost and an increase in the availability of permanent papers. This progress is significant and laudable. However, it remains that over half of the States have yet to establish a permanent paper policy.

Private. The private sector role was pivotal in establishing Pub. L. 101-423 and has continued to be instrumental in its implementation as a partner to the Federal Government.…

National and international organizations associated with the information, history, science, and cultural resource community, including the American Library Association (ALA), Association of American Publishers (AAP), Society of American Archivists (SAA), National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA), International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), and the International Council on Archives (ICA) have issued statements to support Pub. L. 101-423 as well as taking steps to promote it.…

International. [Government action to mandate or encourage the use of permanent paper is described for Australia, Canada, and France; and attention to alkaline paper and papermaking in the industry and the national press is pointed out.]

1National Library of Medicine, "National Library of Medicine Board of Regents May 23-24, 1995," Tab VIII, NLM Preservation Program: Current Activities and Future Directions. [p. 1] April 1995, Bethesda, MD.

Government Printing Office statistics

Procured printing. For fiscal years 1994 and 1995, the alkalinity of the paper stocks used in approximately 2,500 commercially procured printing jobs was monitored by GPO. These papers were tested for pH value and alkaline reserve content. Samples of these commercially procured printing jobs were selected by GPO's Quality Assurance Section and represented all work at quality levels 1 and 2, and 10% at quality levels 3 and 4 (level 1 being the highest reproduction quality and level 4 the lowest). The inspection samples represent a fraction of the more than 200,000 jobs purchased by the GPO annually. This testing will continue.…

... Quality level 1 and 2 jobs are typically produced on coated papers. A high percentage of these were alkaline papers. The majority of government publications are actually produced on uncoated JCP A60 offset book text paper

Table 4: Comparison of [Selected Grades of] Alkaline Paper Purchased* in FY 1994 & FY 1995


Percent [of total for each grade]

Percentage Points



A60 offset book




A80 opacified offset book




D10 writing




K10 index




L20 vellum-finish cover




Uncoated, overall




A170 publication-grade, gloss coated text




A180 gloss coated text




L10 litho coated cover




Coated, overall




* For stocking in GPO, direct shipments, open market purchases, etc. [Does not include high usage text and cover.]

** This figure is affected by the amount of colored paper purchased per year because many colors can only be produced in an acidic papermaking process.

Bulk Purchases. … Even though GPO did not specify that the paper must be alkaline, nearly all of the book papers received (JCP A25, A55, A60, and A80) were alkaline.

Of the bulk purchase of office papers, all of the 25 percent and 50 percent cotton cut-size bond/writing papers (JCP G-series papers) purchased were alkaline in the current year. All the bulk-purchased recycled (20 percent PC) copier papers (JCP O-65 paper) were alkaline. Colored JCP O-60 copier paper was about 50 percent alkaline and 50 percent acidic.

There were only a few grades of acidic paper. One was a map paper grade (JCP E40, GPO Lot 94) which was specified to be acidic for the purpose of improving the sheet's ink drying characteristics. Often, colored index (JCP K10) and vellum-finish cover (JCP L20) stocks are also acidic so some of the colors desired by the customer can be attained. Alkaline papers are available for index and cover stock, but in fewer colors.

Part II, scheduled to appear in the next issue, will cover observations and relevant findings (environmental issues, continuing changes in technology, cost issues, and availability and use of permanent paper).

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