The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 22, Number 4


Copyright Extension Act Signed

On October 27, President Clinton signed the Copyright Term Extension Act, which gives major corporations almost everything they asked for, extending the current life-plus-50-year copyright term by 20 years. This will increase the difficulty experienced by libraries with microfilming or other copying programs, who have to find the heirs of copyright holders (authors or original publishing companies) in order to get permission for preservation copying, and also have to pay any fees demanded.

ALA Legislative Counsel Adam Eisgrau is quoted in the December American Libraries: "Many major industries said, 'If we don't lengthen the term of copyright, we won't make as much money.' Making money isn't what copyright law is about. The purpose of the law is to provide a sufficient incentive to authors and inventors to create information, not because there is a constitutional entitlement to compensation but because the information created was regarded as a public good."

IMLS gives $135 Million for Access Projects

The Institute of Museum and Library Services made grants on December 18 totalling $135,366,938 to library agencies in the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories. This marks the second time these annual awards have been made through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).

IMLS provides funds to the state library agencies for subgrants to libraries of all types and for statewide initiatives and services. The two funding priorities of LSTA are to improve electronic sharing of information and to expand public access to library information and resources.

Guidelines for FY 1999 are available, either at the IMLS web site, or from the Office of Library Services, Institute of Museum and Library Services, Room 802, 1100 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20506, 202/606-5227.

WCG has Foreign & Domestic Job Listings

The Washington Conservation Guild Newsletter for December 1998 has on p. 8-14 a large number of listings both here and abroad, for jobs in book and paper conservation and preservation, at bench and administrative level. In fact, listings for museum conservators are in the minority. The Guild can be reached at PO Box 23364, Washington, DC 20026 (voicemail 301/238-3700, ext. 178; website

Development of Helpful Robot Receives Funding

The Mellon Foundation has awarded a $376,000 grant to the Milton S. Eisenhower Library at Johns Hopkins University for development of a robotic system to greatly enhance access to the books in its remote storage facility.

The project is appropriately called Comprehensive Access to Print Materials (CAPM). The user identifies a work held offsite through a connection to the library's online catalog, and activates a robot to withdraw the item from the collection. It will be transported to a scanner which includes an automatic page turner, allowing browsing of the material online. If the integrated copyright management system shows that digitization is permitted, a scanned image will be generated and delivered to the user's computer. The digital images can be deposited in an archive, the catalog record can be updated to show that a digital copy is available to future users, and metadata elements like the table of contents can be made available for future searching in the library's catalog.

CAPM has three corporate partners: Minolta, which will provide scanning equipment, and IBM and Ameritech Library Services, which will provide engineering expertise. The project will begin in January 1999.

The Price of Sprinkler Impairments

On Thursday morning, Dec. 17, three firefighters were killed, and several other firefighters and emergency medical technician personnel were severely injured in a fire while rescuing (or so they believed) an elderly woman trapped on the 10th floor of a high rise apartment building for the elderly. Something caused the fire to grow suddenly, and they died probably from a combination of heat and asphyxiation. It turns out that the sprinkler valve for the floor was shut off.

Facility maintenance workers need to check valves regularly, lock them open and/or put tamper switches on them. Those who supervise the maintenance people may themselves need reminding, to keep others from paying the ultimate price. [This information was forwarded by Steve Bush, former safety officer at the Library of Congress, from Elliott Nir, via <>.]

Formosan Termite Invasion May be Stoppable

Formosan termites, which invaded the United States through southern ports after the Second World War, have spread throughout the South, evading insecticides, eating wood up to nine times faster than native subterraneans, and growing the largest colonies of any termite species. They can build nests anywhere, not just underground: in trees and even near the top of high-rise buildings. They can slip through crevices as thin as a piece of paper, and are skilled travellers, living for weeks or months in potted soil or small pieces of wood.

Newly founded colonies may be quiescent for five or ten years before letting their presence known by swarming. Trapping the swarming termites is one of the few ways scientists have of estimating the size of infestations. The average number of Formosan termites per trap has grown sevenfold in the last seven years.

The Formosan termite's scientific name is Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki. It was first identified by a Japanese entomologist, who discovered it in Taipei, Formosa, but it is now believed to have originated in southern China.

For a long while, the government was unaware of the devastation caused by the termite in southern cities and elsewhere, but in the last three years some new treatments have entered the market. Termite baits that will be carried back to the nest and fed to nestmates are already able to kill more than chlordane did. And this year a federal program targeting Formosans finally got under way. [This information is from a story by John McQuaid, in the July 5, 1998 Austin American-Statesman.]

June 2000 Conference to Celebrate Middleton Collection Installation

The Cary Graphic Arts Collection at Rochester Institute of Technology will be hosting a major conference on bookbinding June 1, 2 and 3, in the year 2000, on the occasion of the installation of the Bernard C. Middleton Collection of Books on Bookbinding at RIT. It will feature both demonstration sessions and scholarly talks. Further details will be forthcoming. Inquiries may be directed to either the Cary Collection curator or the head of the local arrangements committee:

David Pankow, Curator
Cary Collection
Rochester Institute of Technology
90 Lomb Memorial Dr.
Rochester, NY 14623-5604
(tel. 716/475-2408; fax 475-6900;

Fred Jordan
Head, Local Arrangements Committee
4380 C. R. 37
Livonia, NY 14487
(tel. 716/229-2144; fax 229-0081;

Web Site and List for Iron Gall Ink Corrosion

The European Commission on Preservation and Access has launched the Iron Gall Ink Corrosion web site at as a joint initiative of ECPA, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, the Netherlands State Archives and the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (NICH). It provides basic facts, many images of corroded drawings and manuscripts, an extensive literature list, ink recipes and a complete transcription of the 16th-century "Booke of Secrets"--in order to raise awareness among collection keepers, conservators, the public, and other interested parties, just as the "Slow Fires" film and video did for the brittle paper problem. It also reports research results from the ongoing project, and provides information on conservation techniques.

A discussion list has been established simultaneously with the web site to exchange ideas about iron gall ink: INKCORROSION-L. To subscribe, go to <URL:>, and follow the instructions there.

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