Last August, 180 delegates from 40 countries attended a symposium on conservation and newspapers at the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. They had a very lively discussion at the round table on August 22nd, which was reported in IFLA's International Preservation News for Aug.-Dec. 2000. A slightly condensed version of this report follows. (Proceedings will be published by IFLA-PAC by the end of 2001; papers are now on the internet at http://www.ifla.org/VI/4/pac.htm#8.)
Should we continue to preserve the paper artifact of a serial or newspaper once we reformat it in microfilm or electronically?
The audience answered an eager yes. Those who differed argued that it is uneconomical to keep both the original and the duplicated format; digitization offers easier access than paper artifacts, and newspapers do not last long in tropical countries.
Other librarians considered the content, format and manufacture of newspapers to be part of mankind's heritage; it is the mission of national libraries to preserve originals; microfilms are deteriorating and new copies should be made of the original papers. By shared preservation, an ideal copy could be made.
Selection criteria should be determined by IFLA.
Could we confidently use the electronic version of a serial or newspaper as a preservation medium?
The answer from the audience was no, because the obsolescence of new technologies makes CD products unreliable; emulation and migration are expensive and we still don't know how best to preserve digital information; microfilms are the safest and simplest carriers; filming apparatus can always be improved.
On the other hand, some argued that all libraries are running out of space and they must resort to digitization as prices will drop; customers will be able to choose where, when and in what format they will access documents; and we have to trust digitization because of the exponential rate of paper deterioration, and especially because we know how to preserve digital information.
Should publishers be responsible for preserving their publications, whether they are print or electronic?
Most felt that the libraries should do that. Publishers have never done so and will not, without good economic reasons.
However, some publishers in the USA, such as Elsevier, or in Australia, such as those involved in the PANDORA project, have taken up the responsibility. Most publishers are not willing to archive both electronic materials and the software. However, some of them are quite prepared to discuss the issue with libraries.
Librarians agreed that legislation for electronic format was needed.
With more and more users finding what they want on the Web, are traditional union catalogs of serials necessary?
The answer was a roaring yes. Although research methods are changing, union catalogs are best fitted to record information as long as we are in a hardware context and a minority of people (users and librarians) keep using them.
The outcome of the symposium was a project on the preservation of newspapers in Africa, starting with an inventory of existing national newspaper collections in national archives and libraries.