The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 26, Number 6
Oct 2003

AALL Takes First Steps to Develop a National Preservation Plan

By Patricia K. Turpening

In fulfillment of the section of its 2000-2005 Strategic Plan mandating the development of a "national plan for the preservation of legal materials in all formats," the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) convened a conference co-sponsored by Georgetown University Law Library on March 6-8, 2003 at the Georgetown University Law Center. The forty-one invited participants and speakers were drawn not only from the various sectors of the law library community, including academic, state, and court, but also from non-law library associations: CLIR, ARL, CRL, and OCLC.

Eleven speakers including Kenneth Thibodeau, Director of Electronic Records at NARA; Thomas Clareson, Manager, OCLC Digital & Preservation Cooperative, OCLC; Clifford Lynch, Coalition for Networked Information; Ed Papenfuse, Maryland State Archives; and Deanna Marcum, then of CLIR, discussed preservation coalitions and various challenges in preservation of print and digital materials.

Prior to the conference, participants received 2" thick binders with photocopies of published and unpublished articles on various aspects of preserving analog and digital collections.

Facilitator George Soete assisted participants in breakout and reporting sessions to come up with several components necessary for a national plan. A recorder in each small group took electronic notes which were printed and distributed to all groups. A number of necessary traits were identified. A further reorganization by personal interest resulted in six groups: 1) mission and purpose, 2) content, 3) infrastructure, 4) standards and best practices, 5) partnerships and collaborations, and 6) sustainability. There were one or two preservation professionals in each group while the majority of the members were library directors. The members conferred at length and came up with drafts for plans on their topics.

The conference report is included at the group's web site:

What follows are the more significant decisions from the conference. The mission of Legal Information Preservation Alliance (LIPA) is to provide the leadership, the necessary organizational framework, and the professional commitment necessary to preserve vital paper and electronic legal information by defining objectives, developing and/or adopting appropriate standards and models, creating networks, and fostering financial and political support for long-term stability. Preservation is needed for both analog and digital legal information. Within both categories, a high priority should be established for primary legal information, the core information with which lawyers and legal scholars must work. The important task now is to identify what is and what is not already being preserved and then prioritize what is most at risk of disappearing. Law libraries should develop a national inventory to identify what is at risk. National priorities should be established for critical materials, and local institutional priorities should help set the agenda for smaller projects such as deacidification, or analog or digital reformatting. The effort will focus on legal material that the commercial sector is not yet preserving and is not likely to preserve.

It will be important to avoid duplication of effort. Any planning group should investigate what other organizations are already doing. Law libraries should also form partnerships with other organizations engaged in similar work, such as the Journal Storage Project (JSTOR) or College and Research Libraries (CRL). Cooperative working groups in individual law libraries will undertake the actual preservation work, including coordination, selection, gathering, cataloging, access, storage, preservation and/or conversion.

Recommended actions include: 1) accepting the standards in place for permanent paper, library binding, and preservation micrographics, 2) accepting a hybrid approach for analog to digital conversion, 3) identifying current research on digital preservation, and 4) influencing and adopting standards and best practices that meet the special needs of legal materials.

A national strategy for the preservation of legal information for current and future generations is most likely to succeed if partnerships are forged to secure funding and carry out specific projects to preserve collections and permit shared access. In order to identify potential partners, it is useful to look at which types of groups are already involved in preservation activities. Such groups include commercial operations, government agencies and national libraries, state libraries and other state agencies, and academic research libraries.

For a national agenda to be successful, several mechanisms need to be created to ensure the long-term sustainability of the effort. The mechanisms include establishing a steering committee, hiring a coordinator, and developing a consortium of libraries and institutions to establish priorities and fulfill the mission of the national agenda.

Participants at the conference agreed to constitute a new group called the Legal Information Preservation Alliance (LIPA). A steering committee, composed of six attendees, is charged with moving the agenda forward, developing proposals for a permanent organizational framework, and developing institutional commitments. With initial financial commitments, LIPA will hire a part-time staff member to write a white paper, begin an inventory of existing initiatives, and approach funding sources.

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