The Alkaline Paper Advocate

Volume 1, Number 2
Mar 1988

Ideas for Advocates

by Ellen McCrady

A great deal can be accomplished, without a great deal of effort, if people are organized into local action groups, or work through existing groups with compatible goals; but there are many things an individual can do by themselves. Advocates have the excitement of being at the frontier of this new trend or movement (which looks very much as if it will eventually triumph), and of doing the only fully satisfactory kind of preservation, that which makes restoration or copying unnecessary.

It should be borne in mind that some contacts may be very well-informed, or even advocates themselves. Others may not be very knowledgeable, but may be starved for information. Still others may become interested only after hearing about the big picture and learning how their own interests are being affected. Everyone deserves respect. There are no villains. Change is bound to come about through a) economic and technological forces, b) consciousness-raising and c) spread of information.

The following list of ideas is long, but even so it is not complete. Additions to the list will be published in this newsletter. Contributions from readers are welcome.

  1. Assemble and sell pH indicator pens, or give them out to people who can put them to good use. The cost for parts is under a dollar apiece.
  2. Make up and distribute lists of locally available permanent paper and where to get it. This is especially important for private brands for personal and office use, because the package does not usually identify the company or mill making then. They are manufactured to order for local distributors, or for local outlets of larger distributors, and the quality and availability varies, even for the same brand sometimes. The pH indicator pen comes in handy for this work.
  3. Make bumper stickers, e.g., "Achieve Immortality! Write on Permanent Paper."
  4. Make and distribute buttons saying "I am an alkaline paper advocate."
  5. Assemble teaching aids and kits for school classes in history or science, about manufacture and use of permanent paper. Archivists do this for history and civics classes already. To explore the idea of cooperation in this effort, contact the Society of American Archivists, 600 S. Federal, #504, Chicago, IL 60605 (312/922-0140).
  6. Organize tours of paper mills, and perhaps also of convertors and distributors for local group members, to give them a broader picture of the industry.
  7. Invite industry speakers to address relevant groups.
  8. Monitor the use of alkaline paper in selected parts of the market, e.g., books reviewed by various publications, or all books received at the local library. Keep records and follow trends. This makes a good student project, and might make a good article in a professional publication.
  9. Anyone who has a microscope can do a qualitative test on paper to see if it is buffered: you drop 6N HCl on it and see if it bubbles. One person in each local group could do this for everyone.
  10. Petition large organizations, urging then to switch to alkaline paper for their copy paper (as, for instance, Xerox), for government records (city, county and state officials), for office supplies and letterhead (the local university or employer). The possibilities are endless. The first step, of course, would be to determine the kind of paper already in use. It may already be alkaline. If the group has a self-explanatory none like "Permanent Paper Users' Group," it may attract more petition-signers and may even get press coverage.
  11. Increase awareness of the standards for paper permanence, among people who ought to know (e.g. publishers and purchasing agents). The ANSI standard is the easiest to understand aid apply. It is available from American National Standards Institute, 1430 Broadway, New York, NY 10018.
  12. Contact a paper testing lab so that in critical cases (as in case of dispute, or ambiguous results with the testing pen, or skepticism in key people), samples can be sent to see if they conform to the standard specs. This costs money, of course. A list of 1000 testing labs of all sorts can be ordered from the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM Directory of Testing Labs, 1988 ed., $50 from ASTM, 1916 Race St., Philadelphia, PA 19103-1187, 215/299-5400). One of the 50 or so labs in this directory that is set up to test paper is the Chicago Paper Testing Lab, Inc., 3356 Commercial Ave., Northbrook, IL 60062 (312/480-1670).
  13. Let it be generally known, through formal and informal channels, that the local group s a willing source of information on paper quality and permanence; and be sure that the information given out is accurate. Include or recruit local paper experts; build up a reference library; and make use of information sources, e.g. the TAPPI library I in Atlanta; Paperchem (the bibliographical database of the Institute of Paper Chemistry); the local library; and the office of this Newsletter.
  14. Manufacture, advertise and sell personal journals, scratch pads and other item used by individuals, out of alkaline buffered paper. This makes each user into an advocate and source of information for other people.
  15. Test the books you buy, and any other item made of paper that is intended for use over a long period of than, then feed back results to the sources. This is a form of consciousness-raising.
  16. Whenever there is a choice among papers, request the alkaline brand. When dealing with a printer, insist on alkaline paper. If possible, go further and insist on permanent and durable paper that meets one of the several standards (ANSI, ASTM, NHPRC, even the old Barrow standards or the Library of Congress's purchasing specs). If the printer does not know whether or not his paper is alkaline, lend him a pen or get permission to test samples. If necessary, have them place a special order for paper you know is all right.
  17. At convention exhibits where books are displayed, ask the company representative whether the books are on permanent paper. They probably won't know, but this opens up the topic and often provides the opportunity for a little education. We need to stamp out the myth that paper is only good if it is 100%. rag. They need to learn that they can trust purified wood pulp. We also need to tell everyone that permanent paper costs no more than the other stuff; in fact, it is cheaper to make.
  18. When using alkaline or permanent paper, identify it as such. Some people nowadays are running a line of small type at the bottom of their letterhead giving its name and identifying its archival qualities, and some publishers are inserting a notice on the back of the title page, along with an infinity sign.

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