The Alkaline Paper Advocate

Volume 1, Number 5
Dec 1988

The Alkaline Attack

by Norman D. Stevens

In today's world, where everyone constantly demands our attention on a wide range of social issues, speaking to ourselves as the converted (or even to publishers as the heathen) about the benefits of alkaline paper as a means of preserving our heritage doesn't give Our Cause enough dramatic impact. High visibility and high impact public awareness efforts must be developed and utilized as a part of an ongoing strategy for advocating the wider use of alkaline paper. Developing imaginative approaches that will provide that visibility and impact is not an easy task, so naturally it has fallen to the skilled researchers at The Molesworth Institute to tackle this problem. Under the general rubric of "The Alkaline Attack," The Molesworth Institute is pleased to announce that it is putting into place the following ideas as the first in a series of efforts to dramatize Our Cause.

The Just Say No Campaign

Linking the cause of alkaline paper to one of the nation's most popular contemporary slogans, The Molesworth Institute is beginning its own Just Say No Campaign. At least once a week a corps of our alkaline advocates will go to large commercial local bookstores throughout the country at their busiest times. Selecting a reference book not printed on alkaline paper, the advocate will proceed to the cash register and innocently ask, in a loud voice, if the book in question is printed on alkaline paper and will be of lasting use. When the clerk looks puzzled and either says no, or more likely that she doesn't know, our would-be customer will, in a still louder voice, just say "No, I'm not going to buy this book." After adding appropriate commentary to inform other customers whose curiosity has been aroused, the alkaline advocate will leave knowing that the cause has been advanced however slightly.

The Acid-Free T Shirt

Building further on the anti-drug them, selecting other contemporary images, and utilizing the free advertising capabilities inherent in a ubiquitous form of popular culture, we are pleased to announce the production of a line of acid-free and/or alkaline advocate T shirts. The first is an anti-drug-related T shirt carrying the message "Acid destroys your mind, acid destroys my mind" with the name of one of a number of famous writers attached. That message may be too subtle, but keep in mind the ability of the wearer to launch into a five-minute lecture when somebody asks the meaning of the message. This T shirt is accompanied by a graphic representation of a brittle book crumbling. The higher-priced version has a small zippered packet containing pre-crumbled acidic paper pages for demonstration purposes. Our second T shirt, designed in particular for the Detroit area " Thomas Magnum fans, carries the picture of Al Kaline on the back with a brief summary of his outstanding record and the alkaline symbol on the front with a brief summary of its dismal record. The printed message reads, "Let's help alkaline match Al Kaline."

The Tums Antacid Awared

Our first national advertising award program follows up on that baseball theme. Inspired by the success of the Rolaids annual relief award, in which that company gives an award to the best relief pitchers in major league baseball with a pun on the different meanings of "relief," we have proposed to Tums that they sponsor an annual antacid award to be given, with appropriate national advertising and publicity, to the person who has done the most to advance the cause of bringing an end to acid in our books just as Tums brings an end to acid in our stomachs.


Most libraries are doing far too little to call attention to the availability of books printed on alkaline, paper in their collections. In earlier times some Mexican collections used branding irons to stamp marks of ownership on books. We now have available for purchase a small branding iron which, when carefully applied, will place the acid-free infinity symbol permanently on the spine of a book. The more daring preservationist and alkaline advocate may even venture to have the symbol branded on her arm. For the fastidious we also have available a more discrete, but somewhat less permanent, adhesive label with that symbol. The application of the brand, or the label, to the spine of books on alkaline paper added to a library's collection will call the significance of the book to the attention of users and guide them in their choice of appropriate reading matter. They too can then just say no to books printed on acidic paper, especially once library staff have taken the opportunity to give a brief alkaline lecture in response to the numerous questions that inevitably will be asked by borrowers curious as to the meaning of that symbol. An added advantage is that in years to come, preservationists conducting collection condition surveys will be able to identify at a glance those books that are published on alkaline paper without having to take them off the shelf.

The Acid-Free Library

Our last, for the moment, proposal is the creation and publicizing of a model acid-free library. Combining several of our themes, for example, the Tums Antacid Award might be given to the first library to just say no to books printed on acidic paper. Think of the dramatic impact to be achieved by the announcement by a major American public library, or even a minor American public library, that from now on they are going to add to their collection only books printed on alkaline paper. or even by the first somewhat more conservative academic library to announce that it is going to establish, separately catalog and classify, and house in a distinct location an alkaline collection. The dramatic effect could be heightened by coupling this approach with the implementation of an online public access catalog and the announcement that since the online catalog, established in 1989, is intended to be a permanent record of the library's collection, it will contain records for books published after 1988 only if they are printed on alkaline paper. Critics of this approach may carp at potential limitations on the quality of the collection but we can argue that a book that isn't published on alkaline paper isn't worth reading. Since so many contemporary books aren't worth reading anyway, and probably should be published an highly acidic paper, we are bound to be right in most cases.

Further Efforts

These are just a few of the initial creative pro-alkaline proposals being developed and advocated by The Molesworth Institute as we join this worthy crusade. We urge other alkaline advocates to join us in developing and implementing similar alkaline attacks.

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