The Alkaline Paper Advocate

Volume 2, Number 3
Aug 1989

Pell Resolution Sails Through Senate

Senator Claiborne Pell, always a champion of conservation of cultural materials, introduced a slightly revised version of his last year's resolution on use of acid-free paper earlier this year, and it was just passed with unanimous consent by the Senate. (the House is considering an identical version, sponsored by Rep. Pat William, RJR 226.)

The Congressional Record for July 31, 1989, records Mr. Pell's introductory remarks on the day the Senate considered the resolution, and includes the resolution itself, two articles from Publishers Weekly and supporting resolutions from two librarians' organizations, AALL and ARLIS. The revised resolution makes no reference to durability, but it now refers to "acid free permanent paper," whereas the original version referred only to "acid free paper." Both the original and this version urge that this paper be used for records as well as for books, which means that both libraries and archives will eventually benefit from it, if it becomes law, as is likely. The implementation date is January 1991. (The original resolution was reprinted in full in the December 1988 issue of this Newsletter.)

Excerpts from Mr. Pell's remarks are reproduced below, as they appeared in the Congressional Record under the heading "National Policy on the Use of Acid-Free Paper for Permanent Records."


Mr. President [Mr. Nunn], I am indeed delighted that the Senate has seen fit to approve Senate Joint Resolution 57, which I introduced on February 8, 1989, to establish a national policy to encourage the publication on acid-free permanent paper of books, records and publications of enduring value.

I am especially appreciative of the prompt action by the distinguished chairman of the Committee on Government Affairs, Senator Glenn, in reporting the measure to the Senate, and in joining with 46 other Members of the Senate who cosponsored the joint resolution. [He lists them.]

I also an most appreciative of the efforts of the American Library Association, the Special Libraries Association and the Association of Research Libraries, whose members and associates across the country joined, along with many others, in rallying support for the legislation.

And finally I would like to pay special tribute to Mr. Robert Frase, former director of the Washington office of the Association of American Publishers, who was instrumental in conceiving the joint resolution and bringing it to fruition.

Mr. President, this joint resolution reflects a growing concern about the impending loss of an enormous volume of our historical, cultural and scientific records because of the self-destruction of the acidic papers on which books and other publications have been printed since the mid-19th century.

The joint resolution declares it to be a policy of the United States that all Federal records, books and publications of enduring value be produced on acid-free permanent paper. In furtherance of that objective, the joint resolution urgently recommends that Federal agencies require the use of such paper for publications of enduring value, and the use of archival quality papers for permanently valuable Federal records.

The joint resolution urges similar action in the private sector. It urgently recommends that American publishers voluntarily adhere to the American national standard for permanent paper in printing publications of enduring value, and that the use of such paper be noted in the publication itself, in advertisements, and in standard bibliographic listings.

Last, the joint resolution would urge the compilation of reliable statistics on the production of acid free permanent paper and on the volume required to meet the objectives of the national policy established by the bill. And it would direct the Librarian of Congress and the Archivist of the United States, together with the directors of the national libraries of medicine and agriculture, to monitor progress in implementing the national policy and report annually to Congress.

I particularly wish to emphasize that this joint resolution mandates no Government program, and should impose no significant costs on the Federal Government. If anything, the joint resolution could result in a net reduction in costs to the Government because it will have the effect of reducing the long-range costs of deacidification. Every book produced on acid free paper today reduces the total number of volumes requiring deacidification, and frees up preservation resources which can be used to attack the crumbling backlog of publications dating back to 1850.

As vice chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library, I have had the opportunity to review the extensive efforts currently under way, at a cost of over $100 million to the Federal Government The Library of Congress, for example, is pioneering in the development of technology for the mass deacidification of its collections through the use of diethylzinc (DEZ). The present goal is to begin treatment of all the Library's new acquisitions by 1991 and to start retrospective treatment at the same time of existing publications in American history.

The National Archives and Records Administration and the National Library of Medicine are also making vigorous efforts to deal with the problem, either through deacidification or through microfilming books and publications which are already too brittle to save.

Clearly, it makes little sense to continue these costly remedies without attempting to curb the basic problem. And that is what the resolution approved by the Senate is designed to do. In a figurative sense, it locks the library door against prospective invasion by publications printed on acidic paper....

The Library of Congress and many university presses are those already publishing on acid free papers, as is the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. As a former member of the Commission, I am proud to have had a role in establishing its policy of publishing on permanent paper.

Fortunately, the technology exists to implement the national policy. More than 30 U.S. paper mills are already producing nonacidic, alkaline papers, and there are major economic incentives for other mills now making only acid papers to convert, including potentially lowered manufacturing costs and substantially reduced environmental pollution.

Moreover, prices for acid-free, alkaline paper are comparable to those for acidic paper, according to a 1988 survey. The enactment of the national policy proposed in this resolution hopefully will stimulate an expansion of production of nonacidic papers and lead to increasingly competitive prices.

A closely related issue is the question of whether there is a conflict between the objectives of this legislation and existing Federal laws and regulations mandating the use of recycled paper by Federal agencies and by State and local agencies using Federal funds for procurement.

This issue was recently explored by a subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and competent witnesses testified that there is no technical conflict between the two objectives: that is, alkaline paper can be and is being produced from recycled fiber.

However, it is clear that recycled, permanent paper is in short supply, which may make compliance with both objectives difficult for the immediate future. One reason for the shortage is that current Federal law on recycling does not encourage the production of recycled, permanent paper. Congressman Doug Walgren is introducing an amendment to the Solid Waste Recovery Act to remedy the problem by making permanence, or nonacidity, one of the criteria that must be met by suppliers of recycled paper for printing and archival use by Government agencies.

In the meantime, I would point out that Senate Joint Resolution 57 is flexible enough to avoid a collision between the two policies while steps are taken to encourage increased production of recycled permment paper. Senate Joint Resolution 57 enunciates a national policy but does not specify a deadline for compliance. It urges agencies to bring themselves into compliance, and establishes a framework for monitoring compliance with the policy objective. It contemplates gradual progress that may be influenced by technical factors such as increasing the production of recycled alkaline papers.

One additional technical question which arose in connection with the resolution is biodegradability. If we are encouraging the production of acid-free, permanent paper, does that mean we can't get rid of it when we want to?

Here too, I an assured that Senate Joint Resolution 57 is not in conflict with other public objectives. There is no difference between the rate of decomposition of alkaline and acidic paper in landfills, according to the Association of Research Libraries. The process of biological decomposition of alkaline paper is said to be comparable to that of acidic paper, so the increased use of alkaline paper for publications and Government records should have no impact on solid waste disposal processes.

This view is confirmed by the National Library of Medicine, which recently assured me that the chemistry used in manufacturing paper is not a factor in the mechanisms which are operative in its decomposition.

In the light of all these technological considerations, the passage of Senate Joint Resolution 57 by the Senate is a timely step toward the establishment of a clear national policy. I am especially hopeful that comparable action will be taken in the House of Representatives and that the measure will be signed by the President. In this connection, I am very pleased to note that an identical measure, House Joint Resolution 226, has been introduced in the House by Congressman Pat Williams, of Montana, with over 50 cosponsors, and is pending before the House Committees on Government Operations and House Administration....

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