By YVONNE FRENCH
Citing declining preservation budgets, librarians, archivists and museum curators concluded after a symposium at the Library that they must collaborate to save the world's cultural heritage for future generations.
Dr. Billington opened the Oct. 30-31 conference, "To Preserve and Protect: The Strategic Stewardship of Cultural Resources," which was one of several symposia marking the Library's Bicentennial.
He called for national and international collaboration, especially for "born digital" material, those items whose first, perhaps only, form is electronic. "Our individual collections are distinct and unique. But the responsibility for preserving the human heritage is a shared one. … We must preserve that which has been given us from the past and pass it on to our children and to humanity," he said.
Participants echoed his call as they met in group sessions following a series of panels and plenary sessions during the conference, held by the Library of Congress in affiliation with the Association of Research Libraries and the Federal Library and Information Center Committee (FLICC).
Those attending came from across the United States and as far away as Malaysia, Brazil, Jamaica and Canada. In addition to library, archives and museum directors, the 231 participants included preservation officers and security officers, the people most intimately involved with securing collections against the dual threats of theft and deterioration.
Shirley Baker, president of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), noted that "computer files are one of the newest and most challenging forms of media to preserve." ARL represents 122 major research libraries in North America, with combined budgets of $2.5 billion; however, ARL studies have noted a decline in preservation funding, including for staff, conservation treatments and microfilming. Preservation is one of ARL's designated priorities this year.
Winston Tabb, the Library's associate librarian for Library Services, said the goal of the conference was to precipitate action. Following the nine plenary and panel sessions, participants broke into 13 brainstorming groups to discuss challenges and envision new cooperative initiatives.
A lack of funding poses the greatest challenge to preservationists, the brainstorming groups concluded. In a panel session on budgets, Deanna Marcum, president of the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), said preservation budgets are imperiled. During the 1980s and early 1990s, as research libraries developed preservation programs, several organizations advocated preservation, particularly of brittle books, and the government and the private sector responded, she said. "That support peaked in the 1990s and is now in decline. … We need to do something dramatic," she said.
In their breakout sessions, the participants also cited as challenges the lack of a coordinated national effort, the need for a strategic plan and the need for greater visibility. In a panel session on preservation strategies, Harvard Preservation Librarian Jan Merrill-Oldham said: "We must do more to stimulate public interest in the preservation of cultural resources. "We must … make the case to the federal and state governments and to private funding agencies for preservation of the record of human achievement in the arts, sciences and professions. … Intimate connections to the achievements of the past are part of what being human is all about."
The collaborative initiatives that the participants called for most consistently were these: more meetings to organize around common needs, shared storage facilities and treatment registries and the clarification of copyright laws pertaining to digital preservation.
In a plenary session on electronic security and preservation, Clifford Lynch, the executive director of the Coalition for Networked Information, said the behavior of copying and migration to newer technologies is not currently supported in the schema of "first sale," which holds that "once you get an item, you control it. … This is coming unglued in the world of digital information," said Mr. Lynch, because so much of what is produced digitally are not "fixed, bounded editions," but quickly evolving Web sites, often experiential in nature, or based on dynamic databases, such as the online auction site Ebay, he said.
Mr. Lynch said that the Library should work with Congress to rework intellectual property restraints on copying and migration to allow preservation for archival purposes. Already, the scholarly community is organizing to provide continual access to, for example, journal articles and digital university press imprints. They have the support of university publishers and the "economic lever of research libraries," who will purchase their digital compilations.
But libraries do not have similar leverage in the consumer world, he said. "They can't even get the attention of people," Mr. Lynch said, noting that despite this, the Library has a "unique role" because it is home to the Copyright Office. Mr. Lynch urged the Library not to frame issues in narrowly legal or technical terms, but to "explain why it is important to maintain the cultural heritage in a digital world" and to "think about digital content in terms of broad, social issues" because what is being lost daily is the "raw material for future scholarship, just as newspapers are fodder for not only "historians, but economists, social scientists and demographers." To do so, Mr. Lynch said, "we need active participation from rights holders in order to preserve material," and "archiving needs to be built into creation."
Mr. Tabb said at the end of the conference that the Library plans to ask Congress early next session to amend the copyright law to clarify the Library's authority to copy freely accessible Web material "much as the current copyright law gives the Library the authority to tape news broadcasts without infringing the network's copyrights."
As the conference unfolded, speakers shared many interesting anecdotes about security. For example, police told of big heists, and a museum director described how artists predict decay.
Criminal Investigation Division Supervisor Richard Mederos of the Harvard University Police Department described how important it is for library, preservation and law enforcement personnel to combine forces. Working from an anonymous tip that a suspect was about to leave the country, Mr. Mederos apprehended José Torres-Carbonnel, who had removed Islamic art and architecture books from the Fine Arts and Widener libraries to his apartment 1,000 feet away, where he razored out thousands of plates and sent them to a dealer in Granada, Spain. Working with librarians and the preservation staff, Mr. Mederos retrieved 2,000 pieces of stolen material worth more than $750,000. Mr. Torres-Carbonnel was indicted on 16 counts, served his time and is now awaiting deportation, Mr. Mederos said.
Whitney Museum Director Maxwell Anderson called artists the "antennae of the race" and described his experience of opening an experiential art book, purposely made to look tattered and burned. Inside he found a computer disk. Placing it in his computer, he began to read the text, only to watch it disappear before his eyes. Artists are increasingly creating this kind of "experiential, evanescent" art on or out of ephemeral material and "have no interest in preservation," he said.
Thus it falls to the keepers, such as libraries, archives, museums and historical societies, to preserve and protect what Dr. Billington called the "extraordinary variegated creativity" of the human race.
In her presentation, Ms. Marcum proposed a report that would quantify and qualify the decline in funds reported by preservation officers in ARL member libraries. She also said digital technology presents new options. "Once a book is digitized and with proper maintenance made available electronically, does every library have to preserve its copy or should there be a national library to deposit one archival copy that will be preserved?"
Mr. Tabb in closing remarks suggested that the Library work with CLIR and ARL on a "Joint Study on the State of Preservation Programs in American Libraries." He also suggested a framework for a concerted national preservation and access program. "Could we choose a few subjects [or] disciplines, divide them among several libraries and have each take responsibility for permanent retention of the appropriate artifacts – properly deacidified and permanently stored at 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 35 percent relative humidity, documented in an internationally accessible database, and to the extent copyright or licenses permit, made accessible via the Internet for wide use?"
Mr. Tabb also said he feared some would think the nexus between security and preservation was a "shotgun marriage," but was heartened to hear speakers refer to the bond as if it were a natural one. Harvard Librarian Nancy Cline said that it is "usually easy to have a gulf between preservation and security as they compete for budgets, respect and administrative commitment." However, she described them as "inseparable" in her talk, "Stewardship: The Janus Factor." She prefaced her remarks by reminding the audience that Janus was a god in Roman mythology who had two faces, back and front, was guardian of doors and gates and presided over beginnings. Ms. Cline's remarks came in the plenary session, "Cultural Heritage at Risk: Today's Stewardship Challenge," moderated by Debra McKern, acting chief of the Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs Division.
Also speaking in this session was Folger Shakespeare Library Director Werner Gundersheimer, who cautioned against "too headlong of a leap into innovation." He said that librarians erroneously viewed microfilm as the "penicillin of the library world" and that we need to watch out for this with newer media. He described how the Folger Library's sizable microfilm collection developed vinegar syndrome in 1994, and how staff moved it to cold storage and made duplicate reels to combat the problem of deteriorating acetate.
"We are on the cusp of a new set of preservation techniques, and research librarians ought to be more cautious about wholesale adoption of techniques than in the past. Innovators in the field [of digitization] will also be the first to experience risks."
Janus was an apt metaphor for the conference, which could be the beginning of a concerted collaborative effort, Mark Roosa, the Library's director of Preservation, said. "It was intentional that we focus discussion in the final session around the notion of cooperation, this with the understanding that partnerships between preservation and security programs within institutions are just taking shape and that building opportunities for future cross-organizational cooperation is an essential ingredient for constructing a strong infrastructure to protect cultural assets in all types of institutions," he said.
In fact, the unifying theme of four concurrent sessions during the conference was "Mobilizing for the Future: Strategies, Priorities and Expectations for Preservation and Security."
One of the sessions, "As Strong as Its Weakest Link: Developing Strategies for a Security Program," explored the components of institutional security programs, including minimum requirements. Three panelists described unique experiences in developing library security, but they agreed that there is a need for increasing and developing security.
Moderator Laura A. Price explained how KPMG (an international network of professional service firms of which she is a partner in the Washington office) measured the effectiveness of security control improvements within the Library. Laurie Sowd, operations director of Art Collections and Botanical Gardens at the Huntington Library, said the essential ingredients for a successful security program are people, technical systems and policies and procedures, adding that a critical component is effective training to alleviate staff boredom and ineffectiveness.
Steven Herman, chief of the Library's Collections Management Division, explained how the Library has expanded basic security measures, which now include inventory control, preservation techniques and physical security.
Charles Lowry, dean of libraries at the University of Maryland in College Park, explained how the university has tightened some security measures and eliminated those that were ineffective.
The improvement of security and preservation measures was discussed in "The Silver Lining: Coping with Theft, Vandalism, Deterioration and Bad Press." Panelists described how bad experiences can be a catalyst for improvement. Mohamed Mekkawi, Howard University's director of libraries, moderated the panel. Jean W. Ashton, director of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University, recounted her experience with the 1994 theft of codices, early printed books, presidential letters, medieval documents, business papers and maps worth $1.3 million from Columbia University's library. Lynne Chaffinch, art theft program manager for the FBI, defined what qualifies art theft as a federal crime. Both Jean Ashton and Lynne Chaffinch recommend that appraisals and inventories be kept current for purposes of identification and recovery of stolen materials. Camila Alire, dean of University Libraries at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, emphasized the importance of clear communications with the media and public when natural disasters and other emergencies occur. Ms. Alire in 1997 awoke to the call that librarians fear above all things, including fire: millions of gallons of water had submerged the Library's collections. In "Library Disaster Planning and Recovery Handbook" Ms. Alire and the Morgan Library staff document their institution's method of response to a natural disaster.
In "Building the Budget: Meeting Major Funding Demands for Preservation and Security and Successfully Promoting Your Program," Nancy Gwinn, director of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, and Jim Neal, dean of university libraries at Johns Hopkins University, said respectively that traditional bench conservation and digital archiving are funding magnets. Ms. Gwinn described how the Smithsonian's Book Conservation Laboratory attracts funders because of the emotional appeal of the books themselves.
Mr. Neal described how the Digital Knowledge Center at Hopkins, a national demonstration project for digitization and archiving for preservation purposes, has been a magnet for funding from both national organizations and individuals interested in digital preservation. The panel included Ms. Marcum and was moderated by Cornell University Librarian Sarah E. Thomas.
"The Big Picture: Preservation Strategies in Context" proposed models for determining preservation priorities while questioning current preservation views. Jeffrey Field of the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH); Doris Hamburg, head of Preventive Conservation at the Library of Congress; and Ms. Merrill-Oldham focused on developing a comprehensive preservation plan. The session was moderated by Preservation Officer Wesley L. Boomgaarden of Ohio State University.
Mr. Field noted that the need for a national preservation plan was recognized in the 1960s, but implementation was hampered by administrative, technical and fiscal requirements. In 1985 NEH established its Office of Preservation, which attacked the problem through preservation microfilming grants for brittle books; the Library's U.S. Newspaper Program; the preservation of individual archival and special collections; training programs; and field service offices, among others.
Ms. Hamburg described how the Library established a framework encompassing physical security, preservation, bibliographic control, inventory control and digital security for preserving its cultural assets. The Library developed its "metals" standards to prioritize its holdings, using a range of values from platinum for the most valuable irreplaceable items to copper for items intended for distribution through the gift and exchange program. Once the standards were set, the Library then developed control measures and a system for reporting progress.
The second day of the conference opened with the plenary session, "Electronic Information and Digitization: Preservation and Security Challenges." The panel was moderated by Sylvia Piggott, deputy division chief of the Information Services Department at the Joint World Bank-International Monetary Fund Library, and included presentations by Mr. Lynch, Mr. Anderson and Carl Fleischhauer, technical coordinator for the National Digital Library Program at the Library. He described how reformatting programs make cyber objects that reproduce physical items.
"At the Library of Congress, the general strategy for digital reformatting has been to produce "migratable" content, that is, reproductions of the originals and an object structure designed to permit migration. These reproductions are structured to provide a representation of the original item that is as good as or better than conventional reformatted copies," such as a microfilm representation of a book or an audiotape of a wax cylinder. "In no case are these reproductions intended to emulate the complete look and feel or behavior of the original items. But there is an opportunity to add value of a different sort, as in the case of rendering the text in searchable form."
The final plenary sessions on each day focused on nuts-and-bolts issues including measurements of theft, mutilation and deterioration, and using the newest methods and equipment in physical and collections security.
"Understanding Success: Measuring Effectiveness of Preservation and Security Programs," moderated by Mr. Roosa, included presentations by Nancy Davenport, Library of Congress director of Acquisitions; Statistics Research Professor Frank Ponti of George Washington University; and James Reilly of the Image Permanence Institute at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Mr. Reilly described a collaborative project he is doing with Ms. Hamburg in the Rare Book and Manuscript Division storage areas at the Library to double or triple life expectancy of materials and save money by optimizing the existing HVAC system.
Mr. Ponti touted multistage sampling as a tool to generate reasonable numbers for rates of occurrence of theft, mutilation and deterioration. He described how institutions can save money by using such sampling techniques. "The key to success is continued measurement. It is a form of continuous process improvement," he said.
Ms. Davenport suggested a "mosaic" approach for determining loss rates before doing a complete inventory of holdings. "Look at existing data. Listen to anecdotal data. Are your librarians saying they have to straighten the same shelf over and over? Use institutional knowledge. Which classes circulate the most? Look at the largest and smallest classes, the newest or oldest. When sampling, work with an expert statistician and know where you want to end up. Do you want to be sure to a 99 percent confidence level" that collection items will not disappear so you can make justifications to donors and funders? Like Ms. Davenport, several presenters framed their questions similarly to be helpful to their colleagues.
In "People, Buildings and Collections: Innovations in Security and Preservation," moderated by Rare Book Division Chief Mark Dimunation, panelists Kenneth Lopez, Abby Smith and James Williams II discussed how much security and preservation is too much in an era of open access.
Mr. Lopez, the Library's security director, described the Library's strategy and integrated, collaborative approach to protecting people, buildings and collections.
CLIR Program Director Abby Smith predicted that libraries will become cultural depots for books whose artifactual value accretes because of a unique binding or notations in the margin by a prominent person. She urged librarians and archivists to "get out of the book business and get into the information delivery business," preferably by collaborating with scholars to "support research past, present and future." Said Ms. Smith: "Hold the mirror up to scholars to see what they're actually studying and let that give guidance on what to preserve."
Mr. Williams said it was a lot easier to agree on the need for preservation than to settle on a national strategy to preserve and protect the cultural resources of the nation and the world. He pointed out that best practices must provide for a reasonable level of stewardship and protection, while also offering the most reasonable level of access to our nation's cultural resources. Mr. Williams posited that a searchable field in catalog records could be used to describe preservation information, whereupon Ms. McKern reported that such a field is being considered by the Library, ARL and a private vendor. "This," she said, "could inform a national strategy." Mr. Williams also suggested involving both antiquarian and new book sellers in collaborative efforts.
Concluded Mr. Tabb: "If we are going to measure up to the challenges we have focused on in the past two days, we are going to have to collaborate with all sorts of partners."
The videotaped proceedings of the conference will be made available in 2001 on the Library's Web site and the papers will be published subsequently.
Librarians Raise Collegial Questions
In two presentations, speakers raised questions and provided checklists that should be considered by librarians, archivists, museum curators and historical society representatives for preservation and security of both analog and electronic media.
- Can most of us say we know our role in the stewardship of cultural heritage?
- Is it at the top of the list of your administrative or managerial responsibilities?
- Do others acknowledge this role?
- Where do preservation and security fit in to your strategic vision for your institution?
- Do you know the value of the collections and facilities within your purview?
- Do your staff know?
- Do you know the most valuable items or parts of your collections?
- If an emergency forced you to abandon the majority of your collections, is it clear which ones would be saved?
- Do you have an idea of what you would spend to restore or recover items?
- Do your budgetary commitments for the care of these collections match your internal institutional expectations (such as saving money on security) and the expectations of donors, scholars or the broader public?
- Are the physical security of buildings, hardware and cabling assured?
- Are firewalls and routers to control network traffic installed and integrated?
- Are users authenticated and is their access authorized to appropriate zones within the institution's systems?
- Are the integrity of systems and data protected against corruption caused by accident, errors or infiltration caused by unauthorized persons?
- Is data integrity monitored?
- Is network traffic monitored?
- Are systems and data backed up and are disaster recovery plans established?
- Are guidelines developed and individual users trained?
Ms. French is a public affairs specialist in the Public Affairs Office. Jane Caulton, a writer-editor at the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, also contributed to this report, as did Tracy Arcaro and Cheryl McCullers, on detail to the Public Affairs Office.