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More Than Ten Years After: Identity and Direction in Library Preservation
The literature of preservation for 1990 is reviewed. Topics addressed include preservation in original format; conservation treatment; pest management; deterioration of paper, deacidification, and paper strengthening; preservation replacement; newer reformatting technologies; management of preservation programs; education for preservation professionals; library binding; and state, national, and international programs. This year's output reflects a profession where fundamental operating assumptions are not yet agreed upon and basic research is not complete.
A survey of over sixty-five articles and news items in English published during 1990 concerning the preservation of library collections reveals that technical and managerial concerns have not changed dramatically in the recent past. This fact reflects the continuing importance of certain problems that remain unsolved and the relative youth of preservation and preservation professionals in libraries. A large proportion of the preservation programs and professionals is in the start-up phase of program development and self-education, with insufficient experience (or time) to discuss managerial concerns or preservation philosophy in the professional literature. In fact, some of the frequent authors in preservation have primary assignments in other areas of library work, such as collection development and library administration, and have never administered or worked in preservation programs.
Reading the published output of 1990 in preservation could lead the novice to suspect that the field of preservation is suffering from a lack of shared understanding of its goals. Part of the field, one might conclude, manages programs that, slowly and at great expense, maintain physical collections of books, archives, and documents that support current faculty scholarship and curricula. The other, unrelated, part oversees the replacement of hundreds of thousands of about-to-disappear brittle volumes that are rarely consulted except by devotees of the arcane and antique.
The divergence of the two views is especially pronounced in their approaches toward prioritization of items for preservation. Those describing physical treatment programs (especially Ogden, Shenton, and Maver) justify the allocation of their resources (human and fiscal) toward items urgently in need of care, deferring the maintenance of materials at less risk with confidence that, if not much used, these items will endure until treatment can be provided. Authors employing this approach to large-scale problems assume the opportunity will remain to raise the treatment priority for items whose condition worsens or level of use increases.
Articles documenting preservation replacement programs (especially Atkinson and Hazen), on the contrary, base their arguments on the assumption that acidic papers are uniformly doomed to imminent extinction and that any items not replaced or reformatted within a few years will be lost to society. Accepting the sure loss of thousands of titles, these writers either develop strategies for selecting materials for preservation based on various criteria of research value that reflect (and can only reflect) current research interests or eschew selection entirely and attempt comprehensiveness within subject areas. Either way the opportunity for preservation is expressed as a now-or-never proposition.
Several major pieces of work were published in 1990, including Merrill-Oldham and Parisi, and Higginbotham, that have gotten substantial, and well-deserved, attention. Other important work, including research by Daniel, Flieder, and Leclerc, and by Hindhaugh, has received little attention, despite its relevance to policy questions under consideration. An overview of this year's work reveals substantial effort being devoted to preservation problems, but apparently little communication.
The field of library preservation grew out of the field of art conservation. Originally, book conservators, trained in programs oriented toward art conservation and working only on the most rarefied collections, practiced elaborate conservation treatments on single, valuable books. Over the past fifteen years or so library conservators have brought their expertise to a greater number of damaged volumes of lesser monetary value (Kellar).
Recently programs to replace millions of embrittled general collections volumes came to dominate both the public perception of library preservation and the budgets of library preservation programs. Hence the impetus behind recent defenses of the appropriate use of physical treatments to repair damaged materials. Several writers well known in the library preservation world address the topic, with the intention of relegitimizing conservation treatment for certain classes of materials. They argue for more balanced programs and especially more balanced allocation of scarce resources to support the variety of preservation methods appropriate for making deteriorated collections accessible for instruction and research.
Ogden defines a category of materials that he calls artifacts, for which the original format or medium is critical to an understanding of the item. He mentions certain items largely agreed upon by curators and conservators (at least) to have so-called artifactual value, such as legal documents, original manuscripts, and aesthetically important items. In addition, he asserts, other items whose formats facilitate research should be preserved in original formats rather than replaced with microformats. These materials include oversize items, those with foldout or color plates, and those requiring frequent comparison of different parts of the item. Further, Ogden proposes strategies to prioritize treatment of artifacts, in particular "to identify materials on the basis of urgency of need for preservation treatment."  This would enable postponing treatment for items not in immediate danger of loss in order to conserve funds.
McCorison, arguing for preservation in original format, describes methods of scholarly research where replicas and replacements will not suffice. According to him, "Any National Preservation Policy must take such value into consideration and funding agencies must be aware of the limitations of the mere reproduction of texts."  McCorison advocates identification of libraries of record, whose collections would be eligible for funding for preservation in original format.
Banks also supports the need to preserve certain items in original format. He affirms the value of the medium as part of the message. "However, the interrelationship between medium and message is more complex . . . and understanding the interrelationship is fundamental to making appropriate preservation decisions."  Banks goes further than others in contending that the preservation in original format of certain kinds of library materials constitutes an ethical obligation for the library profession, citing legislation protecting cultural property. "Research libraries as a whole, in their role as keepers of culture, must be considered cultural property - even if, as is most often the case, only a minority of individual items would by themselves be so considered." 
Hazen, from the point of view of a subject specialist, questions the definition of microfilm as the technology of choice because its reliance upon one-time-only conversion and one copy for the nation obstructs the "longer lived preservationist stream that focuses on library materials as physical objects that people actually use, and on local library collections as distinct and meaningful entities in support of scholarship. . . . In other …