Beyond PAPR II: Next Steps for CRL

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The growing amount of data in the CRL PAPR and ICON databases is revealing some interesting -- and alarming -- trends. As I reported in a July post on the June 25 PAPR II summit, CRL’s 2015 analysis of the holdings of the major North American print journal archiving programs indicate that a surprisingly small number of journal titles held by North American libraries--maybe as little as two percent of known titles--are archived to any meaningful extent. We also found that most of what is archived tends to be material that is widely held, available in multiple formats, and/or preserved in electronic form by services like CLOCKSS and Portico.

Moreover, most journals archived were published in the U.S. in the latter half of the twentieth century, with little coverage of materials published earlier and materials published abroad. Earlier works tend to be more prone to physical deterioration and more likely to have been withdrawn from service by many libraries. Foreign-published works are less likely to be widely held domestically.

A recent CRL study on newspaper digitization, based on information from the ICON database, found that the preservation benefits of library and publisher investment in digitization are similarly minimal. Most newspapers digitized to date by national libraries, academic libraries, and commercial publishers, we found, are titles that are either already preserved in microform and/or are widely held in paper form.

Collectively, we have to do a better job of balancing space management and preventing the loss of important knowledge and evidence. We have to broaden the scope of our archiving efforts to alleviate the very real pressures on libraries to repurpose space. And we must zero in on what is most at risk: primary source materials like nineteenth and early twentieth-century popular journals and magazines; newspapers that have not been microfilmed; state and foreign government publications; and other materials identified by scholars as important.

These twin imperatives call for more than mere archiving and retention commitments. For our archiving efforts to be meaningful, robust service and electronic access must be part of the picture as well. Here are four measures CRL will take to ensure that the most important materials survive and to maximize the benefits of member library investment in print:    

  1. Negotiate and maintain a clear “division of labor” between development of CRL collections and the activities of other print archiving programs, to concentrate member resources on preserving materials not covered by Scholars Trust, WEST, HathiTrust, COPPUL, CIC and other shared print programs.
  2. Expand CRL’s archiving-and-digitization alliances, to grow the amount of material that is both preserved and delivered electronically to the CRL community. Our partnerships with LLMC, the US Agricultural Information Network, and the Linda Hall Library have enabled us to grow the number of serial publications available electronically to CRL libraries and archived for long-term access.  Those alliances provide a template for further growth.
  3. Increase the amount and granularity of data on what is being archived and on the conditions of archiving, available to CRL library decision-makers through the PAPR and ICON databases. Growing these data will enable CRL and member libraries to “triage,” and ensure that materials that are both important and at-risk materials are preserved first, and to demonstrate due diligence in making the increasingly critical decisions on which print holdings to maintain, develop, and withdraw.
  4. Work with trusted digital repositories like CLOCKSS, Portico, Scholars Portal, and other digital preservation efforts to strategically expand their title holdings, to provide appropriate redundancy for key, at-risk titles.

We are now working to flesh out these plans, and will provide further details as we progress.Our planning will shape the program for CRL's 2016 Collections Forum, to be held in Chicago on April 14 and 15, 2016. The theme of that forum will be “Stewardship, Due Diligence, and the Future of Print.” 

Bernard F. Reilly
Center for Research Libraries


This sounds like a very worthwhile activity. I am curious whether there have been any discussions about preservation of photo archives of newspapers? I was stunned recently to learn that the Minneapolis Star Tribune photo archives were not turned over to the Mn Historical Society, but rather were in the hands of a private collector. ( These seem to be another valuable resource worth preserving.