Upping Our Game on Print Preservation: The PAPR II Summit

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Last week, on June 25, CRL convened Preserving America's Print Resources II: a North American Summit, at the University of California, Berkeley. The one-day “summit” brought together representatives of many of the major print archive and shared print programs in the U.S. and Canada and other thought leaders. Our purpose in convening PAPR II was to get community input on how CRL could further support the archiving and sharing of print serial collections by North American libraries. We wanted to know how we could build upon our existing initiatives in this area: development of the PAPR registry, sponsorship of the Print Archive Network Forums, the work of the Global Resources Law Partnership, and our partnership with the Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering and Technology.

We also hoped to foster a common vision for the further development and growth of shared research library collections.The summit was made possible by the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the CRL community of member libraries. 

This was an important event for CRL, which since its founding in 1949 has built the largest and most comprehensive shared collection of print serials and monographs. As background for discussion at the PAPR II summit, we produced and circulated Print Archiving and Shared Print in North America: A Preliminary Analysis and Status Report. The report described the state of our "safety net," the scope and depth of holdings in the exisiting print archiving porgrams. The report and a list of summit attendees are available on the meeting site. Later this month we will also post an expanded version of the report, and the presentations from the meeting. 

Throughout the day attendees were engaged, creative, and frank. Several points of consensus emerged. There was the sobering realization that, despite the significant resources and effort invested in cooperative print preservation to date, we are far short of "covering the waterfront.” Copies of only a tiny fraction of the total number of serial titles held by libraries have been archived in any meaningful way to date. Most of the titles archived, moreover, are widely held rather than materials at risk of loss. At the same time the prospects for significantly increasing library financial support for archiving are dim.  Roger Schonfeld, in his concluding remarks at the summit, observed that "while we may have developed a strong network for managing down print, whether that will yield long-term preservation goals is quite another matter."

The situation clearly calls for greater cooperation at the national and international levels. Attendees agreed that several things must happen: 

  1. The strategies adopted by the cooperative print archiving/sharing efforts need to be better aligned, to ensure that the most important and endangered materials are identified and preserved;
  2. There must be greater sharing of technical capabilities and infrastructure for providing the data and services needed for informed decision-making, to prevent siloed development and unnecessary or redundant local investment;
  3. Better metrics and tools must be created for evaluating the terms and conditions under which materials are archived, to create trust and to provide actionable information for local and regional preservation efforts;
  4. Synergies must be achieved between archiving and other major collection investments that generate metadata and support validation of holdings, such as digitization and collection management projects.

To identify concrete next steps, we are now holding follow-up discussions with key CRL partners and funders. I will report back in this space later this summer on the specific measures CRL will take to promote and support concerted action on this important front.  

Bernard F. Reilly
President (2001-2019)
Center for Research Libraries