Building Blocks of a National Print Preservation Network

To promote the exchange of information on print archiving and collections of last resort, the Center convened Building Blocks of a National Print Preservation Network: a Strategic Forum. Presenters at the forum provided updates on the Library of Congress Heritage Copy program planning, the Government Printing Office “collection of last resort,” and journal and newspaper archiving initiatives at the University of California, the Five Colleges of Massachusetts, the Phoenix academic libraries consortium in Texas, and other North American universities and consortia. The Center will continue to promote linkages between these efforts, and we will report about them on the Center’s Web site. The reports that follow deal with particular areas of activity.

News Archiving

On this front we are happy to report that the National Endowment for the Humanities recently funded a new, two-year phase of the International Coalition on Newspapers (ICON). ICON is a cooperative undertaking of the Center, the British Library, Library of Congress, National Library of Canada, and several major North American research libraries. It collects and disseminates authoritative information on libraries’ non-U.S. newspaper holdings and preservation activities, microfilms important at-risk newspaper titles, and enables systematic archiving of news content.

Important sources of world news are vanishing from libraries. In the past decade many major national and U.S. academic libraries have scaled back their acquisition of foreign language newspapers. Many university libraries, facing space constraints, are now pressed to find ways to reduce their foreign newspaper print holdings.

The new NEH award of $350,000 will support preservation microfilming of up to 12 foreign newspaper titles (comprising 250,000 pages of newsprint), the continued development and population of the database of international newspapers, and coordinated cataloging to help participating institutions describe their foreign newspaper holdings. The new grant will also support further development of the ICON Web site as a clearinghouse for information on preservation activities and newspaper collecting policies worldwide.

During this new phase of ICON we also hope to broaden the effort’s base of participating libraries and funders. The ICON Advisory Committee, consisting of the heads of the nation’s largest newspaper collections as well as responsible officers of the National Libraries of Canada and the United Kingdom, has increased the visibility of ICON. With several advisors also active in the IFLA Section on Newspapers, the activities and goals of ICON have already reached a worldwide audience, resulting in expressions of interest from national actors in countries such as Germany, Bulgaria, Norway, and the consortium of national libraries in Latin America.

Aside from the NEH, ICON has received support from the Tribune Corporation and the Internet Archive.

Government Publications

The GPO has initiated planning for creation of a “Collection of Last Resort” of government-produced documents and publications. Judith Russell, the GPO Superintendent of Documents, outlines the program as follows:

“The primary purpose of the [Collection of Last Resort] is to support the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) in its mission to ensure no-fee permanent public access to the official publications of the United States Government. GPO will proactively acquire and preserve tangible and electronic copies of Government publications for inclusion in the CLR based on the requirements of all GPO information dissemination programs.”

To provide for “legacy” content (materials produced in print, microform, and other tangible media) GPO is encouraging the move toward forming shared repositories and shared housing agreements that will allow libraries to reduce redundancy among their collections. Though still in the early stages, these initiatives should help ensure active preservation of the government documents collections in federal depository libraries by moving toward a smaller number of comprehensive sets of tangible publications that can be more readily preserved.

As part of the GPO’s effort, the Center worked with the office of the Superintendent of Documents to develop a “Decision Framework” for archives of print and other government documents in tangible form. The GPO enlisted the Center to identify various levels of assurance that might be provided by “light,” “dark,” and “accessible” archives. The framework document was inspired by Abby Smith’s suggestion at PAPR that a risk management tool for print archiving be developed.

While devised specifically for government documents, many of the assurance factors apply to such traditional library collection materials as journals, books, and newspapers. We hope that this tool provides a new level of concreteness to planning for “light,” “dark,” and “dim” archives. An initial version of this tool has been circulated by the GPO for comment to government document librarians. The GPO will post a revised and expanded version to the Web in October.


Several years ago the Center began an initiative to create and preserve complete archives of the printed originals of journals that the re-publisher JSTOR makes available in electronic form. The effort began in part to dispel concerns among librarians and scholars about losing important information as libraries transition from print to electronic content. From a broader perspective, the project adds significant structure and momentum to a nationwide initiative to establish “last copy” print archives for other important primary source materials.

In 2002 we combined expertise and resources with Yale University, Michigan State University, and the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign to model the establishment of “in-place” or distributed archives of selected scholarly journal titles. Our aim was to test the viability of a federated approach to journals archiving. Under such an approach high-quality comprehensive holdings of critical print journals are “archived” and made available not by a central repository but by partner libraries, where the holdings already reside and are supported. This avoids the costly and disruptive processes of extracting holdings from one library and then reintegrating them in another. While JSTOR journals provide a useful test bed of materials for experimentation, the distributed approach may enable the Center to ensure the continuing availability of far more “content” than can (or should) be assembled under one roof.

Our findings suggest that this approach, applied on a large scale to a wide range of collection materials, could enable libraries to move gradually and safely away from costly reliance upon excessive redundant print holdings.

Other repositories such as Harvard and the California system are also in various stages of planning JSTOR print archives, specifically “dark” and “dim” archives. “Dark” archives are bodies of material that are held under ideal climate control and security conditions and are not available for use, but rather are preserved in case failure of the corresponding electronic resource should occur. “Dim” archives are materials that similarly are preserved under ideal climate control and security conditions, but are available for limited use under specified circumstances.

Elsevier, Wiley, Kluwer

Several consortia are also beginning to form shared print collections of journals that are produced in both print and electronic form by large publishers such as Elsevier, Kluwer, and Wiley. Two years ago members of the State University Library Consortium in Florida, facing budget restrictions that required cancellation of print subscriptions across the consortium, agreed to develop a policy statement related to retention of at least a single print subscription for each title in an electronic aggregator package (e.g., Elsevier, Kluwer, Wiley) to which one or more of our institutions might continue to subscribe.

Other consortia, like the Phoenix Group of Texas academic libraries, California Digital Library, and the CIC, are in various stages of planning prospective cooperative acquisition of these publishers’ output, to reduce or eliminate the cost of multiple print subscriptions. On April 15, at the Center’s 2005 Council Meeting, we will provide an opportunity for representatives from a number of these groups to compare notes.

Digital Delivery of Collections of Record

For libraries to be able to rely on “collections of record” for critical holdings, archiving must be coupled with access. Conversion on an on-demand basis can provide access to legacy collections when comprehensive digitization is not practical or economically justifiable. The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation recently awarded the Center funds to support planning for the demand-based digital conversion of critical research materials.

The Delmas-funded planning effort will continue through the current academic year. Access Services staff at the Center have begun to gather highly granular monthly statistics on the materials that the Center delivers to member universities. August’s statistics, for instance, told us that we delivered 1.89 million pages of materials during that traditionally slow month. Of those pages 11 percent were from U.S. federal or state government documents; 23 percent from foreign newspapers; and 36 percent from U.S. newspapers. Statistics gathered in future months under the Delmas study will shed additional light on the nature of use of the Center’s collections and the challenges of delivering Center content digitally.

The Center’s April 15, 2005 Council Meeting will be devoted to shaping the Center’s demand-based digital strategy. At that meeting we will open discussion to members on prospective service models, acquisition strategies, and content management mechanisms that digital delivery will require. To explore applicability of the on-demand template to other libraries of record the Center is also involving two major American independent research libraries in its planning: the American Antiquarian Society and the Linda Hall Library.