NOTES FROM PRESERVATION
[Correction: Last month, it was implied that you are 98% water. You are
approximately 68% water. I remain 98% water, with 30% on the brain.]
These articles have attempted to imply that library materials are alive.
Yet, in the normal course of their lives, these materials are properly
speaking dead. Yes. For all intents and purposes, library materials are
ZOMBIES. Like all zombies, library materials have a body without a soul,
that is, a user. Whether book, microform, audio- or video-tape, etc.,
library materials come to life through use. "Every book, its user," S.R.
Ranganathan, the great Indian librarian, used to say.
At the University of Florida Libraries, one of the jobs of collection
development, reference, and circulations staffs is to marry library materials
to library patrons, to make materials useful. The Systems Office has even
gone so far as to come up with a computer dating system. The job of
preservation staff, on the other hand, is to make materials usable. The
former are like matchmakers and priests, while the latter preservation
staff -- are like doctors or witch-doctors. This article examines the latter,
looking at those library materials which rise again.
The "risen" are readily exemplified by two death defying species of bird.
The first of these, the Pheasant-Under-Glass, is a species of bird which
defies death by continuing to exist in its original format after death.
Pheasant-Under-Glass, while it has neither head nor feathers, has the
brains to remain protected under glass. Library materials which employ
this wisdom are those which have been encapsulated. These materials
include rare manuscripts and books, maps and posters. More of this in the
The second death defying species of bird, the Phoenix, is one which does
so by dying and rising up again. Library materials which die a death of
embrittlement and which are reborn through reproduction might be known
as "phoenix materials." Their usefulness is continued by making them
usable in another format. One type of reproduction, reprography, includes
all means of photoduplication: microfilming; preservation photocopying;
photonegative regeneration, etc. These are handled through our
Reprographics Unit. Other types of reproduction include audio- and
video-tape duplication, handled through the University's Office of
continued on next page 0
Instructional Resources, and magnetic- (computer-) media duplication,
handled through the Libraries' Systems Office.
The decision to create a phoenix is relatively simple. We usually have
a deteriorating or brittle book which is no longer usable while the
information it contains is still useful. If microforms or reprints of the book
are not available, collection development staff may decide to create a
phoenix. Deciding which type of phoenix to create is more difficult. The
Preservation Office has two, sometimes conflicting obligations. We must
first make materials usable to the University of Florida's library
patrons, and secondly to other libraries. The latter, our obligation to the
"National Preservation Program," maintains that every item someone
saves is one less item someone else has to save. There are millions of
items to save, and only 58 U.S. institutions with preservation programs
capable of saving them. Conflict arises when our collection development
staff wants "hard-copy" in the form of preservation photocopy and the
national preservation program needs microcopyy" in the form of
microfilm or microfiche.
So why would anyone want microcopy? Hard-copy is much more user
friendly and almost always available through Inter-Library Loan. The
answer is cost and security. For the cost of borrowing and returning one
item through Inter-Library Loan, another library -- barring copyright
restrictions could buy a copy of the item if it were available in
microcopy. The quality of a duplicate microcopy is usually excellent.
Security and the ability to produce copies is also at issue. What if the
hard-copy gets lost, burnt, wet, mold or insect infested? Barring this, the
quality of a photocopy of a photocopy is often unreadable.
Within the restraints of quality and expense, the Preservation Office
tries to minimize conflicting obligations by producing hard-copy from
microcopy. Production of hard-copy from microcopy costs about $27 per
item. Production of hard-copy using more traditional, labor intensive
preservation photocopy techniques costs about $70 per item. While this
procedure saves bibliographers $43 per hard-copy reproduction, an
additional $35 could be saved if an $8 microfilm were purchased instead.
It becomes fiscally responsible to ask, "Why would anyone want hard-
copy?" Obviously, expected use and expense must be considered. Will a
hard-copy be used enough to justify additional expense? Hard-copy and
microcopy are both usable; is information less useful in either format?
Why? How many more items could be purchased or restored to usefulness
by choosing less expensive preservation options?
These and the many questions not asked here can be tough questions.
Each question has no single correct answer. Answers must be puzzled out
by collection development and preservation staffs together. If the
puzzling out proceeds incautiously or inconsiderate of user need and fiscal
realities the phoenix could be both zombie and Frankenstein's Monster.
-- Erich Kesse