In this edition Janet M. Zisk tells us about preserving Hawaiian culture at the Bishop Estate Archives. Joyce Watson tells us about her firsthand experience with environmental and nature problems and their effects on library materials. James F. Cartwright offers us an Archivist's perspective and actions taken in preservation. Michaelyn P. Chou presents her testimony to the National Commission on Library and Information Science and presents standards for oral history. Finally, Linda Wiig offers us research into Mission Press printing paper.
Researchers have seen it coming, archivists have told us about it, instructors have explained it, and yet, we are losing the human record. Approximately 1/3 of the books in the world's libraries are already embrittled, (if the page was bent, it would break) and the rest are on their way. It is estimated that there are approximately 77 to 80 million books in a brittle stage in the United States alone. Researchers and scientists have discovered that acid levels have been rising in paper, particularly in papers made since the mid-1800s. Manufacturer's use a compound of alum and rosin to harden the paper surface and to improve its ability to accept ink. Alum reacts with moisture that is present in paper, the result is sulfuric acid. In essence, our books are being destroyed from within. The process of decay is further accelerated by the surrounding environmental conditions: humidity, temperature, and emmissions from fossil fuels; you can see the problem compounding.
One of the first options we may think of for perserving the record is to simply transfer it to microform, if it is discovered in time. But calculating this using the rate of transfer to microfilm 40,000 a year currently under way in the United States, we can see that it would take approximately 2000 years just to preserve what we recognize now as endangered. Preservationists use deacidification techniques to help slow down this process if discovered early enough, but the long term effects of this process are unknown.
Finding new reliable technologies that can speed up the copying and treatments of weakened books takes time to develop and as one preservationist has noted, "time is running out fast." Because of limited resources librarians have to ask tough questions. What books will be important in the future? Material is currently being produced that will ultimately need to be filmed. Nearly all materials arrive at the library on acid paper.
If one of our roles as librarians is to assure that the human record is available not only now but, for the future, what can we do? Ask manufacturers, publishers, printers to take out the acids and substitue alkaline paper. Even though alkaline paper is available, and is comparable in looks and cost, most books published are printed on acidic paper. Using alkaline or acid-free paper won't solve the problem, but it would keep it from getting worse. This edition is dedicated to all who teach, research, work and act in, preserving our future.
James Paul Adamson