Preservation has developed rapidly in the last two decades into a critical component in the life cycle of scholarly collection development and management, taking its place among selection, acquisition, cataloging, and service as one of the core functions of libraries and archives. Most research libraries allocate resources for the purchase of preservation services, employ professionally trained preservation specialists, and many have created whole divisions within an organization devoted to collections care. Moreover, preservation specialists now have a well-developed arsenal of tools and techniques available to them to apply to specific collection maintenance problems, ranging in scope and urgency from emergency response and environmental controls to mitigating wear and tear from use and slowing the self-destruction of various media.
Scholars and custodians, such as librarians and archivists, have mutual interests in the collection-building process. Although scholars are routinely and often intimately engaged with librarians in the acquisitions and use phases of collection building, they are usually exposed only to specific aspects of preservation activities (such as testifying to the value of a collection proposed for preservation microfilming) and rarely have the opportunity to view the preservation function as a whole.
However, recent vigorous debates in the scholarly community about the value of saving the book as an artifact in addition to preserving content from physically degrading books have raised important issues about scholars’ knowledge of and participation in decision making about the disposition of original materials after preservation treatment. Through the creation of a task force, CLIR proposes to engage the scholarly community in a systematic review of its interests in this issue. The focus on preservation is part of a wider series of CLIR initiatives, launched in 1997 with the jointly-sponsored CLIR/ACLS task forces, intended to develop a forward-looking vision of collection building in an electronic information environment built on the valuable research collections made of print and audiovisual materials.
The Task Force is charged to articulate for scholars and librarians a general context or framework for formulating and/or evaluating institutional policies on the retention or disposal of published and archival or unpublished materials in the form the works were created.
The Task Force should answer the following questions in developing a general framework for informed decision making about disposition of originals:
- What factors make it useful and/or necessary to retain work in its original form? Under what circumstances are original materials required for research?
- When is it sufficient and appropriate to capture intellectual content through reformatting and not necessarily retain the original?
- What preservation options are available and what do they cost? From both custodial and scholarly perspectives, what are the advantages and disadvantages of these various options?
The Task Force should, to the extent possible, draw on actual experience and empirical evidence regarding scholarly uses of materials and different libraries’ approaches to preservation. The analysis should look at the following preservation treatments: conservation, deacidification, off-site storage, preservation microfilming, and digitization.
Finally, the Task Force is specifically asked to consider the advisability and feasibility of creating one or more national repositories into which one copy of all materials published in the United States would be deposited for permanent retention.
The Task Force is asked to take its charge broadly, giving primary consideration to print formats, but also consider the burgeoning legacy of non-print and electronic research sources that demand increasingly urgent attention from preservation specialists. The Task Force should formulate its findings and recommendations in a way that takes account of these other, often more fragile, formats and suggests how the findings and recommendations might be extended to or tested in relation to them.