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April 19, 2001

Library of Congress to Convene National Preservation Policy Planning Conference

Session is Planned for Late Summer

The Library of Congress has announced its intention to convene a National Preservation Policy Planning Conference this summer. This conference will draw on ideas developed during the Library of Congress bicentennial symposium, "To Preserve and Protect," held at the Library of Congress last October, as well as on recommendations anticipated in the report of the Council on Library and Information Resources' "Task Force on the Artifact in Library Collections." The focus of the conference will be on preservation of printed materials in original format.

The Library of Congress is engaged in a number of preservation initiatives. At the request of Congress, the Library will lead in the development of a National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program to ensure the long-term availability of "born digital" materials, and will convene the first meeting of the national advisory committee for this effort at the Library of Congress on May 1.

The Library has also taken the lead for the nation in developing both standards and state-of-the-art laboratories for the preservation of audio-visual materials. The Library's National Film Preservation Board, established by Congress in 1988, has sponsored the development of national plans for the preservation of motion pictures, television and video. The success of these efforts led Congress in 2000 to create a new National Recording Preservation Board to focus on the preservation of the nation's audio heritage. Through the generosity of the Packard Humanities Institute, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the U.S. Congress, the Library is well along in the creation of a new National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Virginia. Expected to open in Spring 2004, this center will enable the Library not only to store and accelerate the preservation of its immense audio-visual collections but also to offer professional preservation services to other libraries and archives.

But the challenge of preserving our print heritage - which continues to grow even as digital and audio-visual publications increase - remains a major concern for America's research libraries and archives. Books, serials and newspapers printed on highly acidic paper beginning in the mid-19th century are deteriorating inexorably. Mass deacidification techniques, developed by the Library of Congress with strong and enduring Congressional support, now hold the promise of arresting this deterioration, enabling libraries to retain original copies of works that in earlier decades would have had to be microfilmed and discarded. And the Library of Congress, working with the National Archives and Records Administration and the Government Printing Office, has also had gratifying success in the past 20 years in convincing many book publishers to begin using acid-free paper for their publications. But most newspaper and serials publishers continue to print on acidic papers, creating problems that will plague libraries for years to come.

To address these concerns, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has called for this national conference to develop an action plan for ensuring the preservation of the nation's printed heritage. "For more than 200 years, the Library of Congress has been the primary keeper of our nation's memory. For the past century, the Library has been a national leader in the preservation and conservation of materials in all formats. Even as we work to ensure sustained access to our newly created digital and audio-visual heritage, we must not lose sight of our responsibility for preserving those works created on paper." To fulfill this responsibility, the Library will work with appropriate partners, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Council on Library and Information Resources, the Association of Research Libraries and others to develop a national plan for ensuring that American creativity will remain available to all future generations.

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PR 01-063
04/19/01
ISSN 0731-3527

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