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Progress in Monitoring Pub. L. 101-423

Final Report to Congress on the Joint Resolution to Establish a National Policy on Permanent Papers

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Standards and specifications

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When Public Law 101-423 was passed five years ago, the Government had only one specification for permanent paper: JCP A270, uncoated permanent book, white and cream white. With the issuance in July 1994 of the latest version of the Government Paper Specification Standards (No. 10), the number of permanent papers available for Government use increased from one to five. The four new permanent papers are:

A number of alkaline papers have been added as option A to many existing specifications. The specification standards advise that option A should be specified if the printed product must have above average permanence. The alkaline option is available in 16 paper grades (Appendix 2). All of these JCP papers available through the Government Printing Office (GPO) and General Services Administration (GSA) are recyclable within the programs Federal agencies now operate.

The monitoring agencies have been working with the GSA to ensure that some of the same papers available to Federal agencies in the Washington, DC area through the GPO will be available nationwide. GSA now offers three permanent papers and two alkaline papers (Table 1).


In the United States, two organizations write consensus standards, specifications, or guidelines for papers that may be used for permanent records and publications intended for long-term retention. They are the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Both organizations develop standards or specifications by committees, which then submit them to the organization as a whole for a vote. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Library of Congress (LC) are voting members of NISO and ASTM and are also represented on various committees.

NISO develops American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards, the primary function of which is to disseminate information. NISO published its first standard, "Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials," Z39.48-1984, in 1984. The criteria for permanence established in this standard were used as a starting point for the JCP A270 (uncoated permanent book, white and cream white) specification. In 1992, the ANSI standard was revised to include coated papers and expanded to include archives materials. Thus, its new title, "Permanence of Paper for Publications and Documents in Libraries and Archives," Z39.48-1992. Other changes included dropping the folding endurance requirement and replacing tear resistance with a tear index (Appendix 3).

ASTM develops specifications, guides, and test methods for a wide variety of manufactured products. Its paper standards are written to incorporate requirements within the same standard for papers expected to have different life expectancies. The category "maximum life expectancy," which replaced the category "maximum permanence, high usage," defines the permanence requirements for manifold papers (D3208-94), for bond and ledger papers (D3290-94), and for papers used in office copying machines (D3458-94). These specifications, together with the Guide for the Selection of Permanent and Durable Offset and Book Papers, (D5634-94), comprise the ASTM work on permanent paper.

In the course of revising these ASTM specifications, the question arose whether an alkaline paper might still be considered permanent if it also contained more lignin (a component of wood that is almost completely removed by "traditional" chemical pulping and bleaching) than any of the specifications allowed. Because lignin-containing papers have traditionally been produced by an acidic process, no studies of historic papers exist to which scientists can refer in their search for an answer to that question. Valid methods for determining the potential longevity of alkaline papers with a high lignin content are needed because increasing quantities of these papers are now coming on the market. To facilitate this research, valid and reliable methods of artificial aging must be developed. The Library of Congress Research and Testing Office has been engaged in such research for the past three years, and has recently received support from ASTM to accelerate this effort.

To spearhead this effort, ASTM (under the auspices of their Institute for Standards Research (ISR)) held a workshop in 1994 on the effects of aging on printing and writing papers. From this workshop evolved a series of research proposals pertaining to the development of aging methods using light, pollutants, heat, and humidity; and to the fundamental chemistry of the aging phenomena. The proposed research was estimated to require 3 years and to cost over $2.5 million. Although the research is not yet fully funded, initial work is proceeding on two projects. One is an investigation of the fundamentals of light aging to determine how aging can be accelerated without altering the chemical reactions from those that occur during natural aging. The second is an investigation of the effects of aging in low levels of air pollutants (including nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and ozone).


The body that develops standards for the international community, the International Organization for Standards (ISO), works closely with NISO. Thus, it is no coincidence that the requirements of the standard, ISO 9706, "Information and Documentation - Paper for Documents - Requirements for Permanence," are similar to those of ANSI standard Z39.48-1992. ISO 9706 differs slightly from ANSI Z39.48-1992 in fiber content (lignin, ground woodpulp, and unbleached pulp) and tear resistance measurement. In 1995, ISO developed a standard for archival papers, ISO/DIS 11108, "Information and Documentation - Archival Paper - Requirements for Permanence and Durability" (Appendix 3).

A number of countries have developed standards for permanent papers that will probably be replaced by the ISO standard. The most debated of these is undoubtedly the German standard, DIN 6738, which has not met acceptance from either the archival or library communities, even within Germany. Like the United States, the Canadian Government has established a policy on the use of permanent paper. However, in trying to devise specifications for that paper, it met with even stiffer resistance than had NISO, ASTM, or ISO to the requirement that the paper not contain a significant quantity of lignin.

As a result, the Government of Canada, together with the Government of Alberta and a consortium of Canadian pulp and paper manufacturers, joined forces to fund and carry out its own research program on the effect of lignin on paper permanence. This research may supplement the ASTM/ISR program. However, it concentrates on Canadian pulps and does not address the problem of light aging, so cannot supply all the answers.

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