(Ed.: Part II will be published in the next issue of TSLL).
PART ONE: AN OVERVIEW
You open a late nineteenth century copy of a statutory volume, case reporter, or volume of the Century Digest and discover, despite a durable binding which seems sturdy enough to last forever, yellow, brittle pages which fall apart in your hands. Pages begin to tear loose from the binding and disintegrate into dust. Thus, not only is the book itself "unavailable," but the information which the patron needs is "unavailable."
Undoubtedly, permanence of paper has long been recognized as crucial to library users who are concerned about access to vital legal information published in older materials.
I. THE CRUMBLING COLLECTION
Acidic paper, in use since the 1850s, has resulted in about 20 percent of the world's stored literature now being in a state of such dilapidation that it cannot be accessed. Leading surveys of library collections generally indicate that approximately three quarters of the books have acidic paper and two percent of the pages are very brittle. Indeed, crumbling paper is the main preservation problem in libraries today.
Paper deteriorates from frequent use, becomes brittle and brown with age, and is affected by the chemical content of printing inks and writing materials. The primary cause of embrittlement is the acid hydrolysis of the main chain of the cellulose molecule. Many papers produced in the last century were made with an alum rosin, which is acidic. Over the years the residual acid acts on the cellulose and degrades it. Lignin, a naturally binding agent in wood, also causes paper discoloration, if there is sufficient exposure to light.
Efforts by preservationists to preserve materials against this type of degradation include the use of permanent paper. Alkaline paper lasts ten times longer than the customary acidic paper, which crumbles after about 40 years. Permanent paper is an improved form of acid-free paper and has a life expectancy of at least 500 years or more. Paper becomes permanent when it is made alkaline and an alkaline size is used with a so-called "alkaline reserve," generally in the form of a calcium carbonate. This protects the cellulose from acid hydrolysis and even from acidic pollutant gasses. Using permanent paper, like chemical strategies such as mass deacidification and polymer grafting techniques, is one of the techniques which delay the degradation process. Preservationists believe that all books and documents and archives should be printed on permanent paper. This would be a major step in ensuring the future preservation of these materials.
Permanence of paper is evaluated as follows: by the folding endurance and by the pH measurements by a cold extraction. Categorization of the durability of the paper is done according to the classification of William James Barrow (1904-1967). For multivariate analysis of the measured features of a tested sample over time, divide into time periods such as decades, use the method of cluster analysis, and apply the single linkage method, according to the Lance-Williams formula.
Non-acidic paper has been available since the 1950s. However, because most paper is produced for wrappers and newsprint and other non-book items, paper manufacturers have had little market pressure to switch to non-acidic or alkaline paper. Thus, only a small percentage of books are printed on durable, permanent paper.
The urgency of the brittle book problem galvanized many constituencies, from paper producers and publishers to public consumers, to take action. At least by the late 1980s, publishers began the trend toward switching to alkaline paper. Permanent paper had become cheaper to make and proved to be kind to paper-making machinery. The United States market demanded more permanent paper. Increasingly, more and more books appeared with the term, "acid-free" on the copyright page.
II. EFFORTS TO ADOPT EFFECTIVE PRESERVATION STANDARDS
The Oxford Dictionary defines a standard as "a thing or quality or specification by which something may be tested or measured." The use of standards ensures that procedures and products will meet certain requirements, and that these procedures and products will remain consistent.
Preservationists argued that permanent paper was an area where standards were most needed. Standards and their application were essential to maintain a professional approach to preservation. Preservationists also argued that standards on the use of stable alkaline paper should be promoted. There have been several efforts throughout the world to design standards for permanent paper for documents.
In 1984, The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standard for Permanent Paper was established. This standard states that the chemical and physical properties of paper must adhere to certain criteria for permanence of uncoated paper. The paper meeting the requirements for pH, alkaline reserve, and freedom from groundwood described in this standard should last at least several hundred years without significant deterioration under normal library use and storage conditions. The sign of compliance with the standard was the infinity symbol.
A version of ANSI Z39.48 199x, which was circulated for balloting and comments from December 10, 1990 through March 11, 1991, received two negative votes and a number of critical comments. The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) Standards Committee II (SCII) revised and carefully considered all comments and commissioned and reviewed the results of additional testing on the effects of lignin in alkaline paper. Based on these deliberations, the Committee amended the proposed standard. The standard, as revised, established criteria for coated and uncoated paper that will last several hundred years without significant deterioration under normal use and storage conditions in libraries and archives. This standard identified the specific properties of such paper and specified the tests required to demonstrate these properties.
ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992 is the current American National Standard for permanence of paper for Publications and Documents in Libraries and Archives. This standard applies to coated and uncoated paper used in the production of publications and documents acquired and retained by libraries and archives. Examples include:
» Important works of fiction and nonfiction.
» Scholarly periodicals, monographs, and reprint editions.
» Collected editions.
» Encyclopedias, dictionaries, bibliographies, directories, indexes, abstracts, and other reference works.
» Government documents.
» Titles not appropriate for transfer to other formats.
» Original documents, records, and forms, including computer output and photocopy replacements.
» Printed musical scores.
» Original art and art reproductions.
Since 1987, the International Organization for Standards (ISO) has worked to set standards for the preservation methods and file management. The first result is an international standard for permanent paper. The key international standard is ISO 9706 Information and Documentation - Paper for Documents - Requirements for Permanence.
III. THE PUBLISHERS
Preservationists argue that the ultimate solution to the brittle book/page problem is to convince book publishers to use alkaline paper. Several sectors of the paper market, however, discourage wider use or availability of acid-free paper. One reason is cost. Alkalinity is just one factor that goes into the pricing of paper. In addition, mills have little incentive to change because book paper accounts for only about 5 percent of the annual total 20.5 million-ton paper for the printing market.
On the other hand, plants making alkaline paper produce less pollution then their acid counterparts. And in some cases, alkaline paper is competitive in price with acid stock. An additional question is what incentive publishers would have to use acid-free paper when the Library of Congress plans to deacidify new books anyway.
On the federal level, the Government Printing Office (GPO), National Archives, and the Library of Congress had attacked the problem of brittle books through a plan developed by the GPO to increase the use of alkaline and permanent papers by the Federal Government.
Other governments, including many states, answered the brittle book problem by passing statutes to require the use of permanent paper for official documents.