Preservation Policy

Approved by the Executive Board July 2013, Tab 16
Approved by the Executive Board July 2019, Tab 11


Collectively, law libraries form a knowledge network that supports the use of law in society. Ensuring access to the law and legal information is a primary mission of all law libraries and a common ground for libraries that are diverse in many other respects. The Association recognizes that continued access to legal information depends upon the preservation of legal information disseminated and published in all media and formats. Preservation is defined by the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) as strategic initiatives, programs, and processes designed to maintain useful access to information assets, serving the information needs of both present and future generations.[1]

The American Association of Law Libraries’ (AALL) preservation goals include ensuring that legal information continues to be accessible, that legal publications and other sources of legal information are long lasting and durable, and that Association members receive training and support for preservation activities. The Association recognizes the importance of law libraries’ individual and collaborative preservation initiatives, and supports policies and activities that will promote the preservation of legal materials.


The preservation of print documents in their original format is crucial for continued access to legal information. The use of permanent paper is recognized as one of the most fundamental ways to preserve today’s print materials for future researchers.

The Association upholds the Library of Congress’s Recommended Formats Statement. The Recommended Formats Statement identifies hierarchies of the physical and technical characteristics of creative formats, both analog and digital, which will best meet the needs of all concerned, maximizing the chances for survival and continued accessibility of creative content well into the future.[2] The Association supports the development and revision of national standards which impact the integrity of the materials in law libraries.[3]

The Association encourages member libraries, when weeding print materials, to identify the number of copies available nationwide and to avoid discarding unique and scarce material. If a library is unable to retain such material in its own collection, these items should be transferred to other libraries. Given the role of law libraries in providing legal information, special attention should be paid when discarding primary law.[4]


Access to digital documents, whether born-digital or converted to digital format, must be maintained through digital preservation. While it is best to preserve items in their original format, sometimes the best preservation decision is to reformat an item so that the intellectual content remains available to users even if the original object does not.

The Association supports the development of standards for digital preservation.[5] The Association supports the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).[6] The Association also promotes further investigation into metadata, software, operating systems, and information lifecycle management techniques that will impact the preservation of digital works. The Association supports the use of library-led and open access initiatives to preserve digital content. Cooperation with publishers and other information vendors is necessary for the development of uniform standards and strategies to ensure that information is not lost when a vendor is no longer maintaining it.


AALL encourages preservation efforts of individual law libraries and the cooperative preservation efforts of member law libraries among themselves and with other institutions, organizations, publishers, and vendors. The Association supports and encourages member libraries to adopt best practices in preserving their collections through proper care, storage, handling, and conservation.

The Association also supports law libraries’ collaborative initiatives to preserve and share print resources that will become increasingly scarce as materials deteriorate and member libraries deaccession print. Law libraries are encouraged to participate in digital preservation initiatives.

Since preservation is not the sole concern of law libraries, it is necessary for the Association to work cooperatively with other associations and organizations involved in preservation efforts. The Association recognizes the need for communication with groups active in formulating national preservation policies and programs and the need for participation, cooperation, and communication in appropriate activities and programs that will further the Association’s goals.


Publishers and vendors have a responsibility to ensure that products sold to law libraries do not exacerbate the preservation problem. The Association will communicate its members’ needs for permanent, durable materials to publishers and vendors in order to increase the longevity of products offered to law libraries.

The Association will work with publishers and vendors of electronic resources to identify best practices for preservation of electronic content, taking into account issues that must be addressed for both content that is licensed by libraries and content that is purchased by libraries. AALL promotes additional research and development regarding the preservation of electronic resources and online databases.


Permanent public access to government information, legal records, and history, especially primary source legal documents, is essential to a democratic society. Through its government relations program, the Association will raise public awareness for the need for preservation by providing outreach and information to concerned individuals, organizations, and government bodies.

[1] Taken from GPO’s definition:

[2] Taken from the Library of Congress’s Recommended Formats Statement: Current categories of creative content that require recommended formats include: Textual and musical compositions, still images, audio works, moving image works, software and electronic gaming and learning, datasets/databases, and websites.

[3] The latest editions of ANSI Standard Z.39.48-1992 (R2002), Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, and ANSI PH1.43-1985, Photography (Film)-Processed Safety Film-Storage. The Association also supports the work of the subcommittees in Committee Z39.48 of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) which are working on issues relevant to libraries.

[4] The Association takes notice of GPO’s Preservation Stewards Program and the PALMPrint library consortia project.

[5] These standards currently include: ISO 16363, Trusted Digital Repository (TDR) Checklist, ISO 14721, Open Archival Information System Reference Model, ISO 20653, and Producer Archive Interface Methodology Abstract Standard.

[6] WCAG 2.0 was published on 11 December 2008. WCAG 2.1 was published on 5 June 2018.