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Preservation Microfilming, by Lisa L. Fox
A book review by Peter D. Verheyen
Fox, Lisa L. Preservation Microfilming: A Guide for Librarians and Archivists, 2nd ed. Chicago: American Library Association. 1996. 424pp. $70.00. ISBN 0-8389-0653-2.
This second edition of Preservation Microfilming appears just nine years after the first, edited by Nancy Gwinn. As Pamela Darling notes in her introduction, the fields of preservation and microfilming have changed dramatically in those years. Standards, practices, bibliographic control, and techniques have advanced, and the amount of microfilming activity has greatly increased. Most important, however, is the preservation community's change in philosophy.
Developments which Darling emphasizes are the emergence of a nationwide strategy for brittle books; heightened awareness of preservation problems; the impact of automation; increased levels of international programs and coordination; technical advances; improved institutional practices and a greater reliance on contractual filming; and cooperative programs. Darling also touches briefly on digitization, which requires many of the same considerations as microfilming.
Preservation Microfilming is divided into six chapters with six well-developed appendices. Each of the chapters is authored by an expert in the field: Carolyn Harris, Wesley Boomgaarden, Ann Swartzell, Peter Scott, Jeffrey Heynen, Patricia McClung, and Andrew Raymond.
In "Overview of Administrative Decisions," Harris surveys the processes involved with creating a microfilming program and introduces ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management). For Harris, the primary reason for filming is paper deterioration (embrittlement), and she compares the cost as well as the pros and cons of physical treatment, photocopying, digitization, and microfilming. She describes the components of a well-rounded preservation program (including enough education, conservation, binding, rehousing, and reformatting), and the relationships between these options which lead to treatment decisions. Brittle materials are usually best filmed, but Harris warns about adopting only one approach. Key to the success of any effective preservation program are "needs assessment" (which collections, how many items to treat, ..) and "planning" (which includes issues of responsibility, in-house versus contract, specifications, bibliographic control, ...), both of which Harris covers in detail.
In "Selection of Materials," Boomgaarden examines what may be the critical component in the success, or failure, of a program. Selection is a complex issue involving the value of
items in a collection, their usage and users, and other variables. It must be guided by broad criteria in order to determine which among the many kinds of texts and images on embrittled paper should be considered for filming. Boomgaarden points to materials which are not suitable, including items with high bibliographic/intrinsic value (especially if damage is likely to occur during filming), off-prints from already filmed serial runs, severely discolored materials, and anything else which has already been filmed.
After selection, "Production Planning and Preparation of Materials" can begin. Swartzell's chapter leads the reader through four critical steps which will help ensure a smooth process and high quality result: familiarity with standards (ANSI & AIIM, RLG), an understanding of the process, good communications with the vendor, and analysis of the intended uses of the film.
Since the first edition of Preservation Microfilming, the number of in-house filming operations has declined and the number of commercial vendors has increased. Swartzell provides a checklist for screening vendors, reviews the contracting process, and mentions points to watch for, such as standards and the storage of master negatives. For those on a limited budget, Swartzell suggests the option of working with a commercial micropublisher such as UMI. For the remainder of her chapter, Swartzell reviews in detail how an in-house microfilming project should be administered. This section is essential reading. In- house errors will prove costly in lost time or money, especially if items need to be re-filmed.
"Microfilming Standards and Practices" by Peter Scott is an excellent overview of the filming process from a technical standpoint. Scott describes how standards were developed, by whom, and what their function is. He explains in detail the physical makeup of the different available types and formats of film along with their benefits and drawbacks. In his discussion of the "film production process," Scott describes reduction ratio, image orientation, skew, image legibility (resolution, density and quality index), and processing, provides an "inspection station checklist," and reviews the conditions in which masters must be stored.
Heynen's "Preservation Microfilming and Bibliographic Control" begins with the statement that after reading the previous chapters the reader needs only to learn about costs. This might be true if the only goal of microfilming was to ensure that the materials remained available into the future. However, if the goal of microfilming is ensure "widespread and enduring" access, then this requires bibliographic control of what, ultimately, will be the copy of record for that title. Others must be able to identify your film as the exact replacement for their hard copy. Unnecessary duplication of titles is costly. Heynen shows how an increasingly comprehensive union catalog has been built and delves into the specifics of using MARC to catalog film records.
The final chapter, by Patricia McClung, deals with calculating and controlling costs. The dual purpose of this chapter is to "provide a framework for estimating and analyzing the costs of preservation microfilming and to suggest ways to reduce and control costs." Given the number of variables which impact the filming of a title, it is often difficult to arrive at a reliable cost estimate. McClung organizes them into four categories: labor; supplies and equipment; contract services; management and overhead. To help the reader understand what is involved, McClung breaks down the tasks related to filming to a sobering extreme, illustrating with numerous real-world examples from actual projects. This detail will be essential for those involved with grant-funded programs where these figures must be provided in advance.
Six appendices -- Preservation Microfilming: Standards, Specifications, and Guidelines; Service Providers; Preservation Options; Target Sequences; ARL Guidelines for Bibliographic Records; Worksheet for Estimating Project Costs -- and a glossary conclude the book.
Preservation Microfilming is an excellent introduction to this subject and complements the RLG Archives Microfilming Manual and Preservation Microfilming Handbook which are both much more "hands-on." The text also applies directly to organizing and carrying through a scanning project. While the technology is different, many of the theories and much of the work are similar, as comparison with Anne Kenney and Steven Chapman's Digital Imaging for Libraries and Archives will show. While there are currently no large-scale, ongoing, production scanning projects, anyone contemplating one would be well served by reading Preservation Microfilming. For a thought-out, balanced introduction to issues which must be resolved, this text is invaluable.
--Peter Verheyen, Syracuse University Library.
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