Preservation of Library Materials

[last update: 30 September 2003]


The preservation of library resources protects the public's right to the free flow of information as embodied in the First Amendment to the Constitution and the Library Bill of Rights and works to ensure that every person has access to information at the time needed and in a useable format.  Librarians must be committed to preserving their collections, regardless of published media or format, through appropriate and non-damaging storage, remedial treatment of damaged and fragile items, preservation of materials in their original format when possible, replacement or reformatting of deteriorated materials, appropriate security measures, and life-cycle management of digital publications to assure their usefulness for future generations. Librarians who create, maintain, and share bibliographic records and other metadata associated with physical and digital objects in their collections enhance security, access, and preservation and facilitate collaborative efforts to protect the Nation's cultural heritage.

KEY ACTION/PRIORITY AREAS:  Equity of Access, Library Services/Development/Technology
RELATED ISSUES:  Digital Divide, Advocacy for Libraries, Copyright & Intellectual Property, Fees for Service, Internet Content, Library Funding, Library Outreach, Professional Tools


ALAction 2005:  By 2005, ALA will be recognized as the leading voice for
equitable access to knowledge and information resources in all formats for all people; furthermore, ALA will be a leader in the use of technology for information with, democratic participation by, and for shared learning among its members.

Policy 1.3:  ALA will promote the availability of information tools and techniques which assist librarians in providing services responsive to the changing needs of society.  The Association will simultaneously continue efforts to ensure that every individual has access to needed information at the time needed and in a format the individual can utilize, through provision of library and information services. A4: Library collections are developed, managed, and preserved to provide access for users to the full range of available knowledge and information.


  • Decreased funding by federal government and foundations for traditional print based preservation work
  • Continued challenges to preservation policies particularly pertaining to print resources
  • Concern about longevity of photographic and magnetic media, as well as the longevity of non-print preservation techniques such as microfilm, fiche, CD-ROM
  • Concern about preservation of electronic-only resources/digital resources
  • Development of viable options/solutions for digital preservation
  • Implementing in libraries accessibility requirements for digital services
  • Development of remote storage and access standards
  • Contingency planning for disaster response
  • Increased demand for preservation of the artifact and awareness of the significance of the primary record, especially in relation to the preservation of the cultural record


  • ALA Office for Information Technology Policy/OITP Advisory Committee
  • ALA Divisions, esp. ALCTS, ACRL & LAMA
  • ALA Library
  • ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services (OLOS) [OLOS Advisory Committee, Social Responsibilities Round Table]
  • ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom [Intellectual Freedom Committee, Intellectual Freedom Round Table]
  • ALA Washington Office [Committee on Legislation, Government Documents Round Table]
  • ALA/SAA/AAM Joint Committee


  • American Association of Museums
  • Association of Research Libraries
  • California Digital Libraries
  • Center for Research Libraries
  • Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts
  • Council of Library and Information Resources
  • Heritage Preservation
  • Institute of Museum and Library Services
  • Library Binding Institute
  • Library of Congress
  • National Information Standards Organization
  • National Library and Archives of Canada
  • Northeast Document Conservation Center
  • OCLC Digital Collection and Preservation Services
  • Research Libraries Group
  • Society of American Archivists


  • 197? -Preservation of Library Materials Committee established within the Resources and Technical Services Division (now ALCTS)
  • 198?  - Preservation of Library Materials Section established within the Resources and Technical Services Division (now ALCTS), signaling maturation of activity
  • 1991-ALA Council develops and approves ALA Preservation Policy
  • 1996-The Library Services and Technology Act (replacing LSCA) was passed, which increased focus on information access through technology
  • 1995- ALA Office for Information Technology Policy was established. OITP is charged to conduct research & analysis, focusing on the implications for information technology & information policies on libraries & their users; educate ALA members about the impact of information policies on libraries & their users; advocate for ALA's information policy in non-legislative arenas; and, engage in "strategic outlook to anticipate technological change, particularly as it presents policy challenges to libraries and library users."  A standing Advisory Committee was also established.
  • 2001-ALCTS established the Paul Harris and Carolyn Banks Preservation Award to honor individuals who have made a significant contribution to the field of preservation
  • 2001-ALCTS responded to two works written by Nicholson Baker: "Deadline" published in the 7/24/00 issue of The New Yorker, and Double-Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper, published by Random House In the spring of 2001
  • 2001-ALA Preservation Policy revised and adopted by Council


Issue Summaries

Banner that reads, "ALAhead to 2010"