Managing Microforms in the Digital Age

by Kitti Canepi, Becky Ryder, Michelle Sitko, and Catherine Weng

for the Best Practices Guide Series of the Continuing Resources Section’s Research and Publications Committee
Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, a division of the American Library Association



1.  Microforms in Libraries and Archives

2.  Microform Producers

3.  Microform Terminology

4.  Microform Handling

  • Equipment
  • Microfilm Readers
  • Microfiche Readers
  • Microopaque and Microcard Readers
  • Additional Considerations
  • Microform Storage
  • Housing
  • Cabinets and Shelving
  • Environment

5.  Bibliographic Control and Access

6.  Digitization

7.  Donating, Discarding, and Recycling



A:  Sources for Current Awareness

B:  Microform Reader, Printer, Scanner Manufacturers

C:  Commercial Microform Providers and Service Bureaus

About the Authors


Libraries have long depended on microforms as a means of preserving and providing access to research materials such as newspapers, periodicals, government publications, manuscripts, business records, diaries, scrapbooks, and other published and primary-source materials. Microforms have taken many shapes and sizes over the years and some formats, such as microopaques and microcards, are all but obsolete.

As a result of the changes that have transpired over the past thirty years, a revision of the 1977 American Library Association (ALA) publication, Guidelines for Handling Library Orders for Microforms published by the Resources and Technical Services Division (RTSD), Resources Section, and Bookdealer-Library Committee was necessary. The revised publication, retitled Managing Microforms in the Digital Age, provides librarians and information management specialists with some basic information about managing microform collections. The publication does not attempt to be a comprehensive review of the microform industry, nor does it serve as a guide for preservation microfilm production. Managing Microforms addresses trends in bibliographic control, storage environments, current vendors and resources, and microform terminology.

Managing Microforms provides reflections on past, current, and future collection management practices as well as the very important role microforms play in parallel with the support of digital collections. Given the ongoing responsibilities of preserving existing microform collections and the likelihood that some institutions will continue to collect and preserve additional collections in microform, the authors’ intent in this publication is to provide the most practical and up-to-date information about microform management.

The bibliography lists resources on custom microfilm production, vendor contracts, film-to-digital and digital-to-film technologies, bibliographic control and management, as well as issues concerning the historical evolution of microform use. Select resources for equipment, purchasing of microfilm, useful related website links and current and past microform projects are noted in the appendixes. Managing Microforms in the Digital Age is made available to librarians and information management specialists in electronic format on the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) website.

Managing Microforms in the Digital Age is part of a best practices series of guidelines written under the auspices of the Research and Publications Committee, part of the Continuing Resources Section of ALCTS. –M. Dina Giambi contributed to this Introduction.

About the Authors

Kitti Canepi is Director of Library Services, Roseman University of Health Sciences, Henderson, NV.

Becky Ryder is Director, Keeneland Research Library, Lexington, KY.

Michelle Sitko is Associate Professor & Coordinator of Collection Management Services and Head, Serials Department, Marywood University, Scranton, PA.

Catherine Weng is Head of Cataloging, The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ.

August 2013