2. Microform Producers

Chapter 2 of Managing Microforms in the Digital Age

Commercial Micropublishers

Commercial micropublishers are the companies that produce edition microforms. An edition approach is one where a micropublisher has the rights to produce microforms of a book, newspaper, or journal, in multiple copies, usually for a subscribing audience. In the past, micropublishers included the large vendors such as Readex, UMI, Government Printing Office (GPO), National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and others, but the micropublishing universe also included smaller microform producers who usually supplied very targeted collections. Today, commercial micropublishers maintain sales staff; publish catalogs; offer discounts, subscriptions, and licenses; advertise at trade shows; and maintain websites. Many micropublishers have converted their microfilm holdings into digital databases, which they license for use by libraries.

Commercial micropublishers have changed hands and master negative inventory many times over the years. The genealogy of a microfilmed book or journal can often be traced by conducting an extensive bibliographic search on OCLC WorldCat. The physical description of the book and the date of the microform recorded in the bibliographic record can lead to the succession of ownership of the original film. This insight can be valuable when determining the quality of a microform set or title. The original filming may have occurred before the refinement of the technical and bibliographic standards that ensure preservation-quality microforms.

Service Bureaus

Services bureaus generally produce microform upon request. Some service bureaus provide services for the business and records management environment exclusively, while others specialize in library and archival materials. From the 1980s through early 2000s, service bureaus worked with libraries and archives on large-scale preservation microfilming projects. Guidelines for contracting with service bureaus were developed by the Research Libraries Group (RLG) in the 1990s to facilitate vendor selection for large grant-funded projects. In addition, state records management offices often certified service bureaus as those who meet the state records retention reformatting standards. Among the business, state, and local records and library and archives environments, standards, and specifications emerged to measure the archival or preservation quality of the microform. Service bureaus continue today to provide microform production services as well as new services such as film-to-digital conversion, metadata creation, digital imaging, and offsite storage.

In-house Operations

Beginning in the 1950s, it became very popular for libraries, archives, and historical societies to maintain their own microfilming operations. The in-house missions included filming of local or state newspapers, preserving state records, preparing films of special collections, copying materials for interlibrary loan or purchase by other libraries, photodocumentation of scrapbooks undergoing conservation treatment, and brittle book reformatting. In some cases, funding was from internal budgets or external grants, while in other cases, the operations were partially subsidized or fully supported by sales. In-house operations in libraries are dwindling, although almost all state archives maintain some amount of records management using microfilm and fiche.

Over the years, the bibliographic management of the microforms produced in-house has varied. Some were never cataloged and remain hidden collections in master negative vaults. Other titles have bibliographic records with contact information in WorldCat. As part of the National Endowment for the Humanities-funded microfilming projects that took place from the 1980s through 2006, all grant recipients were required to provide complete bibliographic information in MARC format in WorldCat for microfilmed titles.

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