ALA Preservation Policy 2001

Superseded in 2008

In 1990, ALA President Patricia W. Berger appointed a President's Committee on Preservation Policy. Its charge was to draft policies that outline explicitly the responsibilities of the library profession for the preservation of library materials of all types in order to guarantee access to the information they contain, both for the current generation of library users and for generations to come.

The Association's policies on preservation are based on its goal of ensuring that every individual has access to information at the time needed and in a format the individual can use. These policies address national information services and responsibilities, federal legislative policy, and the services and responsibilities of libraries.

The Council of the American Library Association adopted the Preservation Policy on June 30, 1991, during the Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Later in the Conference, the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS), a division of the American Library Association, was charged with implementing the Policy.

At the 1999 ALA Annual Conference, the ALA Policy Monitoring Committee presented the following recommendation on the ALA Preservation Policy to ALA Council.

“While the existing policy mentions electronic formats as well as print resources, there is no reference to the Internet and the impact this is having on the preservation of historical records and intellectual property. While various divisions and other ALA units are certainly taking action on this issue, the ALA needs to amend this policy so that libraries have clear direction.”

This recommendation was referred to ALCTS. The Policy, Planning, and Research Committee of the Preservation and Reformatting Section of ALCTS, chaired by Irene Schubert of the Library of Congress, took on the responsibility for revising the policy as recommended. The Committee presented a revised policy to the ALCTS Board at its June 16, 2001 meeting at the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco. The Board adopted the revised policy with the recommendation that the policy be approved by ALA Council. At its June 19, 2001 meeting, the ALA Council approved the revised Preservation Policy.



The American Library Association's policy on preservation is based on its goal of ensuring that every person has access to information at the time needed and in a useable format. ALA affirms that 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.

The Association supports the preservation of information published in all media and formats. The Association affirms that the preservation of information resources is central to libraries and librarianship.

Librarians must be committed to preserving their collections 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. Preservation issues should be addressed while planning for new construction or the renovation of existing buildings.

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.

Librarians must educate the public about the choices and the financial commitments necessary to preserve our society's cultural and social records.



The Association and its Divisions will work closely with standards-setting organizations to identify and develop standards relevant to the preservation of library collections, participate in their periodic review and updating, identify and develop new standards when needed, and promote compliance with existing standards.

The Association will actively support its Divisions and other organizations in developing preservation guidelines that may serve as catalysts for official national and international standards.

Usability, Longevity, and Durability of Library Collection MediaManufacturers, publishers, distributors and purchasers of information products must work in tandem to improve the usability, durability, and longevity of the media (e.g., paper, film, magnetic tape, optical disk) that ensure the persistence of these products.

It is the Association's official position that publishers and manufacturers have an obligation and a responsibility to libraries and to the public to report appropriate information about the usability, durability and longevity of media. The Association urges publishers to use paper and other media that meet standards promulgated by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Standards Organization (ISO) for all publications of enduring value. Publishers should include a statement of compliance on the verso of the title page of a book or the masthead or copyright area of a periodical, and in catalogs, advertising, and bibliographic references.

The Association will engage in active education and public relations efforts to develop, promote, and publicize standards for the usability, longevity, and durability of information media.

Preservation of Digital Information

Publishers and distributors of content in digital form must address the usability and longevity of their electronic works. The Association encourages publishers to provide to libraries metadata that will facilitate the life cycle management of works in digital formats and to deposit digital works in repositories that provide for the long-term persistence and usability of digital content. The Association will work with the publishers of content in digital form to develop guidelines on the preservation of digital information to help ensure that such information will not be lost when publishers can no longer retain and disseminate it.

The Association encourages research on metadata, software, operating systems, and life cycle management techniques that may effect the preservation of digital works.

Public Education on Preservation of Primary Source Documents Primary source documents from individuals, local governments, and private and public organizations are the fundamental evidence of cultural and social life. Although citizens may sense the instability of newsprint, for example, they may be less likely to know that media such as color film and videotape pose significant preservation challenges. The preservation of primary source documents, if not pursued aggressively, has enormous consequences on our right to know about and understand ourselves and the community in which we live. Libraries have an obligation (a) to inform donors, users, administrators, and local officials about the ephemeral nature of primary source materials, (b) to promote strategies for the proper care, handling, and storage of these materials, and (c) to recommend the use of durable media and methods of documentation.

The Association will help libraries stimulate public interest in this issue and will make information available regarding how concerned individuals, organizations, and governments may act on behalf of preservation.

Federal Legislative Policy

The federal government must provide leadership in developing an expansive and inclusive national preservation policy. This policy should reinforce the mutual efforts of national, state, and local libraries to preserve materials that document our cultural heritage and make them widely available to all citizens. The federal government, by example, by policy, and by the efforts of its historical, cultural, and information institutions, should affirm the responsibility of all cultural institutions, including local and state libraries, to preserve and provide access to historical documents. The federal government should provide incentives that encourage private institutions to participate in the national preservation effort.

The Association urges the federal government to take responsibility for the longevity of information that it publishes on paper, in microform, and in digital formats.

The Association, through its ALA Washington Office and its Legislation Agenda, will strongly support the efforts of librarians to increase federal government funding for preservation programs.

approved 2001