Contents of the ACIDFREE.TXT file
National Library of Medicine
ACID-FREE PAPER FOR BIOMEDICAL LITERATURE
A fundamental responsibility of the National Library of Medicine is to
permanently preserve books, periodicals, and other library materials
pertinent to the biomedical sciences.
The Library devotes significant resources to microfilming deteriorating
documents, conserving in the original form those that are rare and
valuable, and researching the electronic storage of images. In order to
lessen the need for preservation treatment of printed library materials
in the future, it is the policy of the Library's Board of Regents to
encourage the publishing industry to use permanent, acid-free paper in
the production of biomedical literature.
A major threat to books and journals published since the mid-nineteenth
century is the deterioration of the acid-based paper on which they were
printed. Introduced by paper producers of that time, and developed to
meet the rapidly expanding demand for paper that accompanied the
Industrial Revolution, acid-based papers inadvertently contributed to
the preservation problems of today. Acid attacks and weakens the
molecular links of cellulose, the main constituent of all paper, and
causes it to deteriorate from within. Without expensive efforts at
preservation, the majority of printed matter now on library shelves
across the nation is destined to become brittle and crumble over the
period of a lifetime.
More recently, paper-making processes that employ alkaline chemistry
have begun to come into use. Alkaline paper making is an industrial
process used for the manufacture of a variety of papers, including
products for commercial and industrial consumption. Paper so produced
is acid-free and available in commercial quantities at competitive
prices in most paper grades. Acid-free, permanent paper will last for
centuries rather than decades in ordinary library use.
The alkaline paper process is also being increasingly adopted by the
paper industry because of technological and economic incentives - it
results in reduced water consumption, facilitates waste treatment and
thus, complying with environmental controls, saves energy and materials
costs. It is also cleaner and less corrosive to machinery than acid
based paper making.
It is not a responsible act to publish material of enduring value on
acidic paper when it is known that its fate is to self-destruct. It is
also inefficient and illogical to continue to apply costly, labor
intensive remedial preservation measures to perishable volumes when much
of the preservation problem can be prevented at its source by publishing
on permanent, archival media, such as acid-free paper, which is not
predisposed to rapid deterioration.
The Library's Permanent Paper Task Force seeks to increase the awareness
of publishers and printers about the problem of acidic paper use and its
solutions; to help authors and editors with their concerns about making
their works lasting by using acid-free paper; to alert professional
societies to the need for permanence of their publications; and to
encourage the application of realistic standards in the making and use
of permanent paper.
The Task Force is composed of commercial, academic, and professional
society publishers, editors, authors, paper manufacturers and
distributors, printers, librarians, and preservationists. By
disseminating information about acid-free paper use, the contributions
of the Permanent Paper Task Force to the resolution of the problem of
acidic paper should ultimately also be helpful in facilitating
preservation of the printed record in fields of scholarly endeavor other
It is important that the use of permanent paper for a publication be
identified by a notice in that publication. Without it, libraries would
have to test for the kind of paper in each publication and may in the
future inadvertently apply preservation treatments to publications that
do not need them. Such identification also attests to the concern for
the preservation of the material that is published. Beginning in 1990,
journals indexed in MEDLINE and Index Medicus that are printed on acid
free paper and that also carry a notice to that effect are marked as
such in the List of Journals Indexed in Index Medicus, the List of
Serials Indexed for Online Users, and in SERLINE_, the Library's online
file of serials information.
The use of acid-free paper is the preventive medicine for reducing the
problem of deterioration of publications and the threat of their being
lost to the record of civilization forever.
For further information please contact:
Special Projects Officer,
National Library of Medicine,
8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20894.