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Associations and InstitutionsAnnual 

64th IFLA Conference Logo

   64th IFLA General Conference
   August 16 - August 21, 1998


Code Number: 115-114-E
Division Number: VI.
Professional Group: Preservation and Conservation
Joint Meeting with: -
Meeting Number: 114.
Simultaneous Interpretation:   No

Standards for Permanent Paper

Ivar A. L. Hoel
Royal School of Librarianship and Information Science


The background and content of the International Standards (ISO standards) that define permanent paper are described. They have been developed by Subcommittee 10, "Physical keeping of documents" of ISO Technical committee 46, "Information and documentation" (ISO/TC46/SC10). The history and the achievements of this committee, which has existed since 1998, is invariably connected to standards for permanent paper, although it also is doing other work. 17 countries are participating members of the committee, and 13 countries are observing members. IFLA has a liaison membership, which can be utilized more than has been the case until now. SC10 has published 3 International Standards, and 5 more are on their way. The first and basic standard, "ISO 9706:1994 Information and documentation- Paper for documents -Requirements for permanence" defines the "ordinary" permanent paper. The second, "ISO 11108:1996 Information and documentation -- Archival paper -- Requirements for permanence and durability", defines a paper that has both high permanence and high durability. These concepts are explained. The technical way of formulating a requirement so that it excludes lignin from a permanent paper - an issue which is now being discussed - is presented. Attention is drawn to the parallelity in development and technical content between ISO 9706 and "ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1997, American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Publications and Documents in Libraries and Archives" . Both use the same symbol to mark paper as permanent, and this is no coincidence. The use of ISO 9706 as a basis for national standards is mentioned. The newest example of that is the acceptance of it as a European Norm, compulsory for all European countries. Finally, the stages through which an ISO Standard has to pass before it is finished are described.


If you look in the catalogue of International Standards published by ISO (or, what is more convenient nowadays, look up on the ISO www-server), you will find 202 standards about paper. Three of them are also indexed with the word "permanence". All three have been made by the "library committee" of ISO, Technical Committee TC 46, Information and documentation. And further, within that TC they have been developed by its subcommittee SC10, "Physical keeping of documents", to which I serve as secretary.

Many types of standards exist: international, regional (e.g. European), national, industrial, de facto, etc. I will not in this paper explain the differences, nor will I speak about the many good reasons for making standards. I will concern myself with the making of International Standards (ISO standards) for permanent paper. ISO standards very often take an existing national standard as a point of departure. In that way one hopes to find basic and reliable work, made by experts in the field, that provides a sound and secure starting point. But once an ISO standard is established on the international scene, it in turn becomes the basis for national standards where such are needed. I will speak about why and how the permanent paper standards were made, and how they have been accepted. I will end up with a description of the different stages in the international standardization procedure, so that the whole process may appear a little bit more familiar to you.

The standardization committee ISO/TC46/SC10

First, however, something about the framework within which the work is done, since an account of that cannot be separated form the work done on a standard for permanent paper. The wish for a standard for permanent paper existed first, but standardization takes a long time. The first standard took us six years of work. In 1987, ISO TC46 at its Moscow plenary meeting decided to set up a subcommittee, ISO/TC46/SC10 with the preliminary title "Physical characteristics of media for documents". One single work item, "Permanence of paper for printed library materials" was allocated to the new SC. NORDINFO financed the secretariat the first couple of years. SC10 met for the first time in Copenhagen 1988, and has since then normally had a yearly meeting. In 1989 the committee title was amended to the present, "Physical keeping of documents", and the scope of ISO TC46/SC10 was confirmed as follows: "Standardization of requirements for docu-ments and practices relating to docu-ments, when the documents are to be used in li-braries, archi-ves, and documen-tation cen-tres, and are to retain their charac-terist-ics." Chairman through all the years has been Mr. Rolf Dahlo of Norway.

The membership in SC10 has been steadily increasing. It is the standardization organization in each of the ISO member countries that is a member. Normally, a national committee to cover the work of the international committee, is set up.

Actively participating member countries (P-members) are the following 17: Australia, Denmark, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sweden, UK, USA

Observing member countries (O-members) are the following 13: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Iceland, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Thailand.

External liaison organizations include ICA (Int. Council on Archives), IFLA, International Docu-mentation Committee of the Inter-national Council of Museums, and IPC (Institute of Paper Conservation). I will return to how an organization such as IFLA can participate in the work when I at the end of my paper give an overview of how practical ISO work is carried out.

TC46/SC10 has up to now had three International Standards published. The first was of course ISO 9706:1994 Information and documentation -- Paper for documents -- Requirements for permanence. Later came
ISO 11108:1996 Information and documentation -- Archival paper -- Requirements for permanence and durability, and, published in April this year,
ISO 11800:1998 Information and documentation -- Requirements for binding materials and methods used in the manufacture of books

The ongoing work is at present concentrated on the following projects (the meaning of the abbreviations will be explained later when I discuss the stages of standard development):

ISO/FDIS 11798 - Permanence and durability of writing, printing and copying on paper - Re-quirements and testing met-hods
ISO/DIS 11799 - Document storage requirements
ISO/DIS 14416 - Requirements for binding of books, periodi-cals, serials and other paper documents for archive and library use - Methods and materials
ISO/CD 15659 - Archival boards - Migration test
ISO/WD 16245 - Archives boxes and file covers for paper documents

ISO 9706 is a basic standard for permanent paper

Out of these several projects, 9706, 11108 and 15659 are directly related to the concept of permanent paper. The last one is not finished, and will not be discussed, since it may undergo many changes before the final result can be voted on. The other standards (except 11799) make a reference to permanent paper as defined in ISO 9706. That is : they presuppose that permanent paper is defined in a standard. Thus the standard that was the basis for creation of the committee TC46/SC10 is now a basis on which further work has been built, and on which more may be built in the future. It is therefore of interest to know something about how ISO 9706 was developed, and why the requirements are what they are.

The history of ISO 9706

ISO 9706 was developed on the basis of the American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1984. ISO 9706 is unthinkable without the work that for many years had been carried out in the US. It is also an example of a national standard being used as a basis for an international standard. But the 1984 US standard was not without its own history. At that time, in the early 1980es, no other national standard existed that could be taken as a model. So the ISO work was based on a combination of existing US studies and industrial standards. The Council on Library Resources had published some interim guidelines produced by its Committee on Production Guidelines for Book Longevity. Those guidelines from 1982 were adapted and simplified from standards set by the National Historical Publication and Records Commission, by the Library of Congress (1973), by the Barrow laboratories (1975) and by ASTM (Specifications for bond and ledger papers for permanent records, 1981). Such was the background for the work starting in ISO in 1988. Two of the more fundamental requirements to a permanent paper as presently understood, have their background in this work already done. They are the questions of alkaline reserve and lignin content.

The first can be dealt with rather briefly. When a paper scientist today asks what is the reason and scientific basis for a requirement of minimum 2 % alkaline reserve in the paper (and not higher or lower), the answer surely has to be found in the Barrow studies dating back from the 1950es. The requirement has been unchanged through all the years, and indeed it is one of the most fundamental requirements to a permanent paper. Sometimes one comes across paper marketed as "acid-free". This must have been supposed both by some paper sellers and some publishers to be a mark of quality. But absence of acid in a paper does not guarantee any permanence, unless it is backed up by a deposit in the paper of an alkaline substance (usually calcium carbonate) to counter the influence of acids from the environment and acids produced during paper degradation.

Permanent paper and lignin

The reason for excluding lignin as a component of permanent paper is now again debated. The debate is part of an understandable trend, known from many technical fields, urging for a move from composition to performance requirements. Concerning paper, Dr. Shahani of the Library of Congress in 1995 summed it up this way: "Composition-based standards leave much to be desired. From a fundamental perspective, the consumer, whether a librarian, an archivist or a conservator, is ill-equipped to tell the paper maker how to make paper. However, the consumer does know the end qualities and performance he/she would like to see in the product. The real problem in the case of permanent paper standards is that the consumer does not have a credible set of tests for quality control on which he/she can depend. That is why the consumer is forced to depend on the composition of the product, for which presumably adequate test controls are available. However, a composition based set of requirements is always less efficient and more vulnerable than a performance-based standard." (1) Performance tests will have to rely on accelerated ageing. The pros and cons of that have been discussed for years. I will not take up that debate here. Some permanent paper standards make use of it. Within ISO we have not done it. Not yet. The reasons for that may be read in ISO 9706, Annex C.

Based on a century of experiences, it was held by all librarians and archivists that lignin had to be excluded from a permanent paper. The 1984 standard simply stated that "The paper shall contain no groundwood or unbleached pulp". To ascertain that, the fibre contents were supposed to be measured by specialists, counting in a microscope according to an old Tappi standard. But this was a requirement that was difficult to handle for the papermakers. Were traces (inevitable in practical paper production) acceptable? How was a dispute to be resolved, if the requirement was not quantified? Here it has to be remembered that the main idea behind standardizing the permanent paper was not to describe the best paper possible, but to describe a permanent paper that could be cheap and therefore ubiquitous. Therefore, the papermakers had to be sure whether their paper complied with the standard or not. The difficulty was resolved in the ISO work. Here the concept of measuring oxidizable matter (technically known as Kappa number) was introduced. Any oxidizable matter present, lignin or whatever, would contribute to raising the Kappa number. When somebody asks why a Kappa number of five is chosen, my answer is that that corresponds to the value of 2% which according to Tappi T401-os-74 Method for fiber analysis of paper and paperboard is the uncertainty of that method. It is therefore a quantitative way of saying "No groundwood or unbleached pulp", and still allowing for traces.

The parallelity between ISO and ANSI/NISO permanent paper standards

The use of Kappa number shows the parallel development of work in the US and in ISO. The 1984 ANSI standard was revised in 1992 by NISO. The revision process coincided with the development of the ISO standard, and resulted in the use of Kappa number also in the ANSI/NISO standard. Many consultations across the Atlantic were made to ensure that the revised ANSI/NISO standard and the emerging ISO standard would not be different in their technical requirements. The Introduction to ISO 9706 says the following about this:

"The technical requirements of this International Standard ISO 9706 are in conform-ity with the standard ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992, American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Publications and Documents in Libraries and Archives. The limiting values of two of the four required characteris-tics, viz. tear resistance and resis-tance to oxidation, differ slightly. A symbol of compliance in the form of the mathematical symbol denoting infinity set inside a circle was develo-ped by NISO, the US National Information Standards Organization and introduced in ANSI Z39.48-1984. The NISO symbol is now part of ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992. The symbol is used in this Inter-national Standard with the permission of NISO."

The importance of this is seen in the fact that a user can be certain that it does not matter whether the paper is made according to American National or ISO standard for permanent paper, and that the now well-known symbol has the same meaning in both contexts.

This situation is happily going to exist also in the coming years. Both standards will have to be revised when the time is ripe. That time has not yet come. The ANSI/NISO 1992 standard was confirmed in 1997 for another 5-year period. In May this year, ISO/TC46/SC10 adopted the following resolution (addressing a proposal from some paper makers for a revision accepting higher lignin content):

"SC 10 appreciates the information on ongoing research given in presentations by Mr. Bruce Arnold [on research by ASTM/ISR on paper ageing, natural and accelerated] and Mr. Norayr Gurnagul [on research in Canada on the effects of lignin on paper ageing], and finds that a revision of ISO 9706 is not possible this stage, since the final reports of both are not yet available. SC10 confirms that the parallelity at which exists between ANSI/NISO Z39.48 of 1992 (reconfirmed in 1997) and ISO 9706 from 1994 should be upheld also in the future."

The spreading of ISO 9706

ISO 9706 has been made the basis for national standards in at least the following countries: Australia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, United Kingdom. Some countries have adopted national standards for permanent paper that include other and stronger requirements (Italy) or accelerated ageing (The Netherlands, Germany). The lists are probably longer, and any information to supplement it will be welcome. In Europe, ISO 9706 has just been balloted as to whether it should become also a European standard (EN). At the time of writing I have not seen the ballot results, but I am informed that it has been accepted. That will make it compulsory for all European countries to adopt in some way or other ISO 9706 as their national standard.

Archival paper and permanent paper

The other permanent paper standard, ISO 11108, introduces the concept of archival paper. Where ISO 9706 concentrates on permanence alone, ISO 11108 unites the concepts of permanence and durability. The concepts are defined as follows:

The ability to remain chemically and physically stable over long periods of time.
The ability to resist the effects of wear and tear when in use.
permanent paper:
Paper which during long term storage in librari-es, archives and other protected en-viron-ments will undergo little or no change in properties that affect use.
archival paper:
Paper of high perma-nence and high durability.

According to the scope of the standard, archival paper is primarily required for docu-ments and publications intended to be kept permanently because of their high histori-cal, legal or other significant values. Archival paper is for special purposes, not for common use. The use of the term "archival paper" does not imply that all papers kept in archives are "archival papers". Examples of use of a document include, but are not limited to, the ability of the document to be handled, read, examined, or copied for the purposes of dissemination or transfer to another medium

It follows from the definitions given that archival paper is permanent paper that also is durable. Any paper that is made according to ISO 11108 will also meet the requirements of ISO 9706. ISO 9706 for permanent paper has requirements to

ISO 11108 for archival paper has extra requirements to ensure durability. Paper strength is to be measured by also by determining the folding endurance, and a list of acceptable fibre types that have to make up the principal part of the furnish is given.

Participation in ISO work

I mentioned earlier that some of the standardization work on permanency of paper (project 15659) was not ready to be discussed here, since it might undergo changes before it can be released. That is by no means saying that expert knowledge is unwanted. On the contrary I am sure that many IFLA members could contribute greatly. But some rules on participation in ISO work have to be adhered to. If somebody would like to enter into the work, there are two ways. You can either participate through a national member body, or by using the IFLA liaison membership. In either case, some knowledge of the stages of an ISO International Standard will facilitate the participation. The different stages, their names, the formalities around them, and the possibility for an organization such as IFLA of being heard on the different stages will understandably be considered a huge labyrinth by all who are not working with this constantly. I have therefore prepared the following short account, which hopefully will make some of the ISO terms more familiar.

Stages in the development of an ISO International Standard

The preparation of an International Standard within ISO runs through many stages. The overall idea is to reach international consensus, giving every member body of ISO the possibility of being heard. This is achieved through several successive stages of balloting, with more and more strict requirements at each stage, and less and less possibility for change for every new stage reached.

  1. Preliminary Work Item (PWI)

    Ideas for a new International Standard that are in an embryonal stage and have not yet been developed technically, may be introduced as preliminary work items. They are introduced into the programme of work of ISO/TC46/SC10 by a simple majority vote of its P-members. Liaison members who have good ideas they would like to see developed, should contact the SC10 secretariat about it. The address is:

  2. New work item proposal (NP)

    An NP proposal requires some more preliminary work to be done than a PWI proposal does. It may, however, be made by members as well as by organizations in liaison with the committee, such as IFLA. An NP requires a first working draft for discussion as well as a project leader. Ballot papers will be prepared by the secretariat, and shall be returned within three months. P-members ready to participate should provide the name of their experts. Liaison members wanting to contribute in a Working group for the development of successive working drafts resulting in a Committee Draft should contact the SC10 secretariat. An NP requires approval by a simple majority vote of the P-members, plus a commitment by at least five P-members to participate actively.

  3. Working Draft (WD)

    Working Drafts are normally prepared in Working Groups (WGs) made up of the at least five experts nominated by the national member bodies that are P-members. There exist some possibilities of widening the WG membership with extra experts. Liaison members such as IFLA may also nominate WG members. Such nominations will be much appreciated.

  4. Committee Draft (CD)

    When the WG considers itself to be ready with its work - perhaps after having considered several successive WDs in WG meetings and/or by correspondence - it delivers the final WD to SC10, who pronounces the WD to be a Committee Draft, a CD. CDs are issued to the P- and 0-members of SC10 for detailed scrutiny and correction of errors or changes to the intent of the Work Item, via a ballot and comment routine. It is at this stage that the possibility to exert influence is the best. Changes proposed in the later stages are more difficult to incorporate. Liaison members are also welcome to give their comments at this stage. The time frame for review of the first CD is normally three months. If the changes proposed as a result of the CD ballot are considered to be substantial, a second CD will be prepared and balloted. The time limit for review of a second CD is also three months. A consensus among P-members is required to advance the project to the next stage, the Draft International Standard. A 2/3 majority is required in case of doubt about consensus.

  5. Draft International Standard (DIS)

    DISes are prepared by the SC10 secretariat and issued for ballot by the ISO Central Secretariat in Geneva to all national member bodies. The text of the DIS is to reflect the result of the ballot on the CD draft, and it will show the inclusion or exclusion of comments made during the CD balloting routine. A 2/3 majority of TC46/SC10 P-members is required for approval, and further not more than 25% of all votes cast may be negative. Abstentions and negative votes without accompanying comments are not counted. Liaison members voices will no longer be heard. If the DIS fails in the ballot, a revised DIS may be prepared. An approved DIS has to be considered as the final draft, ready for publication (that is: no more enquiries asking for comments, neither as to technical content or editorial details). A Final Draft international Standard will be prepared, however.

  6. Final Draft International Standard (FDIS)

    FDISes are prepared by the SC 10 secretariat and issued by ISO Central Secretariat to reflect the final results of the ballot of the DIS. The ballot is for a two months vote. The question to be answered is a simple yes/no question as to publication of the FDIS as an International Standard. The rules for acceptance are the same as for DIS ballot. Technical reasons for negative votes - if such are presented - will be submitted to the SC10 secretariat for consideration at the time of he next review of the International Standard, which shall take place not later than after a five year period. The correction of errors that may have been introduced in the preparation of the draft may be pointed out by the voting member bodies. The SC10 secretary will collect and forward them to ISO/CS in the proof review for correction. Further editorial or technical amendments are not acceptable at, this stage. The FDIS clearly is not the stage to produce new additions; only minor corrections of editorial nature will be taken into account. ISO/CS will correct any errors pointed out by the secretariat of SC10, and publish the International Standard in English and French.


  1. Chandru J. Shahani: Accelerated Aging of Paper: Can it Really Foretell the Permanence of Paper. Preservation Research and Testing Office, Preservation Directorate, Library of Congress, Washington DC, November 1995.
    URL: ftp://ftp.loc.gov/pub/preservation/doc/rt9503.txt