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To Bangkok Conference programme

65th IFLA Council and General

Bangkok, Thailand,
August 20 - August 28, 1999

Code Number: 138-140-E
Division Number: V
Professional Group: Newspapers
Joint Meeting with: -
Meeting Number: 140
Simultaneous Interpretation:   No

A window on to the world: newspaper collecting in the National Library of Australia

Amelia McKenzie
Senior Manager, Technical Services
National Library of Australia
Canberra, Australia



In this paper I will give a brief survey of Australian newspaper publishing history and a description of the National Library's Australian newspaper holdings. I will outline its newspaper collecting policy and some of the national issues and initiatives being undertaken to ensure access to and preservation of Australian newspapers.

I don't think anyone who has read a newspaper from another country could argue with the idea that newspapers are a window on to the world. They give us a glimpse of the affairs of a country in the most direct and immediate way, and in their singular status as a contemporary record of events they show us not only what is happening but what was thought of it at the time - unique primary source material for researchers for several different reasons.

A brief history

The history of newspaper publishing in Australia has been described as 'varied, spectacular and honourable'1 The first newspaper appeared in 1803, with the publication by the military government of the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser. This was only fifteen years after Governor Phillip's First Fleet landed and established a colony of convicts in the native bush of Sydney Cove. The Sydney Gazette carried the optimistic banner 'Thus we hope to prosper', and remained the colony's only newspaper until 1810, when the Derwent Star made a brief appearance in Hobart, to be followed in 1814 by the Van Diemen's Land Gazette. Throughout the 1800s, many newspapers prospered briefly and disappeared, while the Sydney Gazette ceased publishing in 1842. It was calculated in the 1950s that in the preceding 100 years New South Wales had had at least 800 newspapers, of which only 163 then remained.2 Australia's oldest capital city newspaper is the Sydney Morning Herald, first published in 1842 and still owned by the Fairfax family, and its oldest country newspaper is the Maitland Mercury, from NSW, first published in 1843.

As in other countries, newspaper publishing in Australia simply reflected the tribulations of the country itself, whether natural, economic or political. Factors affecting the closure of newspapers included droughts, floods, financial crises, the end of the gold rush in the Victorian goldfields and a shortage of newsprint during World War II. Political pressure was also brought to bear on the first Australian newspaper publishers by the colonial authorities - in fact, as soon as independent newspapers began to appear. From the 1820s onwards, Governors or Lieutenant Generals of the day attempted to impose governmental control of the press, which was strongly resisted. These actions created a long-standing tradition of the free press in Australia. However, opinions were sometimes divided on what constitutes a free press. The dilemma was neatly summarised by a contemporary observer, showing how little the issues have changed to this day. E.D. Burn, Tasmanian essayist and dramatist, wrote in 1842:

A portion of the local press, remarkable for scurrility and low personality, poured forth its low hebdomadal tirades in loud and savage invectives, and in the hope of wounding in the tenderest point a ribald malignity was indulged …The liberty of the press is a blessing of most inappreciable value; its licence is sometimes too contemptible even for restraint. A large portion of the Tasmanian press has long obtained an unenviable celebrity, so much so as to have subjected it to the severe, reiterated and merited castigation both of its Australasian and British contemporaries.3

I think it is fair to say that the basic fight for the freedom of the press had its genesis in authoritarian actions by vice-regal rulers, but that on the other hand it also extended into unrestrained invective on the part of the newspapers. Perhaps because of this basic struggle the more successful newspapers began to gain and maintain some influence within their communities in the second half of the 19th century, and it was commonly believed, for example, that newspapers could and did sway parliamentary elections. There is debate as to whether that influence extends to this day, with a view that it very much does in the non-metropolitan centres of Australia like Adelaide and Brisbane.

The course of time has changed both the influence of newspapers and attitudes towards them. At present in Australia it is estimated that newspaper circulation has fallen by approximately 15% over the last five years, while readership of daily newspapers in metropolitan markets is relatively stable at 63% of the total capital city population.4 (Australia's total population is 18 million). Small circulation growth has come from the introduction of Sunday editions in some capital cities, while the main national business daily, the Australian financial review has gone against the trend and increased its circulation. Using a media-defined figure, there are currently estimated to be5:

1 national weekly
2 national dailies
8 metropolitan dailies
9 metropolitan weeklies (usually Sundays)
38 regional dailies
315 regional non-dailies
155 suburban newspapers

The largest network of ownership is Rupert Murdoch's News Limited, which owns eleven metropolitan titles.

The National Library's Australian newspaper collection

Most of these titles will be found in the collections of the National Library of Australia, as the Library acquires Australian newspaper titles by virtue of the legal deposit provisions of the Copyright Act 1968. (The Act does not currently apply to microform or electronic formats.) There are some exclusions - the Library does not acquire suburban newspapers or those of a purely local community interest. These are considered to be the responsibility of the appropriate state or territory library.

The Library completed cataloguing all of its current and non-current Australian newspaper titles on to the National Bibliographic Database in the late 1980s. Up till then, newspaper holdings were listed in a National Library publication entitled Newspapers in Australian libraries (1985, now out of print), which probably still stands as the most complete union listing as of that date, but with many bibliographic inaccuracies.

A survey of the Library's holdings indicates that as of July 1999 522 current Australian print newspapers are held, together with 1,558 ceased titles. 147 current titles are also received in microform, while 1,417 non-current titles are held in microform.

Australia is a multicultural society, with a history of immigration from all parts of the world, and our newspaper collection reflects this. Of the current print newspaper collection, just over 18% of the titles held are in languages other than English. We believe this represents an under-estimate of the actual proportion, as ethnic language newspapers are often not deposited with the National Library. The ethnic publishing community is one of the more elusive publishing communities with which we engage, and a consistent resource-intensive effort to maintain contact is required. The pattern of ethnic newspaper publishing has varied over the years according to the pattern of new arrivals and the traditions within each community: the Chinese and Vietnamese languages are dominant among newspaper titles currently received, while Italian, Polish and German are all on the decline.

The Library's collecting policy for Australian newspapers was reviewed in 1996 and issued as part of its latest Collection Development Policy, which was published in July of this year. The full text can be found on the Library's Web site and the newspaper collecting policy is reproduced in full in Appendix 1.

Retention and preservation issues

Newspaper collecting within Australia is well covered by the National Library and the state and territory libraries who together hold the most complete record of Australian newspaper publishing. However although Australia's newspaper history is only 200 years old, it is known that many early, small or local newspapers have not survived, or only a handful of issues exist. For example, only four issues of the English and Chinese Advertiser are known to have survived. This fascinating newspaper was published in English and Chinese during the early gold rush in Ballarat, Victoria. A survey conducted in the early 1990s identified gaps in 164 newspaper titles published in Australia, mostly dating back to the 1800s, but some as recently as 1956. It was also found that some local newspaper sets were held in university collections but not in the relevant state library.

Retention, preservation and access issues are therefore a concern for all the libraries, In early 1992 the Council of Australian State Libraries agreed on a cooperative effort between the state libraries and the National Library to carry out a national newspaper preservation plan (NPLAN). In the U.S. the United States Newspaper Program has similar aims, as does the British NEWSPLAN, which focuses on local newspapers.

The National Newspaper Plan's stated goal is to preserve all Australian newspapers and to ensure the public has acces to them. A basic principle of the NPLAN is that primary responsibility for retention of newspapers in hardcopy rests with the State or Territory library in the State or Territory of the newspaper's origin. Its objectives areas follows:

  • Acquisitions
    To collect hard copies of all newspapers as published
    To identify, locate and collect missing issues

  • Bibliographic control
    To record all hard copies and reproductions on the National Bibliographic Database
    To produce a national register of microform masters from the NBD

  • Preservation
    To retain as long as feasible at least one hard copy of every newspaper
    To create or purchase an archival standard microfilm master of every newspaper for permanent preservation
    To create a copying master and working copies

Progress with NPLAN

One of NPLAN's objectives was to run a publicity campaign to locate missing or unknown newspapers held in private homes, community organisations, newspaper offices and local authorities. Under the rubric 'Australia's most wanted newspapers' a list of titles was advertised which had large gaps, such as the Bendigo Advertiser from Victoria, the Huon Times from Tasmania and the Swan River Guardian from Western Australia. The idea for the campaign came from the very successful 'Last film search' conducted by the National Film and Sound Archive in the 1980s to locate film stock held in private hands; however it has to be said that the search for missing issues of newspapers was much less successful. While some issues were donated by the public, the majority of the titles sought never turned up, perhaps reflecting the transitory nature of the newspaper both physically and in the public perception.

However, NPLAN did fulfil the function of raising awareness of newspaper preservation issues amongst Australian libraries themselves. Good progress has been made on microfilming of newspapers, both by individual libraries and in cooperative projects. The State Library of New South Wales in Sydney claims that it will have all of its newspaper collection filmed by 2000, while the National Library continues its successful program of cooperative filming, of which more below.

The National Library's retention and preservation policy

The National Library is committed to the preservation within Australia of the total output of Australian newspapers, and developed its newspaper retention and preservation policy with the national newspaper plan in mind. The full text of the National Library's Policy on the Retention, Preservation and Repatriation of Australian Newspapers is attached at Appendix 2. In keeping with the spirit of NPLAN's principles, the National Library will:

  • accept responsibility for the preservation, in hardcopy and surrogate form, of titles that are national in scope, coverage and distribution, as well as newspapers published in the Australian Capital Terrritory, where the Library is located;

  • continue to develop an extensive hardcopy collection of Australian newspapers that have are not yet been microfilmed;

  • repatriate hardcopy holdings to allow preservation microfilming to occur (the Library will repatriate to allow a State or Territory library to microfilm a title for which they are primarily responsible, or if the Library's holdings are duplicated by microfilm working copy);

  • enter into and partially fund cooperative microfilming projects;

  • provide free Cold Store storage for archival standard preservation masters;

  • record all newspaper holdings (hardcopy and microform) and preservation intentions on the National Bibliographic Database (NBD).


The repatriation issue was a particular initiative of the state and territory libraries, which in some cases lacked newspaper issues held by the National Library or university libraries. In NPLAN's early days there was some success in achieving the repatriation of particular titles, mainly from university library collections to the State or territory library, but there has been little activity recently. The National Library will repatriate titles if fairly stringent preservation and access conditions can be met, and it has emerged that few libraries have been able to meet these standards.

Cooperative microfilming projects

An effective way for the Library to encourage adherence to good preservation standards as well as to advance the preservation effort is to work with other libraries and provide financial support to microfilm newspaper titles. The Cooperative Microfilming Project was established in the mid-1990s with a budget of $20,000-$30,000 a year for the last five or six years. Requests for assistance from Australian libraries are considered on the basis of available funding, forward work plans, and conformity with the Library's criteria. For newspapers the first criterion is age: newspaper backsets more than thirty years old are considered to be at the greatest risk of loss due to the quality of the paper on which it is printed. The highest priority for filming is given to newspapers which are:

  • defined by the holding institution as either heavily used, brittle or at risk because of poor storage conditions
  • defined by the National Library of Australia as unique or at risk because of the dispersal of the few remaining
  • defined by agreement between the holding institution and the National Library of Australia as being of particular importance.

Progress with cooperative microfilming has been slow but satisfactory, underling the importance of a long term approach with reliable funding and administrative support.

Looking into the future: the Australian Cooperative Digitisation Project

Underpinning the Library's newspaper preservation policy is a commitment to microfilming as the most viable current preservation format for newspapers, and it is committed to promoting the use of Australian and international standards for preservation microfilming. The archival standards applied are listed in Appendix 2.

However, microfilming has always been just one of a number of reformatting options. Digitisation as both a preservation and access strategy is clearly an important area for newspapers, and I will close this paper with a brief account of the Australian Cooperative Digitisation project. This project, led by the University of Sydney Library, was a trial of the digital conversion of several significant nineteenth century Australian books and journals, including newspapers. The project partners are University of Sydney Library, the State Library of New South Wales, the National Library of Australia and Monash University Library, supported by ten other institutional and industry groups. The full content - text and images - of a range of journals, newspapers, novels and short stories published in Australia from the period 1840-45 was digitised using OCR technology and is progressively being made available on the Internet.

The purpose of this collaborative project is to ensure both increased access to, and preservation of, this material through an integrated process of preservation microfilming, digital scanning, network access and selected full-text enhancement. One of the project's aims is to investigate and develop technical benchmarks for similar digital library projects involving the conversion of retrospective print material. It is an opportunity to develop technical and management experience and skills in such work at both the library and vendor level for the benefit of future projects in Australia. Close contact has been kept with US institutions carrying out similar work, particularly Cornell University's Digital Library project and Yale's Open Book Project. Other projects taking place that have assisted or will assist in the Australian trial include the Library of Congress digital project, the Making of America (Cornell and Michigan Universities) and the UK Elib sponsored project, the Internet Library of Early Journals.

The newspapers of the period 1840-1845 represent a unique record of the settlements, but their physical size presents particular problems in digitisation, especially in the delivery of the images and print reproduction.

Methods employed

Technical and user specifications for the project were developed by the ACDP partners and the production work of filming and digital conversion was contracted to commercial vendors.

The identification and checking of the original material proved to be rather complex, much more so than anticipated. Identifying complete sets, or filling gaps when parts of titles may be held by different institutions was part of this process and required the input of staff with very highly developed bibliographic skills. It also required the selection of the best copy for the project. A good deal of the material in the time period of this project had already been microfilmed. Consideration was given to the utility of these existing microfilm sets as a source for scanning, particularly in regard to quality and page orientation on the film (the digital image must appear in "portrait" style with the image appearing on the screen as straight up and down). Older microfilm was replaced by technically superior modern film to ensure the highest fidelity was achieved during the digitisation process. While the print material itself was out of copyright, issues such as rights over the master microfilm, and rights over the final digital images needed to be considered. Some initial conservation work was done on the original material. Fundamental to the project was the maintenance of the integrity of the original material. The material is scarce and of cultural significance, so no actions were taken that might have damaged the originals.

Of the 90-odd serial titles listed for the period in the Ferguson Bibliography of Australia, there were 11 titles that could not be tracked down anywhere in Australia, and another five titles that were withdrawn from the project because they proved to be impossible to digitise adequately with current techniques - mainly because of the page size and the poor quality text. This left about 74 titles, of which five proved to be unsuitable for scanning from microfilm. These are now being filmed directly from the source using digital cameras. This is an experimental addition to the project, and looks to be quite successful; 2,000 images of the Geelong Advertiser have just been produced and the production methods will be compared and assessed.

For the periodicals and newspapers, the basic approach was to create TIFF images at resolutions of 400 dots per inch, converting to PDF format for multi-page delivery. This meant images of pages are obtained, rather than searchable text. The images have been mounted on the Library's website and are retrievable both through the navigational tools on the Project pages and at title level through the NLA catalogue. They will be maintained and developed as part of the National Library's growing collection of digital research materials.

Outcomes so far

The message of the Australian Cooperative Digitisation Project so far is very simple: it's not easy. Digitisation of large format materials like newspapers continues to be difficult and time-consuming. OCR scanning of this kind of material is very difficult because of the great variety of print fonts and the variable image quality, and digitisation does not solve legibility problems. Another critical technical issue in the development of the specifications is the data file size of the images - the larger the file size the slower it is for the image to be retrieved across the internet, the slower to download, and the more space it will take on disks to which the images have been downloaded.

In investigating these problems the ACDP team consulted with several digital projects working with newspapers, and all (at least for now) rejected using the Internet as the delivery means of images of large format newspapers. The document structure developed for the project can be used for organising and browsing newspaper pages, and similarly for the provision of images on CD- ROM. This seems the likely option for the newspaper situation, but further investigation is required. Desirable solutions to at least some of the problems are the ability to deliver large quantities of data over the Internet is needed, together with improved software for the manipulation of images to cope with the variability of print formats. In addition, OCR technology does not solve the issue of text searchability.

However the fact remains that it is now possible for researchers anywhere in Australia or the world to call up images of the Sydney Advertiser, the Dispatch or the Sun over the Internet and view every page directly from the screen. That is a great advance on accessibility and certainly on preservation. The ACDP site will be formally launched in Canberra in August or September and a seminar on the project will be held in Sydney in November 1999. Titles are accessible now, at http://www.nla.gov.au/ferg/. There were 24 titles available when I last checked, it is growing almost daily and you will also find several articles about the project by those involved, amongst whom is my colleague Colin Webb, Preservation Services Manager at the National Library. Anyone interested in knowing more about it is very welcome to contact Colin direct. Work remains to be done on the site, improving the contextual information and the navigational tools, but it is already a valuable research resource. Finally, anyone interested in looking at how the National Library plans to manage these and other digital resources should look at our Digital Services Project site, at http://www.nla.gov.au/dsp/.


I opened this paper by talking about newspapers being windows on to worlds, and it seems fitting to have closed it with an account of another kind of window being opened through the availability of 19th century newspapers on the Internet. While newspaper readership appears to be declining, research demand for newspapers as primary source material is increasing, and the problems for libraries of managing newspaper collections grow with the collections themselves. In Australia the National and State libraries have generally taken a cooperative approach to dealing with the issues of access and preservation, with real progress being made on microfilming and bibliographic control. The technical possibilities of digitisation as a medium for newspaper preservation and access have been explored and will provide a foundation for further work. And although Australia is a relatively small country, with only a 200 year newspaper publishing history, there remains a great deal to be done.


1 Australian encyclopaedia, 1955, vol. VI, p. 312

2 Ibid.

3 Burn, David. Narrative of the overland journey of Sir John and Lady Franklin and party from Hobart Town to Macquarie Harbour, 1842. Sydney, 1955.

4 B & T magazine, July 1999

5 Press radio and TV guide 35th edition 1998-99

Appendix 1

National Library of Australia's Australian newspaper collecting policy

[Excerpt from Collection Development Policy, 1999, pp. 23-24, available at: http://www.nla.gov.au/policy/cdp/]

3.62 The Library will collect all Australian newspapers except those that fall into the following categories:

  • those intended primarily for advertising purposes and consisting mainly of advertisements, including real estate papers
  • newspapers distributed at the suburban and regional levels which consist of generic text that is used for distribution to different communities and towns accompanied by a cover page that localises the newspaper by containing information relevant only to the particular community or town. A sample of the generic text will be collected in each case, but not all the local editions distributed.
  • titles containing predominantly information that would be largely of local community interest only in that it concerns local social, sporting and community events and local services information and advertising.

3.63 These categories are considered the responsibility of the relevant State or Territory library and any titles received by the National Library that fall into the categories above will be referred to that library.

3.64 In deciding whether to collect a specific title, emphasis is placed on content. Newspapers that are a primary source of current news connected with public affairs either regional, national and/or international in scope, including titles published by ethnic groups and political organisations, and those representing special interests, will be collected. If intended for a general audience, they should contain a broad range of news on all subjects and activities, but if intended for a special interest group they should include features and topical news of particular interest to that group.

3.65 Generally back issues and retrospective runs of newspapers will only be acquired if they are available in microform. In general, the retrospective acquisition of newspapers in microform will follow the policy for the acquisition of current titles except that additional factors such as length of coverage, cost, historic and geographical significance, and research value will also be taken into consideration. Often the last two factors only become apparent in retrospect. The increasing availability of runs of newspapers in microform as once only acquisitions makes the wider selection of retrospective titles more feasible.

3.66 The Library is committed to the preservation within Australia of the total output of Australian newspapers and will cooperate with other institutions through the mechanism of the National Plan for Australian Newspapers (NPLAN) to achieve this. It accepts that it is responsible for preserving national and Australian Capital Territory newspapers in paper and microform formats, and that preservation of local, regional and State newspapers is the responsibility of the appropriate State or Territory library. Where the relevant State library has agreed to retain the hard copy of a newspaper the Library will repatriate or discard its hard copy as long as a microform copy exists.

3.67 The Library will also enter into selected cooperative filming projects to preserve unique/rare and other newspaper titles considered of importance.

Appendix 2

National Library of Australia Policy on the Retention, Preservation & Repatriation of Australian Newspapers

[available at: [http://www.nla.gov.au/policy/revnpan.html]

1. In late 1990, the National Library initiated a major review of its policies and procedures associated with the acquisition, control and preservation of Australian newspapers. The review was initiated at about the same time as the Council of Australian State Libraries (CASL) - at the time known as the State Libraries Council (SLC) - was discussing the feasibility of developing a national newspaper plan. The plan, subsequently named the National Plan for Australian Newspapers (NPLAN), was announced in early 1992. The Library was involved in the formulation of the Plan and its basic principles and aims have influenced to a large degree the Library's revised policies on Australian newspapers, especially in the area of preservation.

2. The basic understanding of the NPLAN is that each State or Territory library is responsible for the collecting, control and preservation of newspapers that originate in their State or Territory. While the NPLAN does not identify a significant role for the National Library, the Library considers that it does have a major part to play in working with the State and Territory libraries to ensure the goals of the NPLAN are realised.

In summary, the Library will:

  • accept responsibility for the preservation, in hardcopy and surrogate form, of titles identified in this policy;
  • continue to develop an extensive hardcopy collection of Australian newspapers that have are not yet been microfilmed;
  • repatriate hardcopy holdings to allow preservation microfilming to occur; enter into and partially fund cooperative microfilming projects;
  • provide free Cold Store storage for archival standard preservation masters;
  • record all newspaper holdings (hardcopy and microform) and preservation intentions on the NationalBibliographic Database (NBD).

Note: In this document the term preservation master is used for first generation master (1st generation); copying master for printing master (2nd generation); and working copy for service copy (3rd generation).

3. In July 1999 the Library issued its Collection Development Policy for Australian printed materials which includes collecting policy for newspapers. The Library's collecting role in this field is much wider than its preservation responsibility under NPLAN and is not influenced by the principles underlying the Plan. The Library will continue to develop an extensive Australian newspaper collection, in both hardcopy and microform, to support current and future research needs.

Retention in Hardcopy

4. A basic principle of the NPLAN is that primary responsibility for retention of newspapers in hardcopy rests with the State or Territory library in the State or Territory of the newspaper's origin. In keeping with the spirit of this principle, the National Library will accept responsibility for the retention in hardcopy of:

  • newspapers that are national in scope, coverage and distribution. (To date, these have been identified as the Australian (national edition), the Australian Financial Review, the National Times, the Nation Review, and the Independent. (This list is not intended to be definitive. Other titles may be added later if judged to fit the criterion. In this event, State and Territory libraries will be advised.)
  • newspapers published in the ACT. Shared responsibility for these will be negotiated with the ACT Reference Library when established.

5. There may be issues or runs of other titles that the Library decides to retain in hardcopy because, for instance, they form part of a private collection or have particular research relevance to the Library. These will be decided on an individual basis. (Newspapers in this category will be housed in preservation conditions and microfilming for long-term preservation will be negotiated with the library primarily responsible for the title.)

Preservation Action

6. For national and ACT titles, as identified in paragraph 4 above, the Library accepts responsibility for retaining hardcopy for as long as feasible and for preserving information content in surrogate form. The following action will be taken to achieve this:

  • where there are gaps in runs of titles the Library will seek to fill them and where the condition of the Library's hardcopy is poor, copies in better condition will be sought;
  • the best available hardcopy will be housed in preservation conditions (see paragraph 13) to minimise the rate of deterioration. No attempt will be made to reverse chemical deterioration unless a cost effective technology becomes available;
  • where they do not already exist, an archival quality preservation master and a copying master of each title will beproduced and stored in preservation conditions (see paragraph 13);
  • access to hardcopy will be restricted. For general use, a microfilm working copy will be acquired or created ifone is not already available;
  • where archival standard preservation and copying masters already exist but are not held at the Library, free storage at the NLA's Cold Store will be offered to institutions unable to meet the storage conditions required for preservation masters, as outlined in paragraph 13. Free storage will be contingent on the institution's ability to guarantee that the preservation master meets standards outlined in paragraph 13.

7. To ensure national access to newspapers for which the National Library accepts responsibility all hardcopy and microfilm versions will be recorded on the NBD.

Repatriation of Hardcopy Newspapers in the Library's Collection

8. In support of the goals of the NPLAN, The Library will repatriate to the relevant State or Territory library hardcopy newspapers for which it does not accept prime preservation responsibility. However, in the interest of ensuring long-term preservation and future access to information in the newspapers, repatriation will be subject to certain understandings and agreements as outlined below.

9. The Library is aware that there are risks in relying on microfilming to preserve and ensure future access to the information content of newspapers. For instance, its useful life or usefulness as a preservation surrogate can be compromised by:

  • An unstable film base (such as cellulose acetate) or inappropriate film type (such as diazo for preservation masters);
  • Inappropriate environmental storage conditions;
  • Copying master not produced, threatening the integrity of the preservation master; Incomplete filming, producing film which has, for example, missing pages;
  • Poor quality of the original and/or poor filming, producing images which are faint or illegible;
  • Inappropriate use;
  • Inappropriate storage security.

10. The Library therefore considers the conditions under which hardcopies are housed and the standards used for production and storage of preservation masters are critical considerations in ensuring long-term preservation of the newspaper component of the national heritage.

11. The library will repatriate in the following cases:
a request for repatriation is made by a State or Territory library because they intend to microfilm the title in the near future, the Library's holdings of hardcopy newspapers are duplicated by microfilm working copies. If the paper copy (whether held by the NLA or the relevant State or Territory Library) is in sufficiently good condition to allow the prospect of future re-filming should problems with the microfilm later emerge, the NLA will repatriate its paper copy without undertaking quality control checks on the microfilm service copy; However, if the paper copy is in poor condition, the NLA would negotiate with the relevant State or Territory Library to establish procedures and priorities for undertaking a frame by frame check of the preservation or copying master, with the view to future re-filming if necessary.

12. The following understandings will apply when repatriation occurs:

  • the National Library will meet the costs of repatriation;
  • the receiving library is able to provide equivalent or superior preservation storage for the hardcopy (Seeparagraph 13);
  • where issues of the hardcopy are duplicated, those in the best condition will be retained;
  • the receiving library will record holdings of repatriated hardcopy on ABN;
  • where a title has already been microfilmed, the relevant library accepts responsibility for ensuring the preservation master, wherever located, has been produced according to national archival standards, is housed inappropriate preservation conditions, and is recorded on the National Bibliographic Database (NBD). If the master has not been produced according to national archival standards or has been degraded as a result of inappropriate storage, it is assumed refilming will be scheduled;

When repatriation occurs to enable preservation filming:

  • filming will be to current archival standards (see paragraph 13) and a copying master will be produced as well as the preservation master;
  • the masters will be stored in appropriate conditions (see paragraph 14);
  • the National Library will have continuing access to a free working copy for on-site use and one will also be made available for use in the library holding the preservation master;
  • the existence and location of the preservation and copying masters will be recorded on ABN according to agreed standards. (The National Library will consider assisting with this if necessary.)

When repatriation is agreed to by both parties, the Library will assume that it is based on an acceptance by the receiving library of the understandings outlined above. Repatriation can be initiated by either a State or Territory library or the National Library.

Preservation Standards

13. The preservation standards followed by the National Library are outlined below. It is expected that when a title is repatriated, the minimum preservation conditions and treatment that will be provided by the receiving library will be at least to the same level, regardless of the form of preservation undertaken.

Preservation Storage for Newspapers

Heavily used titles are stored in specially designed polypropylene boxes. Low use titles are shrink wrapped.

Items are stored horizontally on appropriate sized fixed or mobile library shelving elevated off the floor, not in close proximity to light sources or fire sprinklers.

Environmental conditions are monitored, and appropriate air conditioning and filtration systems are in place to maintain stable and appropriate levels of temperature, relative humidity, and air quality. Temperature is maintained at the lowest level consistent with human co-habitation. Relative humidity is maintained between 35-45%. Light levels are low, with undetectable levels of ultraviolet radiation. Light are switched off when not in use. A high level of cleanliness is maintained. Precautions are taken to exclude animal and insect pests and active pest control procedures are taken as a necessary part of an integrated pest control system.

Protection is at a high level, with restricted access. All material is identified clearly. A fully implemented disaster preparedness and response plan exists. The NLA building provides a high standard of protection from natural disasters. Fire protection includes a Very Early Smoke Detection Apparatus (VESDA) system. Boxing or shrink wrapping provides added protection against risk of damage from water.

For material available in surrogate form, use of originals is restricted to last resort use under supervision.

Microfilming standards

The latest versions of:

1992 American national standard for imaging media (film) - silver-gelatine type - specifications for stability

1992 American national standard for imaging media (film) ammonia-processed diazo films - specifications for stability

1986 Microfilming of newspapers for archival purposes

ISO 4332
1986 Photography - processed photographic black and white film for archive records - silver gelatine type on poly(ethyleneterephthalate) base - specifications

Preservation Storage for Microfilm

Microfilm masters are stored in the Library's Cold Store. The environmental conditions in the room are normally maintained at a temperature of 8 +1C and a relative humidity of 35 +5%, in which collection material entering or leaving the room is required to acclimatise for 24 hours.

Higher temperature levels are acceptable, but RH levels must be set within this range. Stability in temperature and RH, and air quality including the absences of gaseous contaminants, are considered to be critical. Unstable film and acidic packaging are excluded.

Fire protection is provided by a VESDA system and a dry pipe sprinkler system. Access to the area is restricted to key personnel.

Co-operative Microfilming

14. The National Library accepts that it has a responsibility to ensure preservation of the national documentary heritage through national cooperation. An effective way in which it can contribute to the long-term preservation of Australian newspapers is by participating in cooperative projects to microfilm backsets which are more than thirty years old, subject to the criteria outlined in the Library document Policy on participation in Co-operative Microfilming projects with Other Institutions.

Use of National Library Cold Store for Storage of Masters

15. If necessary to ensure appropriate storage, the National Library will store free of charge preservation microfilm masters which are silver halide emulsion on a stable film base (polyester/polyethylene terephthalate, not a cellulose acetate), processed to the archival standards outlined above, in good chemical condition, packaged in appropriate stable containers, and unlikely to require frequent retrieval.

Discard of Hardcopy Newspapers

16. The Library will consider discarding hardcopy newspapers in its collection if its holdings are duplicated in the State or Territory library primarily responsible for preserving the titles concerned, and the holdings of the State or Territory library are in as good or better condition as the Library's holdings.

17. Where a State or Territory library considers it important to preserve a second hardcopy set of a title somewhere in the country, the Library will repatriate to the institution nominated by the relevant State or Territory Library. The Library will not itself maintain duplicate hardcopy sets of State or Territory titles.

For additional information about the Library's policies on preservation and retention of Australian newspapers, cooperative microfilming and use of the Cold Store, contact Colin Webb, Senior Manager, Preservation Services Section Telephone (06) 2621662; E-mail: cwebb@nla.gov.au


Latest Revision: August 11, 1999 Copyright © 1995-2000
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