Preservation Week: Pass It On!

The American Library Association has declared the week of April 26-May 2 to be Preservation Week. In recognition of this event, I thought I’d take the opportunity to present Slaw’s readers with an overview of some of the large-scale partnerships, projects and initiatives working to preserve our print heritage, particularly in law. As you’ll see, there’s lots going on, though Canada’s barely at the party.

Centre for Research Libraries, JSTOR and the JSTOR Print Archive

One of the leaders in developing and encouraging collaborative partnerships for the digitization and preservation of our print heritage is the Center for Research Libraries (CRL). CRL is an international consortium of university, college, and independent research libraries founded in 1949 to support advanced research and teaching in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences by preserving and making available to scholars a wealth of rare and uncommon primary source materials from all world regions. CRL’s deep and diverse collections are built by specialists and experts at the major US and Canadian research universities, who work together to identify and preserve unique and uncommon documentation and evidence, and to ensure its long-term integrity and accessibility to researchers in the CRL community.

CRL is best known for JSTOR (pronounced “JAY-store” and short for “Journal Storage”), a digital library founded in 1995 to address the problem that member libraries were finding it prohibitively expensive in terms of cost and space to maintain a comprehensive collection of the ever increasing number of academic journals. By digitizing many journal titles, JSTOR allowed libraries to outsource the storage of these journals with the confidence that they would remain available for the long term while providing dramatically improved access and full-text search ability. Today, there are over 2,000 journals and 50 million pages digitized on JSTOR, with millions more pages added every year. CRL has also just started adding monographs and “primary materials” to the collection.

One of the signal features of JSTOR is that it has combined digitization with print preservation. CRL works with institutions knowledgeable in the preservation of paper to store multiple copies of the original print publications underlying the archives so that they are available for re-digitization as well as other unanticipated needs. The California Digital Library and Harvard Depository act as paper repositories for JSTOR. For print and other materials included in JSTOR from rare and special or private collections, originals are preserved by the owning libraries, societies, museums, or other organizations and individuals. Everybody wins. When it is complete, the CRL/JSTOR Print Archive will contain print copies of all journals available in the JSTOR database. The CRL/JSTOR catalogue offers information on the Archive’s holdings and those volumes which are needed to complete the collection, and can be referred to when libraries are making their own retention decisions.

The JSTOR collections are only available to subscribers, though CRL has recently made pre-1923 “Early Journal Content” available to the public for free.

CRL, LLMC and the Global Resources Law Partnership (GRLP)

One of the shortcomings with the CRL/JSTOR partnership is that there are no active Canadian partners; nor is there any conscious effort specifically to digitize and preserve law journals or other legal materials. These shortcomings are addressed by the the Global Resources Law Partnership (GRLP), a collaboration established by CRL with LLMC-Digital in 2010. Formerly known as the Law Library Microform Consortium, LLMC-Digital has been dedicated since its inception to the twin goals of preserving legal materials while making copies accessible through its enhanced on-line service, providing libraries with a reliable source of digital replacement when their older, physically deteriorating books become too burdensome to store given diminished use or when space recovery demands necessitate alternative solutions. LLMC has always been a good friend of Canada and Canadian legal materials have been a major component of LLMC-Digital’s content from the beginning.

The goal of the Global Resources Law Partnership is to identify, preserve, and provide digital access to important at-risk primary legal and government publications from US and other national jurisdictions – obviously including Canada. The partnership digitizes critical primary source publications, provides access in the LLMC database, and archives print originals in custom storage facility (located in a Kansas salt mine) to ensure the survival of legacy primary government and legal publications. A joint CRL-LLMC committee, with Canadian representation, guides prioritization of collections for digitization. To date, LLMC has digitized over 12,000 volumes (over nine million pages) of historical legal publications from CRL and sponsored collections. Bibliographic records of all content are included in CRL’s catalog and in WorldCat. Content digitized so far includes Canadian federal and provincial legislative journals (ca 2,900 volumes), complementing LLMC’s already substantial collections of Canadian statutes, law reports, legislative materials and historical legal monographs.

Unfortunately, the content on LLMC-Digital is available only to subscribers, and subscriptions can be expensive. I’m not aware of any Canadian law firms or courts that subscribe to LLMC-Digital, and not even all law schools have subscriptions.

Shared Print Archives, CRL and the Print Archive Network (PAN)

I’ve long championed establishing a Best Last Copy agreement and Shared Print Archive for Canadian legal materials. By terms of such an arrangement, one or several libraries would identify themselves as having a complete collection of a specified legacy print item (say, the Lower Canada Reports, 1851-1867) and commit to keeping that collection in perpetuity, giving other libraries the option of disposing of their holdings of that title while ensuring at least one copy is retained and available to all. Ideally, arrangements would also be made to digitize the collection, so that preservation is guaranteed while access is enhanced for all parties. A joint catalogue would record which titles are being held by which facility. Finally, in a best case scenario, the archived print collection would be removed to an offsite storage facility to ensure the safety of the print volumes.

Despite much discussion and good intentions, not much progress has been made in Canada towards shared print archives. In Ontario, the Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL) concluded the Thunder Bay Last Copy Agreement in 2009, but no one has really paid any attention to it. The University of Toronto has the only offsite, high-density storage library in the province but does not share it gladly. The only effective initiative in Ontario is the Storage Facility and Preservation of Last Copy Agreement (1996, 2006) signed by TUG Libraries (Tri-Universities Group of Libraries) at Guelph University, the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University. Of course, none of the universities has a law school and legal materials do not feature in the archived collections.

The situation is somewhat better in Western Canada, where the Council of Prairie and Pacific University Libraries (COPPUL) not only has established the Shared Print Archive Network (SPAN) in 2012 but is actively developing the archive, using the offsite, high-density storage facilities of the University of British Columbia, University of Alberta and University of Calgary to ensure preservation of the shared collections. Though none of the law libraries at these universities are currently active participants in the Network, this may soon change.

The situation is much better in the United States, where many shared print archives are already functioning and CRL promotes opportunities for libraries and library consortia to share information, expertise and best practices for the cooperative, strategic management of major print holdings. One such venue for this kind of information-sharing is the Print Archive Network (PAN). The semi-annual PAN forum has been held twice-yearly since 2009 as part of the ALA’s Midwinter and annual conferences. Everyone with an interest in print archiving is welcome to attend and participate in the forums, but the heavy lifting is done by the following regional organizations:

If Maine can do it, I don’t know why Ontario can’t. If I were Minister responsible for universities, I’d make funding dependent on collaboration and require not only a shared print archive but also a shared online catalogue and ILS (integrated library system software). Meanwhile, I urge anyone interested in shared print archives and the future of print generally to subscribe to the free PAN listserv.


If the print preservation projects described above seem disperse and not sufficiently “legal” for readers of Slaw, then there’s good news; and though it’s an American initiative, it deserves not only our notice but our support.

Recognizing that none of the current print archiving projects specifically addresses the needs of law libraries, the Legal Information Preservation Alliance (LIPA) and NELLCO (New England Law Library Consortium) have initiated a project called PALMPrint (Preserving America’s Legal Materials in Print), an exciting collaborative pilot project aimed at developing a shared, circulating collection of primary US legal materials in print. The collection is stored in a high-density library storage facility in Connecticut and is available to all member libraries by interlibrary loan. NELLCO and LIPA jointly have committed to underwrite $120,000 of the total cost of the three-year project. The remaining costs will be shared by the more than 60 participating law library members from the two organizations. It is hoped that the project will serve as a model for collaborative solutions to print retention, allowing libraries to make different decisions about library space at the local level. In this way, libraries can continue to be responsive to the changing needs of their users secure in the knowledge that primary print materials are within reach, and under the stewardship of the collaborative.

Currently, the Brian Dickson Law Library at the University of Ottawa and the Osgoode Hall Law School Library at York University are the only Canadian members of PALMPilot project. Both libraries are also champions of preservation and digitization initiatives at their schools and in Ontario. I hope that you will take a moment during Preservation Week to inform yourself about and give some support to print preservation activities locally, nationally and internationally. We have a lot of work to do but also a lot of good work to build on.


  1. Great post and summary of the shared print and print archives landscape! One correction about Canadian involvement in PALMPrint — the Supreme Court of Canada is also a subscriber to this pilot project — but we would welcome more participation. Contact Tracy Thompson (NELLCO) or Margie Maes (LIPA) for more information.