Tag Archives: Preservation and Conservation

Getting Involved in Cultural Heritage Advocacy: European Days of Conservation-Restoration 2021

The European Confederation of Conservator-Restorers Organisations (E.C.C.O.) sets aside a week every year to celebrate Europe’s cultural heritage and the professionals who work to preserve and provide access to it.

It is inspiring to see the preservation and digitisation of books, papers, manuscripts, photographs, and other documentary heritage materials feature during this week. IFLA especially highlights those working to preserve materials that make up the memory of the world, as libraries and library professionals are essential keepers of this cultural heritage.  We explored this further in our blog post for European Day of Conservation-Restoration 2020, which you can read here.

For this year’s European Days of Conservation-Restoration, a social media campaign highlighted good practices and the professionals and institutions involved in this work. However, it also explored other themes, such as heritage at risk, sustainability, and the importance of reaching out and building networks.

This provides a great example for cultural heritage professionals around the world of an accessible way to get involved in advocacy.

Storytelling for Advocacy

Cultural heritage provides a gateway to the vast collective knowledge of humankind; it inspires connection and fuels creativity and innovation.

Cultural heritage professionals can help promote recognition of the potential of cultural heritage for bettering society through engaging in advocacy on how their work makes a positive impact.

The importance of incorporating advocacy and storytelling into cultural heritage conservation practice was among the topics presented by IFLA in a keynote address to the Institute of Conservation (ICON) Book and Paper Group Conference 2021 titled: Inspiring and Informing Development: Advocating for culture in sustainable development.

An important theme of this address was that no one person is too small to make a difference.

The IFLA speaker urged cultural heritage professionals to act boldly – individually and within networks – as advocates, telling stories that help illustrate the value that cultural heritage has for people now and into the future.

Examples – European Days of Conservation 2021

Using online platforms to proactively reach out and tell stories can be effective means by which to connect with community members, policymakers, and fellow professionals.

Participating in celebrations like the European Days of Conservation-Restoration is an excellent opportunity to join voices with others and increase one’s reach.

The E.C.C.O. called for its community of European conservation and restoration professionals to take part in a social media campaign – highlighting stories that invite viewers into their workspaces and highlight the important role they have in safeguarding cultural heritage.

There were several fascinating posts that feature documentary cultural heritage. These posts bring conservation and restoration practice to life, and help other understand the work that goes in to ensuring these materials remain accessible.

Some examples include the Association of Conservator-Restorers in Bulgaria highlighting several institutions that specialise in conservation of works on paper; information-sharing on how documents are preserved from the Samuel Guichenon Collection, Historical University Library of Medicine, Montpellier University; and the National Archives of Malta demonstrates a treatment for paper that has been damaged by iron gall ink.

For more, visit E.C.C.O. on social media: Facebook & Twitter.

Sustainability, Cooperation, and Networking

Beyond highlighting good practice, a goal of this year’s European Days of Conservation-Restoration was also to raise awareness of key aspects of cultural heritage’s role in society, including access and sustainability.

Participants were encouraged to explore this through themes on the preservation of tangible cultural heritage in the view of climate change and the importance of reaching out beyond the sector – involving politics, education, training and research as pillars for cooperation towards sustainability and development.

The social media campaign took this opportunity to raise awareness of several initiatives that are linking cultural heritage with broader development intiatives, such as EU-funded project CLIMATE FOR CULTURE, the Joint Programming Initiative on Cultural Heritage and Global Change, and the Climate Heritage Network.

For example, as part of its #ClimateHeritage Mobilisation @ Climate Fridays webinar series, Climate Heritage Network delivered a webinar on the theme: Building Reuse is Climate Action. A wider audience was invited to attend this programme, which offered a compelling environmental case for building reuse and its part in the goal for zero carbon emissions.

IFLA is a founding member of the Climate Heritage Network. Follow more on IFLA’s involvement with Climate Heritage Network in the coming weeks in the lead-up to COP26.

Everyone can be an advocate

Joining networks, reaching out beyond the sector, and highlighting connections between cultural heritage practice and social issues like sustainability are all ways to get involved in advocacy.

Participating in events such as the European Days of Conservation-Restoration by taking part in social media campaigns and joining virtual events is a low/no-cost action that individuals or institutions can do to begin increasing their involvement in advocacy.

To go back to the key message in IFLA’s recent keynote address on advocating for culture in sustainable development, no one is too small to make a difference.

Library professionals around the world are encouraged to seek out opportunities to highlight their work, and to get in touch with IFLA HQ for help showcasing their own stories.

Contact: claire.mcguire@ifla.org for more.

Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Centres in Acton: Highlights from 2019-2020

Hosted in libraries around the world, IFLA’s Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Centres are hubs of knowledge on the preservation and conservation of library and archive materials.

Throughout the year, these Centres carry out work both internationally and within their regions to advance professional practice, facilitate knowledge-sharing, and provide training opportunities. Through their work, the global library field is better equipped to preserve its collections and help ensure documentary heritage remains accessible for future generation.

Despite the challenges of 2020, the PAC Centres have been actively involved in a wide variety of projects. Here is a look at some of the PAC Centres’ activities from the past year. You can read the full Annual Reports from each PAC Centre here.

International Cooperation

One of the major assets of the PAC Centre network is their ability to facilitate international cooperation. Here’s a look at several different approaches to strengthening cooperation across boarders:

Equipment Sharing

  • PAC North America brought a portable multispectral imaging system to the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, Ireland to image historic medieval Irish manuscripts, dating from the 6th – 16th centuries. In an ongoing collaboration with the University College Cork, the PAC Centre will be using this data to render faded and obscured text that has been unreadable for centuries, to look at how the books were originally made and written, and to combine this information with scholarly historical context to provide a deeper understanding of these significant materials.


  • PAC Korea  implemented a Material Preservation training program for foreign librarians visiting the National Library of Korea, including participating librarians from Bhutan, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Cambodia.
  • PAC Russia hosted an Interdisciplinary scientific and practical conference on the study of rare book collections of Russia and Austria, discussion problems of preservation and conservation of rare books and sheet music, documents, photographs. More than 100 specialists from Russia, Austria, Switzerland, and Qatar, attended the conference, which was also webcasted and received more than 220,000 views.
  • PAC Qatar and University College London, working through the British Library-Qatar Foundation partnership, organised a seminar: Before It Is Too Late: Protecting and Preserving Arab Audiovisual Heritage on World Day for Audiovisual Heritage on 27 October 2019. The seminar emphasized the urgency of efforts to preserve the unique audiovisual heritage of Qatar and the Middle East on a large scale by finding collaborative solutions and sharing expertise.
  • Although PAC North America could not host the tours and public events that are usually scheduled for Preservation Week this year, the Library held an online series of webinars in its Topics in Preservation series aimed at a professional audience — librarians, archivists and museum staff. Each webinar drew more than 500 attendees from across every U.S. time zone in the U.S. as well as international participants.

Digitisation of Cultural Heritage

  • PAC Poland, together with international experts, contributed to the blog of POLONA/<labs>, a web-based resource created by the National Library of Poland dedicated to the use of new technologies in digitisation and promotion of cultural heritage. PAC Poland addresses various technical issues in digitisation and digital preservation with nine blog entries published in English and in Polish.
  • The PAC Centre for Oceania, hosted at the National Library of Australia, together with the Australian Government and the National Library of New Zealand, are working with colleagues across the Pacific to develop the Pacific Virtual Museum. This online portal will provide a single access point to digitised Pacific cultural heritage items held across museums, galleries and library collections across the world and will allow people from the Pacific to access their digitised cultural heritage, much of which is stored in offshore institutions.

Cooperation with other PAC Centres

The PAC Centres are uniquely positioned to cooperate with one another, exchanging experiences and sharing knowledge across their network.

For example, a framework of professional exchange between specialists has been established between the PAC Centres for Arabic Countries and Middle East (Qatar) and for the CIS and Eastern Europe (Russia).

Over the past year, specialists from QNL visited their Russian colleagues to share experience in risk management. The presentation introduced different types of damage on library collections, resulting from various disaster hazards, and the measures to prevent such damage, with the aim to preserve the library resources and the authenticity of library materials.

The PAC Regional Center for Central Asia, hosted at the National Library of the Republic of Kazakhstan, which includes countries such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, also has established an agreement to cooperate closely with the Russia PAC Centre on exchanging knowledge and expertise.

Local/Regional Cooperation

Another important aspect of the PAC Centres is their local connections and familiarity with local context. This allows them to initiate or take part in programmes that address specific challenges or issues in their countries and regions. Here are some examples for PAC work in their regions over the past year:

Disaster Response and Recovery

  • PAC Japan, hosted at the National Diet Library in Tokyo, dispatched staff to assist in the rescue of library materials and museum collections damaged by a typhoon that hit Eastern Japan in October 2019.
  • In December 2019, staff from PAC North America travelled to San Juan, Puerto Rico and conducted assessments at La Casa del Libro, a museum dedicated to the history and artistry of the printed word. They examined and wrote condition reports on nearly 90 objects, mostly books and bound manuscripts, from the 15th through the 17th centuries as well as several artists books from the 20th century printed and bound by Puerto Rican artists. The materials were all held in the museum during hurricane Maria in 2017, which suffered damage in the storm.

Training and Support

  • PAC Korea provided various forms of preservation treatment support for valuable materials held in multiple domestic libraries. The Centre also organised a Preservation and Conservation of Library Materials learning course for librarians covering multiple subjects, from traditional preservation of library materials to audio-visual heritage and more. As part of this programme, they filmed training videos on conservation treatment of library materials, to provide instruction on basic conservation techniques without the need for face-to-face learning.
  • PAC Poland has also provided support to libraries across the country and beyond, mostly related requests for support on digitisation. In December 2019, the Centre arranged a one-day workshop with a Q&A session with a visiting expert on using the image quality standard Metamorfoze Preservation Imaging in mass digitisation projects of library materials. The event was attended by specialists from reprographic departments of various libraries, museums and archives in Poland.
  • PAC Japan and the National Diet Library organises an annual one-day program on preservation and conservation of library materials for librarians in Japan. This program includes a lecture on basic preservation theory and a workshop on elementary techniques for mending paper materials. It was held three times in September 2019 for a total of 70 trainees.
  • The PAC Centre for Central Asia (Kazakhstan) hosts an annual School for the Conservation and Restoration of Written Documents, operated by the National Library of the Republic of Kazakhstan. This features courses to improve the skills of specialists in the field of preservation and preservation of paper documents. In 2019, practical classes were held with specialists from libraries, archives and museums of Kazakhstan. In 2020, classes were held online with specialists from the Kyzylorda and Kostanai regions. The PAC Centre also held a training seminar and master classes on the restoration of rare books in Uzbekistan, which were attended by restorers-binders from libraries, archives and museums of Uzbekistan.

Region-Specific Initiatives

  • The Qatar National Library and the PAC Center for Arab Countries and the Middle East (Qatar) have launched the Himaya Project, an initiative to counter the trafficking of manuscripts, books and archives in the MENA region. An important goal of the project will also be to create strong engagement with broader international agencies and regional organizations to counter trafficking of items. In addition to working with IFLA, they will cooperate closely with the World Customs Organization (WCO), INTERPOL, and UNIDROIT.
  • PAC Qatar also carried out the project, Supporting Documentary Heritage Preservation in the Arab Region In collaboration with UNESCO (June 2018 – June 2020). Representatives from libraries and cultural institutions from across the Middle East and North Africa joined international experts to discuss key issues relating to heritage preservation in the region at a high-level conference in December 2019, which was jointly organised by Qatar National Library and UNESCO.
  • PAC Oceania and the National Library of Australia are collaborating with partners in the Pacific region to improve knowledge of and access to Pacific cultural heritage resources through the Australian collaborative online library database Trove.  Pacific is part of the new ‘Place’ facet of Trove. This feature gives users the ability to narrow their search to items related to the Pacific, allowing Pacific peoples to find and access freely available digitised material relating to their own culture and region online without having to visit an Australian library in person.

 PAC Centres and IFLA Projects

The major project that PAC Centres carried out with IFLA this year was the creation of the Preservation and Conversation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

This initiative helps to connect the expertise of the PAC Centres more directly to the global library field. Each participating PAC Centre identified key topics in the field of preservation and conservation on which they often receive questions. Each question has been answered with an explanation, best practice advice, and steps to help users tackle preservation and conservation issues.

Check out the Preservation and Conversation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) here.

PAC Centres and COVID-19

Despite the pandemic and lockdown procedures affecting many planned activities for 2020, the PAC Centres have been active in supporting libraries and the preservation field through this time.

PAC Qatar has provided support to Arab libraries throughout the COVID-19 period through direct response to related technical questions, and through participation and organization of webinars. These includes participation in a webinar with the American Library Association titled: Libraries Reopening: A Perspective of Best Practices from Around the World in the Time of COVID-19.

Work is also underway with University College London – Qatar to issue a guide on preventative measures for use across the region and beyond.

PAC North America is participating in an interagency study on safety practices for libraries, archives, and museums, convened by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and OCLC, called Reopening Archives, Libraries and Museums (REALM). The PAC team is participating in the Scientific Working Group that will review the literature and support laboratory testing to develop safe practices for library operations.

Standards, Guidelines & Best Practices

New this year

Coming Up

  • PAQ Qatar is developing a disaster plan template and tool kit in Arabic for libraries in MENA region with a special focus on conflicts – coming in 2021.
  • The Preservation Services branch of the National Library of Australia is currently researching current approaches to off-gassing requirements for construction materials and paints used for exhibition/display construction. This includes looking into the suite of modern Low/No VOC paints and reviewing the established preservation standard of 4 weeks off-gassing time.


Something Old, Something New: COVID-19’s effect on documentary heritage professionals

The shock of cultural institutions shuttering is beginning to wear off. The world of social distancing might begin feeling like the new normal, even as, depending where in the world you are, there is talk of memory institutions re-opening.

For the past months, we have been living in a world without cultural institutions as public spaces.  We’ve seen museums close their doors, libraries exploring online engagement, and many cultural professionals furloughed or navigating their work from home.

Through this crisis, UNESCO maintains the importance of culture, including a call for greater support to documentary heritage during COVID-19, co-signed by IFLA.

How is the crisis affecting the professionals that are working to preserve and provide access to the world’s cultural heritage? We’ve reached out to documentary heritage practitioners in our international network of Preservation and Conversation (PAC) Centres to reflect on their experience of working through the pandemic.

Q: How have stay-at-home measures affected the preservation work at your institution?

 Library of Congress, USA

Stay-at-home guidance has had a major, and predictable, impact on our work with the physical collections. We have had to stop conservation treatments and laboratory research, along with our collections maintenance projects like shelf reading and condition surveys. We are fortunate to have dedicated staff who are able to make weekly rounds in our storage areas to ensure collections are safe, which has paid off several times. The weather is not on lockdown and accidents can always happen.

Many of our digital preservation activities are not only active, but have taken on special significance. We are working on COVID web archiving projects along with several international partners, for example. Our digital resources, and the infrastructures for preservation and access that support them, are more in demand than ever. Our digital content management projects continue more or less as before.


National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS), Trinidad and Tobago:

 Trinidad and Tobago has taken emergency measures to curtail the spread of Covid-19. A Stay-at-Home order has been in effect since 27 March with only essential services asked to report to work.

The National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS) has closed its facilities to the public, ramping up its online services and permitting only designated staff access to the National Library Building which houses the Heritage Library and the Preservation Lab.

The hands-on work of conservation and preservation, that is, the direct work with collections – the assessment, diagnostic and treatment phases, as well as cataloguing and digitization – have all been placed on hold.


Library for Foreign Literature, Russia:

The mayor of Moscow announced a regime of self-isolation from 30 March to 1 May.

During this period, only organisations and business that cannot stop their activities due to production and technical conditions, those providing citizens with essential goods, those providing warehousing and logistics services, emergency response, and construction are able to continue working. Therefore, until 1 May, the Center for the Conservation and Restoration of Documents at the Russian Library for Foreign Literature does not work. It is not yet clear whether such instructions will be extended.

The regime of self-isolation was introduced gradually, at first only for a week, and then extended. It was therefore difficult to prepare for it.

It’s important to note that the situation differs between Russian regions. For example, our colleagues from Siberia are making videos instructing readers on how to repair books themselves.


National Library and Documentation Service Board of Sri Lanka:

 The lockdown in Sri Lanka has certainly affected the preservation work at the National Library. The National Library has completely closed for staff and visitors from 23 March.


National Library of Australia:

We are continuing preservation work at the National Library of Australia through a variety of means, namely those staff working from home are working on procedure review updating processes and completing research that often we don’t get time to do as part of our day-to-day business.

Two tasks we are looking into are a complete review of our care and handling training we provide Library staff and researching new approaches to exhibition furniture and material off-gassing needs.


Q: Is your team working remotely, still on location, or a mix of the two?

 National Diet Library, Japan:

In Tokyo, people are asked to stay home but it isn’t as strict as in some other countries for now. Staff in the preservation division of the National Diet Library are split between remote working and on-location.  About one third of staff members work at home or take a day off in rotation.


Library of Congress, USA: 

We are almost entirely remote agency-wide, though the details vary group by group. We do have essential staff on site to ensure the safety of the buildings and collections, but the number is strictly limited and they are scheduled to minimize contact.

About half the Preservation staff have full time telework projects to carry us through the next several months, and others have part-time projects or training they can complete online.

Our digital content management staff have shifted to full telework mode, with some significant adjustments having been made to allow teamwork to continue using a variety of tools to support remote collaboration.


National Library of Australia:

 Our Digital Preservation team is working solely from home which has impact on their technical ability to process collection items. All of this work continues, just a little more slowly. Some work, such as the processing of obsolete carriers, has pretty much ceased.

The rest of the lab team is working on a roster system, part of the week at home, the other at work. This enables our core treatment work to continue and provide support to the Library’s digitisation programme. While the Library building is closed, we have also taken the opportunity to undertake a comprehensive condition report and clean of all objects on permanent display. This task otherwise gets scheduled into the small hours before the building opens to the public or after hours, so it is a good opportunity to do this now.

It also provides the team with good social distancing opportunities as we aim to have a Team A working in the morning, Team B in the afternoon.


Q: What work has been possible to achieve? How have priorities shifted during this time?

National Diet Library Japan:

Naturally, conservation works are slowing down, as conservators cannot take library books home, but haven’t stopped. We will need to cancel or postpone training workshops and other events unless the situation improves dramatically.


Library of Congress, USA: 

First and foremost, in times like these we are very much the Library of Congress, with many of staff fully engaged in providing information to our legislators to support their work in the face of this pandemic. I am sure that many of our colleagues in IFLA national and parliamentary libraries are doing the same and it certainly makes me proud of our profession.

This period has allowed many preservation staff a welcome opportunity to dig into research and to do thoughtful, uninterrupted work to create research guides and educational materials, or to work on complex problems.

This crisis has been valuable in helping us stress-test both our priorities and our procedures. So, while our ultimate goals and major priorities remain, we have learned a great deal about how to achieve them. I see this as a good time to ask which processes were resilient and which need to be refined, retired, or redesigned.


NALIS, Trinidad and Tobago:

Even though direct work with the collections have been paused, staff are focussed on outreach and professional development. Outreach efforts are being ramped up via social media outlets with events such as tutorials on preserving family heirlooms, pictures and documents and other community engagements planned via Facebook and the NALIS website.

Events such as ‘this day in history’ for Trinidad and Tobago are ongoing and online tours of our large catalogue of exhibits and displays are also planned. Programmes that would have been held, such as our First Time Authors, celebrating newly published authors in commemoration of World Book and Copyright Day, will now be featured online.

Some consultative work is still being done, but these pertain to collaborative projects in train before the shut down and these are via the usual communication media and a limited reference service is in effect using NALIS’ online heritage resources and askNalis facility.

One of NALIS’ priorities has always been the financial sustainability of the PAC Lab and the preservation projects and efforts. It is even more so now in the straightened economic circumstances that would exist in a world battling with the pandemic.


Library for Foreign Literature, Russia:

At the moment, there is a process of editing the translation of IFLA guidelines and working on the National Program for the Preservation of Library Collections. Due to the fact that restorers cannot work remotely, the focus was shifted towards methodological activities.


National Library and Documentation Service Board of Sri Lanka:

 The National Library has strengthened digital services during lock down period. This includes assistance offered to our communities via the telephone, and on social media like the National Library Facebook page.


National Library of Australia:

We are maintaining some focus on our main treatment programmes but these will experience delays because of the reduced time at the bench to undertake treatments.

We have been able to address a lot of tasks we just never got to previously and as discussed above – procedure review, some professional reading. Digital preservation work continues – just at a slower than normal rate due to the technological issues of working off site.  

Q: What comes next? Has there been discussion in your region over what will come next for preservation, or over lasting changes to the field after COVID-19?


National Diet Library Japan:

We haven’t yet discussed possible changes to our work after COVID-19, but I am not expecting any significant changes for preservation.


Library of Congress, USA: 

The initial deliberations about how to reopen are starting and preservation experts have been important contributors to the working groups on this topic. The Institute for Museum and Library Services has convened several Federal agencies, including the Library of Congress, to work with medical and public health experts to develop guidance for the field.

In preservation, there is always a long future to look forward to. The Library of Congress is celebrating its 220th anniversary this month and we look forward to sharing our beautiful spaces and great collections for another 220 years and beyond.


NALIS, Trinidad and Tobago:

The NALIS PAC Lab – as an IFLA PAC Centre – has reached out to its regional partners in the form of a simple survey to discuss preservation in the time of COVID-19. We are awaiting feedback.


Library for Foreign Literature, Russia:

At the moment, this is unknown. However, I think that work will continue ahead in the usual manner.

We collect information about the processing of books after the pandemic, but for ourselves we have so far revealed the main idea – two-week quarantine is universal, safe for books and does not cost a lot of money.


National Library and Documentation Service Board of Sri Lanka:

The National Library has issued guidelines regarding the exit strategy from COVID-19 for libraries in Sri Lanka.


National Library of Australia:

I don’t believe there has been any discussion about what next, as the Australian community is still in the ‘what to do now’ phase. The latest from the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Materials (AICCM) is available here.  At this stage, I have not heard anything in relation to changes regarding digital preservation.


In conclusion

Documentary heritage professionals are facing varying degrees of stay-at-home measures around the world. Despite setbacks and the limited access to materials, work has been able to continue.

Providing support to government, reflecting on processes, diving into research and methodological work, and shifting the focus to digital communications are examples of how professionals keep preservation and access to documentary heritage moving ahead through the pandemic.

As the focus shifts from “what to do now” to “what comes next”, it is vital that this work is allowed to continue forward and develop in a positive direction thanks to the lessons we have learned during this time.

In the words of the PAC Centre at the Library of Congress, USA, “In preservation, there is always a long future to look forward to”.

We look forward to navigating the post-COVID-19 world with access and preservation of cultural heritage continuing to be upheld as a priority.


World Heritage Day 2019

World Heritage Day encourages us to celebrate the world’s cultures and to raise awareness of cultural heritage – and the importance of preserving it.

In the light of the tragic Notre Dame fire earlier this is week, it is clear that our cultural heritage is not only great, it is also fragile! Our heritage is our history, it unites us, and it identifies us. Keeping it safe should be a goal of us all.

But let us not forget that heritage is more than buildings.

What is Cultural Heritage?

It is easy to think that cultural heritage is something from the past, but it evolves with our engagement with it. It comes in many shapes and forms, and can be enjoyed in many ways.

Every day, people across the globe celebrate their cultural heritage by simply going to the cinema, paying their respects at a religious site, or by appreciating art and literature. It’s not just on this one day a year that we benefit from the joint history and heritage of humanity!

Documentary heritage is a fundamental inheritance of our culture and historical memory, and its preservation is a key task for libraries all over the world.

This is a question that is not standing still. Debates about the preservation of documentary heritage have found a new focus in digital heritage, understood as collections that are the result of the knowledge or expression of human beings that often has no physical support, but rather a digital one.

Recognising the importance of this component of our heritage, UNESCO passed a recommendation in 2015 which called on Member States to do more to recognise the importance of cultural heritage, to and to pass the laws and support the institutions that make its survival possible. You can read more about the recommendation in our briefing.

How to celebrate World Heritage Day

Of course there is no point safeguarding heritage it if cannot be celebrated, and there are many ways to do this. One way you can mark World Heritage Day is to search for locations near you and pay them a visit! Many key heritage sites are registered at the UNESCO World Heritage List. Others can be found by a simple search online, or by asking your local tourist office!

If you prefer celebrating World Heritage Day from the comfort of your home, you can visit one of the many digital libraries. Be inspired by the many manuscripts from antique to the early print era at the Europeana Collections or read about endangered cultural heritage from around the world registered in the Memory of the World Register.

Whether you chose to celebrate off- or online, you can also consider how we can protect our heritage! Spread awareness about our heritage and its importance – you can start by sharing this story on your social media. Support local partners and volunteer either by signing up for a beach clean up or by helping out in your local library when needed. Encourage international cooperation in preserving our world’s cultural heritage.

Our cultural heritage – tangible, intangible and digital – represents our past and our future. We can make a difference today.

The Good, The Bad and (Avoiding) the Ugly: A Way Forwards on the Copyright Directive

Discussions around the European Union’s draft Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market are as tense as ever. Strong divisions have emerged between and among Member States and Members of the European Parliament around controversial proposals for a new press publishers’ right (Article 11) and an (effective) obligation on internet platforms to filter content (Article 13).

These disagreements stand in contrast to the consensus that has emerged around other provisions in the Directive, which will help libraries and cultural heritage institutions in their work to promote innovation, support education and enable preservation and access to heritage.

Such measures, in line with the EU’s own international obligations, cause no unreasonable prejudice to rightholders, and indeed will support creativity and discovery.

The fear must be that a failure to find agreement on Articles 11 and 13 will lead to calls for the rejection of the Directive as a whole. This would be a huge loss for innovation, education and heritage in Europe, and would be hard to explain to Europe’s voters, given the public support for such measures received from all sides of the debate so far.

This blog offers more detail on the situation so far, and sets out the case for avoiding this worst-case scenario.


The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. ACJ1, CC-BY-NC-SA https://www.flickr.com/photos/ajc1/4684652569The Good – Achievements So Far

The draft Directive already contains a lot of good. Starting from a reasonably positive base in September 2016, discussions among MEPs and Member States have led to improvements in provisions around text and data mining, teaching, preservation, and out-of-commerce-works – Articles 3-9.

If these elements of the Directive pass, EU citizens will:

  • Be able to engage much more easily in text and data mining. This will provide a significant boost to research into Artificial Intelligence in particular, at a time when Europe risks being left behind other countries who have been far more ready to update their legislation.
  • Have more opportunities to learn using digital tools, including in libraries. This will further democratise education, and help ensure that everyone can continue to learn throughout life.
  • Continue to enjoy access to Europe’s cultural heritage into the future, thanks to changes that will give libraries and cultural heritage institutions the clear right to take digital copies of books and other materials for preservation purposes.
  • Gain new access to works which are in-copyright but out-of-commerce, and so otherwise can only be found within the walls of libraries.

This is a good result, in and of itself. It will offer important clarity to libraries and cultural heritage institutions and allow them to fulfil their missions in the digital age. It will break down one of the most significant barriers to realising the potential of text and data mining, a Commission priority since 2012.

Moreover, given the EU’s own international obligations under the Berne Convention, it will not cause any unreasonable prejudice to authors. Instead, today’s authors will benefit from wider discovery of their work, including the rediscovery of works which are no longer in print. The authors of tomorrow will find it easier to read, study and innovate.

This is not to mention other elements of the text on the table that will provide additional rights to authors, including the possibility to reclaim rights and to benefit from greater transparency about revenues made on the basis of their work.

These provisions have enjoyed a large degree of consensus, with agreement relatively early on in discussions between Parliament and Council. Stakeholders from all sides of the discussion have been ready to signal their support for these steps, or at least their readiness to accept them.


The Bad – Sticking Points

However, it has long been clear that not all of the Directive is consensual. The two most contentious elements – Articles 11 and 13 – look to create new rights or rules for situations which are arguably specific to individual markets, and indeed individual providers – the situation of newspapers faced with GoogleNews, and of record companies faced with YouTube.

As has been argued repeatedly, the proposals on the table – a new right over very short fragments of text from newspapers, and an obligation on all online platforms to filter content uploaded by users – are likely to make the problem worse.

Not only will they strengthen the hand of the existing dominant players (who are best placed to negotiate with content producers, introduce filters or make payments), but they risk causing major collateral damage, for example to educational and scientific repositories run by libraries.

It is therefore unsurprising that there is so much disagreement about these articles.

Most recently, and just days after the agreement of a new Treaty between the countries, France and Germany disagreed about whether smaller internet platforms should be excused from the obligation to filter all user content for potential copyright infringement.

Even though this particular dispute has been agreed, there are many more still open, underlining how flawed the approach to these articles currently is.

In short, while there is support for effective ways of sustaining high quality journalism and curtailing illicit uses, the proposals on the table are not the answer.


The Ugly – The Nuclear Option

There are crucial meetings due in the coming days which aim to find a way forwards. Steps have been made to create some minor flexibilities in Articles 11 and 13, for example to reduce the burden on small platforms, as well as limited protections for the educational and scientific repositories that support open access and open educational resources.

Friends scene. Source: https://devrant.com/rants/1546587/this-will-happen-in-java-when-you-declare-the-class-with-wrong-nameHowever, there are already complaints from some who had previously supported Articles 11 and 13, who are unwilling to accept anything less than the highly flawed original proposals.

Most worryingly, these calls are accompanied by demands to reject the entire Directive.

This would be the worst of all worlds. All of the progress already made to date on Articles 3-9 would be at risk, despite already having been subject to consensus. The years of work that have gone into these would potentially be lost, and with it an opportunity to support clear public interest goals in Europe.

As an election approaches, it would be difficult to explain to voters why a flagship piece of legislation has been sunk, merely because there was disagreement on one part.

It is therefore time to reflect on the value of delaying those parts of the Directive which are clearly not yet mature, and proceeding with those that are. This would allow the European Union to chalk up a useful ‘win’.

Instead of rushed discussions now, a full and holistic discussion on how to achieve these goals, reviewing all relevant policy tools, is needed, and could be a useful job for the next Parliament.

World Digital Preservation Day 2018

On 29 November libraries, archives, information institutions and others with a commitment to preserving cultural heritage celebrate the World Digital Preservation Day. This first took place last year, when the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) launched the initiative with the aim to create wider recognition for the value of digital heritage, and take urgent steps to keep it alive

Last year IFLA used the momentum of the day to call for government action, and to join forces with libraries in addressing the on the challenges in digital preservation and to raise awareness of the issues libraries are facing in preserving digital heritage.

This year we will be celebrating World Digital Preservation Day by celebrating all the great ideas, projects and efforts that libraries have been making to overcome the challenges associated with effective digital preservation.

The challenge of digital preservation

Before starting the celebration, let’s first outline what is meant by digital preservation. Digital preservation is defined as the formal activity of safekeeping digitally stored information. It requires policies, planning, resource allocation and appropriate technologies to ensure access to digital information for as long as necessary.

This is where libraries come in! Libraries have a central role in preserving and promoting cultural heritage, including modern-day history of digital collections and materials.

IFLA supported the disseminating of a PERSIST survey to get a global overview of the existence and implementation of policies and strategies for preserving born-digital materials, and to assess the role that governments assume therein.

The survey results showed that libraries are facing difficulties in digital heritage preservation often due to the lack of knowledge, funds or policies. The report also showed that there is a need to advocate for preservation efforts and increased public awareness, as well as the need for common standards and ways to approach this issue.

Libraries preserving born-digital materials

Libraries all over the world have to deal with fast growing numbers of digital materials that need to be safeguarded. Despite the many challenges libraries are facing, they are committed to preserve and provide access to documents or information that have permanent or continuing value.

To celebrate the World Digital Preservation Day we want to highlight some of the many great initiatives, but without forgetting that comprehensive digital preservation is too big an issue for any individual institution to take on alone.

IFLA has worked on the challenges around digital preservation for years, both through the UNESCO PERSIST project and also within our sections on National Libraries, Preservation and Conversation and our PAC Centres.

In 2016 the first ever Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Centre specialised in digital preservation were created. The PAC Centre is based at the National Library of Poland and supports the needs of libraries concerning digital preservation and digital sustainability. The PAC Centre is currently conducting a series of surveys covering libraries’ needs in the field of digital preservation and conservation to develop a set of recommendations for long-term preservation. An English survey will be available next year, we’ll make sure to keep you posted.

Other PAC Centres have made digital preservation one of their main focus areas for the coming years. The PAC Centre at Biblioteca Nacional Chile are currently developing a special training program on digital preservation. The PAC Centre at the National Library of Korea is also focusing on digital preservation.

Libraries worldwide are working to preserve our digital heritage, but they cannot do it alone. It has to be a shared responsibility!

The UNESCO PERSIST initiative has offered some ideas to what action may be taken, and it is clear that preservation policies must be put in place. IFLA supports the dialogue between libraries and policy makers, only by joining forces can our heritage be preserved.

World Day for Audiovisual Heritage – Your Story is Moving

Audiovisual documents contain many of the most powerful records of the 20th and 21st centuries. Work with sound, films, and multimedia therefore represents an important and growing part of libraries’ efforts to preserve and provide access to cultural heritage. The World Day for Audiovisual Heritage takes place on 27 October, and libraries around the world will be celebrating and promoting this heritage as well as the work they are doing to save it for the future.

Audiovisual media has transformed society, creating new possibilities to create, innovate and document the world. It has become a permanent complement to the traditional written record and today many libraries hold not only great collections of books but also audiovisual heritage.

Libraries around the globe are working with non-traditional materials and learning environments such as streaming media, digital creation labs, virtual reality etc. and are taking an active role in both the safeguarding and promotion of these materials.

Before It’s Too Late: Recognising the Need to Preserve Audiovisual Heritage

But even though this material is relatively new, it has already become endangered, as sound recordings and moving images can be deliberately destroyed or irretrievably lost as a result of neglect, decay and technological obsolescence.

In 1980 The General Conference of the UNESCO met in Belgrade to discuss the issue of preservation and conservation of audiovisual documents. It approved the Recommendation for the Safeguarding and Preservation of Moving Images. This had the aim to raise awareness of moving images as an expression of the cultural identity of peoples, of their educational, cultural, artistic, scientific and historical value, and of their place as an integral part of a nation’s cultural heritage.

In 2005 the General Assembly of UNESCO offered a reminder that audiovisual cultural heritage continued to be lost – international action had be taken.

This resulted in the commemoration of a World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, to raise awareness of the need to preserve and safeguard important audiovisual, and for urgent measures to be taken to conserve this heritage and ensure it remains accessible to the public now, and to future generations.

Other UNESCO initiatives such as the Memory of the World Programme (MoW) also promote preservation of documentary cultural heritage (including audiovisual).

Not Just Books! Libraries Preserving Audiovisual Heritage

 Libraries are already active in safeguarding audiovisual heritage for the future. IFLA’s Audiovisual and Multimedia Section (AVMS) provides an international forum for people working with these materials in every kind of library and information service. The Section focuses its work on creating, collecting, describing, providing access, storing and preserving audiovisual and multimedia works.

AVMS holds open sessions, satellite meetings, and workshops in conjunction with IFLA’s World Library and Information Congress (WLIC). They provide guidelines for handling audiovisual and multimedia collections, and share information and resources from non-library organizations such as archives working with these collections.

IFLA also takes an active role in the MoW programme by both contributing to delivering the UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Preservation of, and Access to, Documentary Heritage in Digital Form and being represented in the National MoW committees, including by the directors of several IFLA Preservation and Conservation Centres.

To celebrate the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, the PAC Centre at the Biblioteca Nacional de Chile specialised in the preservation of audiovisual heritage, will be launching three short films based on its domestic film collection, other events and activities will as well take place at the library. It’s a great example of the work that the IFLA community are doing to promote and safeguard audiovisual heritage.

Please join the celebration and help us acknowledge the work libraries do every day to preserve our stories so that they will endure for future generations.