|APRIL 2001||Volume 3 Number 2|
Kendall F. Wiggin
Connecticut State Librarian
Preservation of the human record is probably not something the average library user thinks about when visiting a library. Yet it is a value central to librarianship and one of the most challenging issues facing the profession at the beginning of this new century. To quote from the American Librarian Association's (ALA) draft statement on Core Values, "the cultural memory of humankind and its many families, its stories, its expertise, its history, and its wisdom must be preserved from the past so it illuminates the present and makes the future possible". Or, as Harper's Magazine Editor Lewis H. Lapham said, "libraries defend the future against the past."
Our libraries, archives, historical societies, town halls, and other repositories are challenged with making sure that the documents and books that make up our past are there for future generations. As new media for conveying information emerge the preservation issues become more complex. Not only do we need to deal with crumbling acidic wood pulp paper, now we must also deal with the bits and bytes that emerge every day as we computerize government and business operations and post more information on the Internet. While great efforts have been made to deal with print resources, strategies are just developing to make sure that important "electronic" documents will be available for future generations.
The landmark Historic Documents Preservation Account that was created by the Legislature last year will provide funds to allow towns and city clerks to make major progress in understanding and dealing with local records preservation issues. The first grants under the program will be awarded in July 2001. In another area of records management, the Office of the Public Records Administrator has just issued the state's first standards for the use of imaging technology for the storage, retrieval, and disposition of public records.
Much remains to be done. Eleven years after the recommendations of the Preservation Task Force, funding for preservation activities in libraries, historical societies, and other repositories has not been forthcoming. This year the Legislature is considering legislation (SB 1257) that would begin a preservation grant program.
Connecticut is rightfully proud of its past. Cultural tourism is a large component of our tourism industry. Without financial support for the preservation efforts of the library and archives communities, access to the raw material of our cultural heritage will be lost.
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