1. Purpose of the Library’s preservation copying programs

The National Library of Australia maintains a range of copying programs that grow out of its statutory functions set out in the National Library Act 1960:  maintaining and developing a comprehensive collection of library materials relating to Australia and the Australian people, making this collection material available for use, and cooperating in library matters in Australia and elsewhere.

The Library uses copying programs to serve a number of preservation purposes:

  • ensuring the main information content of collection items on unstable carriers remains available either on a more stable medium or through a sustainable succession of generations;
  • providing surrogate copies for users to access, in order to reduce the risks associated with heavy use of items that are fragile or valuable or both; and
  • providing a backup copy of valuable items that can serve as a partial record in case of loss of the original.

Copying programs in the Library also aim to achieve other purposes not driven by preservation needs, including:

  • increasing the accessibility of collection material that may be otherwise restricted because of its condition, value or vulnerability;
  • making information available to users at a time, place and manner most suited to their needs; and
  • raising awareness of the Library’s collections among various stakeholder communities.

This policy document is primarily concerned with preservation-driven copying programs.  However even where copying is primarily driven by non-preservation objectives, the Library is committed to protecting the material being copied against damage, and where feasible, to maximising the potential preservation benefits for the collections.  This policy should be read in conjunction with the Collection Digitisation Policy.

2. The nature of preservation copying

The Library considers that its copying programs achieve a preservation benefit when:

  • information is adequately captured and documented to meet the access needs of most users;
  • the original material is not damaged in the process (in some cases it may be enhanced by preparatory preservation work);
  • the original material is protected from further demands for use or copying; and/or
  • the copies are able to be managed for long-term accessibility.

3. Choosing copying as a preservation strategy

Copying is just one of many strategies the Library uses to preserve its collections.  A decision to copy is based on an assessment that the copying process to be used is a cost-effective preservation strategy for the material in question.  Frequently, copying is one part of a suite of strategies required for a particular item or collection.

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4. Copying options

For text and image-based collections the Library makes use of three copying technologies:

  1. preservation microfilming, to produce microform which may be 35mm roll film or microfiche;
  2. digital imaging, to produce digital images or searchable text or both;
  3. photocopying, to produce a paper copy;

Option 3 is very rarely used for preservation purposes in the Library because it is best suited to making a single copy, whereas the Library generally looks for an option where multiple copies can be generated.

The Library does not view options 1 and 2 as single, mutually exclusive options.  Both microfilming and digitisation encompass a number of alternative approaches that may serve somewhat different purposes.  For example, microfilming may produce various formats, in greyscale or colour; digitisation may produce bi-tonal, greyscale, or colour images, in low, medium, high or very high resolutions with or without derivative formats compressed for online access, and with or without searchable text.

Microfilming and digitisation may also be combined in various ways to take advantage of their different benefits, or to minimise their different shortcomings.  For example, greyscale digital images may be scanned from microform; microform may be generated from digital files; and material from collections may be selectively filmed and scanned.

In choosing an appropriate preservation copying strategy, the Library takes account of factors that include:

  • the benefits the Library is seeking;
  • the benefits and limitations offered by different copying options;
  • the whole of life costs involved;
  • the constraints within which the copying must be done such as:
    • the characteristics of the material to be copied;
    • available funding;
    • time constraints;
    • required controls on access to protect rights and sensitivities;
    • the availability of suitable expertise and equipment.

It is important that the most appropriate copying decision is made to meet the needs of the Library, current and future users, and other stakeholders such as rights owners.

5. Suitability of digital and microform copies for preservation

The Library recognises that many people see microform as a more reliable preservation medium than digital copies.  The Library acknowledges that microform images, properly captured, processed, documented and stored, can be expected to remain usable for many hundreds of years.  The Library has already invested substantially in facilities to store and manage microform copies to achieve such an outcome.

However, the Library has also made an informed commitment to producing digital copies that can be preserved, and invested in preserving both their data integrity and means of accessing them.  For this reason the Library accepts its digital copies as preservation copies.

Further information about applicable standards and guidelines is provided at:  http://www.nla.gov.au/digital/standards.html.

See also Collection Digitisation Policy

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6. Choosing microfilming or digitisation for preservation copying


Digital imaging appears to be especially suitable for preservation copying under certain circumstances, including:

  • a high level of demand for access, especially online access;
  • a high degree of ‘look and feel’ reflecting, for example, the colours of inks and papers, is required;
  • manipulation of images may be needed to produce usable images, (see note below);
  • manipulation of images by users, or searching of text by users, may be needed;
  • linking between parts, or linking with contextual information or with other collections may be needed;
  • the benefits of digitisation may warrant the greater whole of life costs.

Note: A master (digital surrogate) image is produced and contains the maximum amount of available information. Co-masters, or second masters, may be created for images if a master is not suitable for the generation of derivatives for Web delivery.

A co-master may be created under the following circumstances:

  • when making a positive image from a negative;
  • when an image has been cropped (eg to exclude a colour test strip). However co-masters will not be routinely created when items are cropped to exclude borders that contain no information (consistent with the Guidelines for presentation of digitised pictures);
  • when an image has been enhanced;
  • when an image has been stitched (eg. maps where multiple images are laced together).

Image manipulation detail, is recorded in the metadata file, and may also be noted, as appropriate on theWeb.

It is recognised that the Library’s digitisation program will often be driven by improved accessibility goals.  However in undertaking digitisation, the Library also seeks to maximise the potential preservation benefits, and the development and implementation of the digitisation program will involve close liaison between Digitisation and Preservation program areas.


Even in an environment where digital imaging can be used to meet the preservation copying needs of many materials in the Library’s collections, microfilming appears to be particularly suitable where:

  • adequate information content can be captured in greyscale to meet most user needs;
  • limited manipulation of the image at capture is sufficient;
  • access demand can be adequately met by distributed microform copies;
  • access restrictions require a high level of control;
  • access demand is insufficient to warrant the cost of digitisation;
  • the material needs to be copied but is unlikely to be included in a digitisation program for many years;
  • users specifically request microform copies.

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7. Priorities for preservation copying

Material will be considered a priority for preservation copying when it meets at least one of the criteria outlined above, and where material is:

  • out of print;
  • fragile and/or vulnerable;
  • of high research value;
  • rare, unique and/or valuable;
  • heavily used.

If further refinement of priorities is required, the Register of Nationally Significant Material (RNSM), will be used.

The Library considers both digitisation and microfilming suitable for preservation copying purposes, and the most efficient and cost effective process that meet the Library’s preservation and access requirements will be selected.  The following kinds of collection material are likely priority candidates for preservation microfilming:

Material most likely to be selected for preservation microfilming includes:


  • Newspapers of national, regional or local significance under the Australian Newspaper Plan (ANplan).

Serials and Monographs

  • Fragile Australian serials and monographs of research value or where holdings are dispersed.


  • Manuscripts of national significance, research interest, and in fragile condition, or where collections are dispersed.

In general only complete manuscript collections or series within collections, which are sorted and listed to a level that allows effective use of the microform, will be filmed.

Asian collections

  • Rare, fragile, and in demand Asian collection material not available elsewhere in Australia.

Client requests

  • To meet specific research client requests for microform copy of collection material.

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8. Issues in preservation copying


The Preservation Reformatting Unit (PRU) works in partnership with other Library areas to:

  • establish whether microform or digital copy is the appropriate preservation and/or access medium for particular collection material;
  • establish priorities for the preservation copying program, taking account of a combination of identified criteria;
  • establish whether copies already exist and arrange for copies to be purchased.


The Library will ensure compliance with copyright law, in administering its preservation copying program which includes:

  • copying for preservation;
  • copying for replacement;
  • copying for other libraries and archives.

The PRU will obtain copyright clearance for published material when preservation copying is initiated by the Library.  Copyright clearance for, rare, unique material will be handled by the appropriate Collection Manager.  Clients may be required to assist in obtaining copyright clearance for rare or unique material being copied on their behalf.


The Library is committed to promoting use of relevant Australian and International Standards, and best practices for preservation copying.

Preservation microfilming

For preservation microfilming this is achieved through adherence to the principles contained in the NLA publication, Guidelines for Preservation Microfilming.  In addition, the preparation of appropriate specifications for each project, and undertaking appropriate quality control assessments of microforms produced is required.

All micrographic work will meet the latest version of the following standards including, but not limited to:

  • ISO 1890- 2002
    Imaging materials - Processed silver-gelatin type black-and-white films - Specifications for stability.
    (Cancels and replaces ISO 4332 and ISO 10602)
    1996 - Imaging Materials - Ammonia-Processed Diazo Photographic Film - Specifications for Stability (revision and redesignation of NASI IT9.5-1992) (same as ANSI/ISO 8225-1995)
  • AS 2840
    1986 - Microfilming of newspapers for archival purposes. (Unchanged)
    1998 - Standard for Information and Image Management - Standard recommended practice for production, inspection and quality assurance of first-generation silver microform of documents.
  • ISO 4087-2005
    Micrographics - Microfilming of newspapers for archival purposes on 35mm microfilm.
  • ANSI/AIIM MS23-1998
    Microfilm of Documents, Operational Procedures/Inspection and Quality Control of First-Generation Silver-Gelatin
  • ANSI/NAPM IT9.12-1995
    Imaging Materials - Processed Vesicular Photographic Film - Specifications for Stability
    (revision and redesignation of ANSI/ISO 9718-1991, ANSIIT9.12-1991) (same as ANSI/ISO 9718-1995)

Quality control

Quality control assessment of microform will be undertaken by the micrographic bureau in accordance with the standard above, and in line with the project contractual requirements.  In addition, completed microform will be assessed in accordance with project specification and standards by PRU staff.  The level of checking by the Library will be determined by risk factors including the experience of working with the bureau, time limits on bureau commitments to correct errors, the feasibility of re-filming at a later time, the likelihood of errors, the significance of the material, and the likely impact of errors on the user.

Copies generated

All titles filmed by the Library will have the following generations produced:

  • first generation silver-halide master negative;
  • second generation silver-halide printing master;
  • third generation diazo or vesicular service copy.

Additional copies

A service copy of each title filmed under the Preservation Microfilm Program is added to the Library's collections when filming has been completed.  When additional copies are required by collection areas, or if replacement copies are required, the cost of these copies will be negotiated with the requesting section.


Microfilming intentions will be reported on Libraries Australia, the Australian National Bibliographic Database, and all generations of microform surrogates will be catalogued in accordance with appropriate standards and information supplied by the PRU.

Catalogue records for existing hardcopy material and microforms will be amended retrospectively where necessary to alert clients to:

  • the availability of microform surrogates;
  • hardcopy material which has been withdrawn from use pending completion or purchase of a microform copy;
  • microforms which are illegible or defective.

As a general rule, uncatalogued hardcopy material will be catalogued prior to filming.

Storage of masters

The first generation master will be stored under controlled environmental conditions either in the Library's cold-store which operates at 8 ±1 degree C and a relative humidity of 35 ± 5%, or in the facility of a secondary service provider which meets similar conditions.  Second generation printing masters may be stored in the Library’s cold-store, or agency handling the sale of the microform.

Management of microform collections

The PRU seeks to monitor the condition of existing microform collections within the Library.  However, due to limited resources, the unit relies on the assistance of collection area staff and users of the collection to forward details of poor microform to the appropriate collection manager and to the manager of the PRU.

Microform may need replacement if deteriorating or if parts are illegible.  Requests for replacements of defective microform should be sent to:

  • PRU for Library-produced microform, or
  • Acquisitions Section for purchased microform.

Preservation digitisation

Many issues in digitisation are common to the issues in microfilming described above, and the same principles apply.  Information on specific digitisation issues including; creating digital images, standards observed, colour and black and white material, digital capture process and web delivery is available in the Collection Digitisation Policy.

See also: NLA Digitisation Standards and Guidelines in Use at: http://www.nla.gov.au/digital/standards.html

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9. Cooperative copying projects

The Library may participate in selected joint copying projects.  Requests for assistance with preservation microfilming will be assessed against the Library's Policy on Participation in Cooperative Microfilming Projects With Other Institutions, and will depend on the availability of funding, conformity with the Cooperative Policy; and internal Library priorities.  Cooperative digitisation projects will be assessed and negotiated on a case by case basis.

10. Microfilm copying for users

Requests for microform copies of rare and fragile materials will be serviced for a fee.  The time frame for servicing substantial orders will be negotiated with the client.  The following conditions apply:

  • Only complete monographic titles or entire serial volumes will be filmed.  Orders for microform copies of individual pages or segments will not be accepted;
  • If material is in copyright the client may be required to assist in obtaining copyright clearance;
  • Orders for manuscript material must be authorised by the Manuscript Librarian, to clear copyright and access restrictions;
  • Staff at service points in reading rooms will consult Libraries Australia prior to any filming request.  Staff will also direct readers to printed bibliographic sources such as Guide to Microforms in Print, to ensure that a microform title is not already commercially available.  PRU staff will cross-reference appropriate on-line databases such as the RLIN database prior to filming;
  • The Library will retain ownership of the master negative, and a third generation service copy will be supplied to the client.

Pricing guidelines for original microfilming are made available in reading rooms and/or from the Manager of the PRU.

11. Protection of material once copied, or queued for preservation copying

Fragile hardcopy materials will receive protective shrink- wrapping after preservation copying, and on a retrospective basis, as follows:

  • A notice will be placed with the hardcopy item and the holdings statements of the catalogue record will be amended to indicate that access be directed to the preservation copy.  Large runs of shelved filmed material will be signposted with a notice diverting access to the preservation copy.
  • Hard-copy material queued for preservation copying will be labelled indicating that:
    • the hard copy may be used in the interim; or
    • access should be withdrawn pending completion of the preservation copy.  This would apply to material in such fragile condition that continued access would jeopardise effective copying.  Where access has been withdrawn this is also noted on the catalogue record.

In both cases, an estimated completion date for preservation copying will be given.

Shrink-wrapping will be initiated by Acquisition staff on the purchase of a preservation copy of collection material, and by PRU staff when the preservation copy has been produced by the Library.

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12. Development of preservation copying programs

The Library’s preservation copying program is reviewed and refocused annually.  The ongoing preservation microfilm copying program is funded from Preservation Services recurrent budget allocation.  Complementary programs for digitisation, preservation microfilming, and generation of digital copies from existing microfilm will be developed in close consultation with relevant collection and copying program areas.

13. Evaluation of effectiveness of preservation copying

Preservation Services Branch will coordinate preparation of a report every two years to CDMC on the preservation effectiveness of the Library’s copying programs.

14. Responsibility

Responsibility for the Library’s preservation microfilming programs rests with the Preservation Services Branch, who work closely with the collection managers responsible for the selected material.

Responsibility for the preservation aspects of the Library’s digitisation programs rests with both the Digital Collections Branch and the Preservation Services Branch, who work closely together to ensure that the Library’s accessibility and preservation objectives are achieved.

This policy statement prepared by

Preservation Services Branch

June 2007