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A national plan for taking our newspaper heritage into the future.

Good News!

A new five-year plan to save Australia 's most at risk newspapers was endorsed by the Council of Australian State Libraries (CASL) at its recent meeting in Wellington , New Zealand.

The new five-year plan is built on CASL's National Plan for Australian Newspapers, which was originally launched in 1992 with the aim to preserve all Australian newspapers and to ensure the public has adequate access to them.

Nothing gives a more intimate insight into a community's life than its newspapers. For example, the South Australian Register (1836-1931, published under a range of titles) is the primary source of information relating to every facet of the history of the establishment of South Australia as a British colony. One hundred years of births, deaths, marriages, crime, building history, the establishment of towns and businesses, political and social comment are all contained within its pages. The Register is one of the newspapers on the NPLAN's list of significant 'at risk' papers.

One aim of the plan is to uncover previously hidden portions of Australia 's documentary heritage by finding, acquiring and preserving significant missing newspaper titles and issues. Some of these will be located only with the help of the Australian public.

Developed by all NPLAN partners, this five-year plan sets goals for 2005-10. It is based on agreed strategic objectives in the areas of acquisition, preservation and access, including bibliographic control.

A particular focus of the plan is to preserve access to a group of nationally significant 'at risk' newspapers. Newspapers are an often alarmingly fragile repository of a community's history. They typically become brittle, and crumble with age and exposure to light, high temperatures and variations in humidity. Preservation microfilming of the papers, a crucial element of NPLAN, will help retain access to these valuable papers. Good storage, of the newspapers themselves and of the microfilms, is essential. Good bibliographic control is clearly vital to ensure accessibility.

Accessible microfilm copies have the added advantage of being able to be used in the digitisation process, by providing high quality film from which to make digital copy. Digitisation promises ease of access and may, in the future, be considered a safe way of preserving access to newspapers.

A key feature of this five-year plan--and of NPLAN itself--is that it is a cooperative endeavour. To facilitate communication, NPLAN partners have a discussion list and a website on which to share documents. Meetings between partners have also helped to build a shared vision of how the program might operate into the future. The National Library of Australia currently coordinates NPLAN and provides some funding for cooperative microfilming projects which are undertaken by the State and Territory Libraries.

While much has been achieved over NPLAN's lifetime, the five-year plan highlights what remains to be done to save our newspaper heritage. One such issue is access and the need for a nationally uniform protocol for cataloguing microform copies of newspapers. The National Library of Australia is currently investigating this through a feasibility study incorporating the views of NPLAN partners.

Digitisation--and the conditions under which digitised versions of newspapers might be accepted or preferred to microform as a preservation medium in the future--is also an area of intense interest to all the NPLAN partners. The National Library of Australia will lead discussion with NPLAN partners on this issue over the next year.

Hilary Berthon

Preservation Services

National Library of Australia
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Author:Berthon, Hilary
Publication:National Library of Australia Gateways
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Feb 1, 2006
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