Why hold a national conference on microfonns in libraries? (It was not, many told us, the most exciting subject for a two day debate). Since the late eighties, the National Preservation Office has been coordinating a national microfilming programme generously funded by the Andrew W Mellon Foundation of New York. The programme is large, important and many stranded. From the beginning the National Preservation Office did not wish simply to be the agent for grant giving and the regulator of microfilming standards. For the programme to work and to matter in the long tenn, we had to address not only the mechanistic aspects of putting material on microfilm, but the human aspects too. Microfonn copies are not universally popular with librarians. Library users of ruicrofonn are too often uncomfortable and frustrated with poor machinery and lack of good study conditions. There can be no one who actually prefers a microfonn copy to the original item. But even at its least exciting, microform is our best and most economic fonn of substitution. At its best it offers high quality, quick and worldwide access to texts and safety from technological change. It was timely to put issues on the table, under the auspices of the Mellon Project. How were we treating users? What standards were applicable? How well were national programmes working? What comes after microform?
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