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National Library of Medicine Preservation Policy

In order to fulfill the mandate to maintain and preserve the biomedical literature, the National Library of Medicine carries out an extensive preservation program. Generally the decision to select a title for the NLM also implies a responsibility to preserve the material. The following Preservation Policy was adopted in February 1986 by the Board of Regents:


In accordance with the terms of the NLM Act and the clearly expressed intent of Congress, the fundamental responsibility of the National Library of Medicine is to preserve permanently the content of books, periodicals, and other library materials pertinent to medicine. The determination of what is pertinent to medicine shall be based on the guidelines for selection of literature for the NLM collection as described in the Collection Development Manual of the National Library of Medicine, which is revised periodically to reflect the information needs of the biomedical community. NLM's principal responsibility is to ensure the preservation of the core biomedical literature as defined in that document.

Means of preservation may include: (1) preservation of the original; (2) acquisition of materials in archival formats; and (3) replication of materials in archival formats. NLM staff shall monitor developments in preservation techniques to ensure the use of the most effective methods available and shall participate in research, development, testing and evaluation of preservation technology. Operational guidelines and procedures for selecting items to be preserved and choosing preservation techniques shall be developed, reviewed and if necessary amended, from time to time in a manner to be determined by the Director.

While the preservation of NLM's own collection is a major step toward the preservation of the entire scholarly biomedical record, NLM also has a responsibility to assist the preservation of important biomedical literature held by other U.S. institutions. NLM's preservation efforts are to be coordinated with those of other national libraries, research libraries, and biomedical libraries. Much of the preservation problem can be stopped at its source if the scholarly record is published on archival media that are not predisposed to rapid deterioration. To lessen the need for preservation treatment of prospective publications, NLM shall actively encourage the publishing industry to use more durable materials in the production of the biomedical literature.