When LLMC made the switch from data delivery on microfiche to data delivery online ten years ago, it made a commitment to continue to deliver copies of the 105,000 volumes it held in its microfiche inventory to patrons desiring that format. From the beginning that commitment was difficult to keep. The microfiche duplication machinery that LLMC had in-house was old and ailing. Both maintenance and spare parts were hard to come by. However, we soon found a workaround for that problem. By 2004 we located a reliable service bureau to whom we could sub-contract the duplication work. We were especially confident in our choice of this particular service bureau because they had done multiple tasks for us all through the fiche years. Therefore we already had a trusting relationship.
To implement the new plan, we shipped our inventory of “working masters” (the “2nd generation” copies that were used to make consumer copies) to our chosen subcontractor: Micrographics Equipment Services, Inc. (MESI) of Lansing, IL. All microfiche orders received thereafter by LLMC were filled on a “drop ship” basis by MESI. Orders in the later years did dwindle down to a trickle. But the important thing was that we were able to give people what they wanted in the format they needed for another eight years.

Now, however, we’re back to the drawing board. Our longtime friend and generous helping hand in several projects during our fiche era, Ed Furfaro, is being forced to downsize his business. MESI will no longer be able to maintain its fiche-duplication facilities. Since the market for this kind of service has almost disappeared, we haven’t been able to find a suitable replacement.

Fortunately, roughly 85% of the data that we had on microfiche has now been migrated to digital, and we are rapidly digitizing the remaining film. We are already close to being able to provide almost everything that we had on fiche in a digital format. In a year or so we should be there. Given that background, at its recent meeting during AALL, the LLMC Board decided that the time has come to bitethe bullet and exit the fiche market. Our last fiche order was fulfilled on July 31.1

Going forward, we will be moving the “grand master” copies2 of our 105,000 volumes on microfiche to our salt mine dark archives as yet another analog backup for our digital library. They will complement the paper backups that we also maintain in that facility for the bulk of our titles.


1 It is indicative of the trend in these latter years that our last fiche order was for one replacement fiche for Martindale-Hubbell, 1952, fiche #78 in the Oregon subset, for the Notre Dame Law Library.
2 These are the “1st generation” fiche that were the direct product of our filming activities. Since these 1st generation fiche are the only fiche copies that are in Silver Halide format, i.e., on “archival film,” they are the most eligible candidates for long-term preservation purposes.