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Libraries and Archives

Themes for a year of change

Am currently sailing in a sea of interesting things. The water’s lovely, and while there are some very big waves, none of them are big enough to tip this, this..

Oh, sod it. That metaphor is going to wander off and go have a lie down.

Did you know that the British Library’s obligation to archive digital material (link for some background here) has an interesting restrictive clause? Copies of books held by the BL are held at either the St Pancras site, or other, more secret sites around the country (don’t know where they put my thesis, but it does show up on a catalogue search, as does Dr Bjarnason’s). These books can be read at the Library’s reading rooms. All well and good.

What’s less well, or good, is that the library may have to operate under the same restriction if a properly thought through archiving system for digital content is ever passed into law (those pesky Murdoch boys have a problem with it, apparently). Which means that the BL can archive the web, for the nation, for no profit (paywalls intact etc), but you have to go to a BL reading room to access the content. Almost the ultimate walled garden web, then. The logic is inescapable – and arises from the legislation being first drafted back in 2003 (or earlier) and deriving from the framework established for Legal Deposit for physical works.

No clear way around it either. Apparently redrafting the legislation to address this might take another eight years.

I suppose one might think that in the meantime it could be possible to designate some other locations as British Library equivalents for the purpose of digital access. Maybe a smaller, more local equivalent of that august building. One in every town, maybe?


One comment for “Themes for a year of change”

  1. I recognise the mild sarcasm in your final sentence, Tom.
    It could mean that the current Coalition Government (or at least the Big Chief himself) will have to find an alternative to the Big Society.

    Th Infinitesimally Small Society perhaps?

    Provided public libraries remain as august local buildings I may lose my sense of outrage and continue to download e-books to read on my iPod alongside my borrowings.

    aka Sara’s Dad.

    Posted by John Hughes | October 28, 2011, 8:51 pm

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