Bodleian Libraries to save the nation's digital memory

5 April 2013

Regulations coming into force on 6 April will enable the Bodleian Libraries – along with five major libraries – to collect, preserve and provide long term access to the increasing proportion of the nation’s cultural and intellectual output that appears in digital form, including blogs, e-books and the entire UK web domain.

From this point forward, the Bodleian Libraries, along with the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College Library Dublin, will have the right to receive a copy of every UK electronic publication, on the same basis as they have received print publications such as books, magazines and newspapers for several centuries.

The regulations, known as legal deposit, will ensure that ephemeral materials like websites can be collected, preserved forever and made available to future generations of researchers, providing the fullest possible record of life and society in the UK in the 21st century for people 50, 100, even 200 or more years in the future.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey MP said: ‘Legal deposit arrangements remain vitally important. Preserving and maintaining a record of everything that has been published provides a priceless resource for the researchers of today and the future. So it’s right that these long-standing arrangements have now been brought up to date for the 21st century, covering the UK’s digital publications for the first time. The Joint Committee on Legal Deposit has worked very successfully in creating practical policies and processes so that digital content can now be effectively archived and our academic and literary heritage preserved, in whatever form it takes.’

The principle of extending legal deposit beyond print was established with the Legal Deposit Libraries Act of 2003. The present regulations implement it in practical terms, encompassing electronic publications such as e-journals and e-books, offline (or hand-held) formats like CD-Rom and an initial 4.8 million websites from the UK web domain.

Access to non-print materials, including archived websites, will be offered via on-site reading room facilities at the Bodleian Libraries. While the initial offering to researchers will be limited in scope, the Libraries will gradually increase capabilities for managing large-scale deposit, preservation and access over the coming months and years.

Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian, said: ‘The introduction of electronic legal deposit will allow us to create a unique and valuable resource for researchers across a wide range of disciplines, complementing our existing collections of resources. Electronic materials collected from today onwards will provide future researchers with access to information which otherwise would have been lost and which can contribute to understanding such diverse experiences as the Olympics and nutrition and taste in school dinners.’

By the end of this year, the results of the first live archiving crawl of the UK web domain will be available to researchers, along with tens of thousands of e-journal articles, e-books and other materials.

The regulations were developed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in conjunction with the Joint Committee on Legal Deposit, which includes representatives from the Legal Deposit Libraries and different sectors of the publishing industry. They establish an agreed approach for the libraries to develop an efficient system for archiving digital publications, while avoiding an unreasonable burden for publishers and protecting the interests of rights-holders.

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