Expert group expected to call for digital content in archives

Trinity College only library in Ireland where UK archive will be available

Lucie Burgess of the British Library (above) said the unprecedented archive operation in the UK would provide a complete snapshot of life in the 21st century. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Lucie Burgess of the British Library (above) said the unprecedented archive operation in the UK would provide a complete snapshot of life in the 21st century. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Mon, Apr 8, 2013, 06:00

Ireland’s “legal deposit” libraries – the National Library and the libraries of seven universities – would have the option to extend their archives to include digital content if an anticipated committee recommendation comes into law.

It is expected that a report from the Copyright Review Committee, due to be published shortly, will recommend the extension of the copyright deposit to include digital material such as websites, ejournals and ebooks.

If the recommendation is adopted in legislation, Ireland’s legal deposit libraries – the National Library of Ireland and the libraries at Trinity College Dublin; Dublin City University; NUI Galway; NUI Maynooth; UCD; University College Cork; and the University of Limerick – would have the option to extend their archive to include digital content of their choice.

Legal deposit is a statutory obligation on publishers and distributors to deposit at least one copy of every publication, free of charge, in designated legal deposit libraries.

The development comes in the same week as six UK legal deposit libraries, which for historical reasons include Trinity College Library, announced that they are to archive digital material to include websites, ebooks, ejournals and blogs published in the UK.

Trinity College Library will be the only library on the island of Ireland where the UK archive will be available. From today, an initial collection of 26,500 journal articles from a number of publishers will be made available to access in the Trinity College Library reading rooms. Although not a public library, the archive will be available to academics, students and researchers.


‘Huge importance’
Margaret Flood, collection management keeper at Trinity College Library, said the extension of the archive to include digital material was of huge importance, including as it does the “cultural, societal and intellectual outputs” of a nation.

The new UK regulations will result in a major project to harvest the entire UK web domain to document current events and to record the country’s burgeoning collection of online cultural and intellectual works.

Billions of webpages, blogs and ebooks will be collected along with books, magazines and newspapers, which have been stored for several centuries. Lucie Burgess of the British Library said the unprecedented operation would provide a complete snapshot of life in the 21st century: “If you want a picture of what life is like today in the UK you have to look at the web,” she said.

However, she said much information had already been lost within the past decade: “That material has fallen into the digital black hole of the 21st century because we haven’t been able to capture it. Most of that material has already been lost or taken down. The social media reaction has gone.”

The operation to will begin with an automatic “web harvest” of an initial 4.8 million UK websites – or one billion webpages.