The British Library is for smelling books not opening websites


The British Library is wonderful and like many places in London it can provide intellectual and quiet relief from the daily grind, and especially the horrors of the Euston Road.

So the news that the British Library along with the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, the Bodleian Libraries, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College Library Dublin now have the right to archive a copy of every UK digital publication, as they have done with print publications for several centuries, is big news.

The regulations, known as legal deposit, will ensure that ephemeral materials such as 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.

The Culture Minister Ed Vaizey MP muttered some platitudes, but I met him at a digital event in the Roman Baths (in Bath) last year and didn’t like him, so I won’t parrot them here. But this ‘legal deposit’ is a big step that will include an initial 4.8 million websites, included archived ones from the UK web domain.

It means that curious wayfarers that stop by the British Library (and the other five repositories) can enter an on-site (and online) reading room that will scale over the coming years. Great, I suppose, but the whole point of a library is to smell books, not open websites on computers.

Another offline refuge bites the dust.

Monty (692 Posts)

Monty Munford has more than 15 years' experience in mobile, digital media, web and journalism. He is the founder of Mob76, a company that helps tech companies raise money and exit. He speaks regularly at global media events with a focus on Africa, writes a weekly column for The Telegraph, is a regular contributor to The Economist, Wired, Mashable and speaks regularly on the BBC World Service.