Six major libraries poised to capture the digital universe, including the entire uk web domain

regulations which came into force on 6 april will enable six 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 british library, the national library of Scotland, the national library of wales, the bodleian libraries, 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.

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 each of the legal deposit libraries. while the initial offering to researchers will be limited in scope, the libraries will gradually increase their capability for managing large-scale deposit, preservation and access over the coming months and years.

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.