Sunday, March 4, 2012

An Ark Full of Books

Saturday's New York Times had an interesting article featuring the work of Brewster Kahle and "the Physical Archive of the Internet Archive."  The opening sentence, full of its own echoes of Noah's ark, reads: "In a wooden warehouse in this industrial suburb, the 20th century is being stored in case of digital disaster...."

Something inside me said that this was going to happen sooner or later.  Other central repositories exist, some of them around for quite some time, while others are in preparation (e.g. the Center for Research Libraries, The Committee on Institutional Cooperation's [CIC] Shared Print Repository, the American Newspaper Repository (now at Duke) ).  The Times article goes on: "Every week, 20,000 new volumes arrive, many of them donations from libraries and universities thrilled to unload material that has no place in the Internet Age."

I raised the question in an earlier post, but I raise it here again: is this where we at Minnesota will someday send some of our books?  Or will they end up in another as yet to be designed by the CIC?  At least one CIC institution according to the article--Penn State--is already sending stuff to Kahle and his partners.  "At Pennsylvania State University, librarians realized that most of their 16-millimeter films were never being checked out and that there was nowhere to store them properly. So the university sent 5,411 films here, including “Introducing the Mentally Retarded” (1964), “We Have an Addict in the House” (1973) and “Ovulation and Egg Transport in the Rat” (1951)."

The comment string for Kahle's own post about the physical archive is an interesting read in itself (as some comment strings can be at times).  A number of comments relate to situating the physical archive in an earthquake zone.

In the end we'll probably have a number of these depositories scattered around the globe, much as the Internet Archive has mirror sites.  The goal for this site is 10 million books, about 10 percent of the estimated total of 100 million unique titles.  

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