The video below from the always entertaining Tom Scott looks at the British Library and its mandatory deposit policy, which now stands in contrast to that of the US Library of Congress, where an appeals court ruled that mandatory deposit can no longer be enforced. The argument presented by the British Library is that “the importance of legal deposit not being selective and being everything is we can’t decide today what’s going to be important in 50 years time.” An exhibit at the National Library of Scotland displaying the early (and largely ephemeral) information given out at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic is offered as an example. If they hadn’t been collected, we’d have lost the ability to learn from these materials. If deposit fades away in the US, what will future scholars miss out on?
And of course there’s all the fun parts of running an archive with over 170 million items in it, stored on some 700 kilometers of shelves. And that’s not even getting into the archiving of digital materials.