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.

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.


2 Thoughts on "The British Library: The Importance of Legal Deposit"

Tom Scott is sadly ceasing to make videos in a few months time, so for anyone that hasn’t seen his work his channel is a rich vein of (sometimes) obscure, yet always very interesting nuggets.

Legal deposit is challenging when the publisher isn’t legally based in any country. Uh? Yup, such entities exist. They’re the IGOs like UN, World Bank, OECD et al. When they printed their papers and reports, copies were sent to National Libraries and others dubbed Depository Libraries’ but today libraries are expected to fetch their content from online repositories. Easier said than done, which is why BL asked Coherent Digital to do the fetching on their behalf, standardising a feed that integrates with BL’s system. If other libraries would like feeds of IGO (and NGO) digital content, do get in touch.

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