A story at Slash.dot tells us that the British Library chief, Lynne Brindley, is worried about how websites vanish. In an article in the left-wing bible, the Guardian, she says that she wants to keep copies of all websites in the .uk domain, so that they don’t disappear forever.
There are several aspects to this story that ought to be more clearly stated.
Firstly, there is nothing to say that this archive will be available to us. The last time I looked, it was purely for the benefit of BL staff, and perhaps those few who live close to the building. Anyone else could take a hike. “Copyright” was the excuse; but some time back Mrs Brindley got an Act of Parliament passed to enable her to do whatever she wanted in this area. If she didn’t arrange for a provision for public access to an archive of publically accessible websites, it’s because she didn’t want to. I’d want to see an explicit commitment to access before I applauded.
Secondly, rather than collecting the material that others put online, when will Brindley actually make the British Library’s holdings available online? This is especially the case for the medieval manuscripts, which almost no-one can handle and are resolutely kept offline and unphotographed.
As ever, it seems that the British library management is interested only in serving themselves, and not the national interest or the public who pay for them.