British Library to help catalogue UK web domain contents

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The UK web domain's entire contents is being catalogued by the British Library and others, preserving it for use by future generations of researchers.

The library is one of six to have been granted rights to receive a copy of every UK electronic publication, as a result of the Legal Deposit regulations coming into force on 6 April.

The legislation is designed to ensure that short-lived website content is collected to provide future generations with greater insight into interests, habits and daily lives of those living in the 21st century.

The other participants include the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales, as well as the Bodleian, Cambridge University and Trinity College libraries.

The legislation marks an extension of their data collection rights, as they have received print publications including books, magazines and newspapers for several centuries.

Extending the regulations to include digital content including e-books was first mooted by the Legal Deposit Libraries Act of 2003, and will initially include content from around 4.8 million UK websites.

Each of the libraries will provide on-site reading room facilities, allowing visitors to access the catalogued material.

"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," said the British Library in a statement.

Roly Keating, chief executive of the British Library, said without this initiative the UK was in danger of a "black hole" swallowing up its digital heritage.

"Ten years ago, there was a real danger [of this occurring], with millions of web pages, e-publication and other non-print items falling through the cracks of a system that was devised primarily to capture ink and paper," said Keating.

"The regulations...make digital legal deposit a reality, and ensure that the Legal Deposit Libraries are able to evolve collecting, preserving and providing long-term access to the profusion of cultural and intellectual content appearing online or in other digital formats."

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.