Paul Gooding, Melissa Terras

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In the paper world legal deposit and preservation of printed heritage are almost synonymous with libraries. In the digital world it is not a matter of course that libraries are best suited to perform these tasks (Larsen 2005, 86).
Do libraries still belong at the heart of access to our digital heritage? This might seem a strange place to start a volume on electronic legal deposit, but Larsen’s provocation remains relevant to our current cultural moment. For centuries, our national and research libraries have been trusted repositories of print production and culture. In terms of comprehensiveness, expertise, and accessibility, their collections were rightly viewed as world-leading. In 2005, the same year that Larsen raised the prospect that libraries could no longer be presumed to occupy that position, the Alexandria Manifesto on Libraries summed up a more aspirational objective for libraries:
Libraries and information services contribute to the sound operation of the inclusive information society. They enable intellectual freedom by providing access to information, ideas and works of imagination in any medium and regardless of frontiers (2005).
In the past, libraries were undoubted technological innovators, designers of organisational improvements such as card catalogues and complex classification systems. Contemporary libraries are still spaces for innovation, but budget cuts and the growth of networked communications mean that the technological cutting edge has moved elsewhere. Karen Coyle points out that ‘if we look… at the timeline of information technology over the 20th Century and into the 21st, we see library technology falling behind the general technology evolution’ (2017). Rather than looking towards libraries as their first source for information, individuals now look towards Google or Facebook. Their information seeking expectations are formed elsewhere, and they increasingly require access for reading on their own devices and in remote locations. Increasingly, individuals also want portable data, and the ability to access textual corpora and metadata. And yet the main mode for accessing modern legal deposit materials in a legal deposit library setting is via what Georgi Alexandrov terms ‘e-reading’ (2018, 137): access to a single volume via a terminal within library reading rooms, for the sole purpose of reading. The dynamic process of change surrounding late twentieth century communications technology stands in stark contrast to the print-era logic of e-legal deposit regulations. This disconnect requires us to interrogate the critical and professional library spaces inhabited by the centuries-old regulatory environment of legal deposit in light of the digital turn.
Legal deposit is the regulatory requirement that a person or group submit copies of their publications to a trusted repository. First introduced by France in the sixteenth century (Larivière 2000, 6), legal deposit has since been adopted around the world: as of 2016, 62 out of 245 national and state libraries worldwide either benefited from legal deposit regulations or participated in legal deposit activities (De Beer et al. 2016, 88). Many other nations operate legal deposit via government ministries and copyright offices (Staff of the Global Legal Research Directorate 2017). Regulations permitting legal deposit of printed publications have played a vital role in supporting libraries to build comprehensive national collections for the public good (Brazier 2016, 42). In the last two decades, the scope of legal deposit has grown to formally incorporate ‘electronic’ or ‘non-print’ publication; those published in digital and other non-print formats.
This book was inspired by our AHRC-funded project, Digital Library Futures, which was concerned with exploring the impact of this change in scope from legal deposit to electronic legal deposit. We were specifically interested in analysing the impact of UK Non-Print Legal Deposit (NPLD) upon academic libraries and their users. Throughout the book, electronic legal deposit (e-legal deposit) is used as a broad term to denote legal deposit regulations that apply to digital materials. NPLD is the specific term for the UK’s 2013 e-legal deposit regulations, which formalised arrangements for the UK legal deposit libraries to capture digital publications (The Legal Deposit Libraries (Non-Print Works) Regulations 2013 2013).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Electronic Legal Deposit: Shaping the Library Collections of the Future
EditorsPaul Gooding, Melissa Terras
PublisherFacet Publishing
ISBN (Print)9781783303779
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2020


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