The li­braries of the fu­ture

Geraldton Guardian - - News - Greg Hornsby

Li­braries have been around for thou­sands of years. It is the ad­vent of the li­brary that marks the end of pre­his­tor­i­cal times and the dawn of his­tory.

The first li­braries were ar­chives of clay tablets found in tem­ple ru­ins in an­cient Sumer. These li­braries date back to about 2600 BC.

Li­braries are still a vi­tal part of our world. They could be aca­demic li­braries, pub­lic li­braries, school li­braries, or spe­cial li­braries. They all have dif­fer­ent pur­poses, clien­tele and re­sources.

A new type of li­brary was founded in 1996. The In­ter­net Ar­chive (ar­chive.org) is a dig­i­tal pub­lic li­brary that rep­re­sents one pos­si­ble fu­ture for li­braries.

The more than 30 petabytes of re­sources avail­able from the in­ter­net ar­chive in­cludes web­sites, books, video, au­dio, TV, soft­ware, im­ages and con­certs.

The li­brary con­tains 306 bil­lion web pages go­ing back 21 years. Us­ing the Way­back Ma­chine you can see what your favourite web­site used to look like. Sim­ply type in the ad­dress and choose the date from the time­line.

The li­brary con­tains 15 mil­lion books, 3.6 mil­lion videos — in­clud­ing fea­ture films, TV news broad­casts, YouTube videos and much more, with-most of them can be down­loaded and watched of­fline. The au­dio col­lec­tion con­tains 3.7 mil­lion files in­clud­ing mu­sic, au­dio books, sound li­braries, ra­dio pro­grams, pod­casts and ser­mons.

There are 195,000 items in the soft­ware li­brary, in­clud­ing many orig­i­nal ar­cade games, games for old game con­soles and PCs, apps and many other kinds of soft­ware.

The 1.6 mil­lion im­ages in­clude, maps, art gallery im­ages, al­bum cov­ers, NASA im­ages, and much more.

Fi­nally, mu­sic from 186,000 con­certs is avail­able. Artists in­clude ev­ery­one from the John But­ler Trio to the Grate­ful Dead and many lesser known artists.

Most items in the li­brary can be freely down­loaded and used. How­ever, for some of the newer, copy­right items, you need to join the nearly four mil­lion mem­bers. If you are a mem­ber you can bor­row up to five items.

Some of those bor­rowed items have time lim­its, but if you have five items out you will have to re­turn some­thing be­fore you can bor­row more.

Ar­chive.org works in a sim­i­lar way to pub­lic li­braries ex­cept that some things you get to keep for­ever. An ad­van­tage is you don’t have to visit a phys­i­cal li­brary. It also has more re­sources than your av­er­age phys­i­cal li­brary. Af­ter vis­it­ing the In­ter­net Ar­chive, it is easy to see how li­braries of the fu­ture could be com­pletely dig­i­tal and avail­able on­line. Their mis­sion is uni­ver­sal ac­cess to knowl­edge for any­one with ac­cess to the in­ter­net.

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