The libraries of the future
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.