Memorandum from the National Library of
1. This evidence is submitted by the National
Library of Wales to the House of Commons Science and Technology
Committee in response to an invitation from the Committee secretariat
(21 January 2004).
2. The National Library of Wales is located
in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion. It is an Assembly Sponsored Public
Body and receives the bulk of its funds from the Welsh Assembly
Government. It is one of the five legal deposit libraries (LDLs)
in the United Kingdom. It has the right to claim one copy, free
of charge, of every printed item published in the United Kingdom
and the Republic of Ireland.
Under the terms of the Legal Deposit Libraries
Act 2003 (and secondary legislation yet to be introduced) it will
also have the right to claim cognate material in non-print formats,
3. The National Library's mission is "to
collect, preserve and give access to recorded knowledge, in all
documentary forms, with an especial emphasis on the intellectual
record of Wales, for the benefit of all engaged in research and
learning, or with other information needs". Researchers form
a very significant proportionup to 60%of those using
our Reading Rooms (we also have an increasing number of visitors
who are not necessarily studying items from the collections).
4. As well as being a library the National
Library is Wales's chief archive repository, it holds substantial
collections of graphic materials of all kinds, and it houses the
National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales.
5. What follows concentrates strongly on
the fourth of the questions posed by the Committee in its invitation
to give evidence:
"How effectively are the Legal Deposit Libraries
making available non-print scientific publications to the research
community, and what steps should they be taking in this respect?"
6. We are not submitting detailed evidence
on the other four questions. This is partly because they are of
wider range and not specifically directed at libraries such as
the National Library of Wales, but chiefly because we would tend
to concur with the evidence submitted jointly by the Consortium
of University Research Libraries (CURL) and the Society of College,
National and University Libraries (SCONUL). The National Library
is an active member of both of these representative bodies.
7. Until very recently the scope of "legal
deposit" was restricted to material published in print form
only. The Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 extended its scope
to non-print material, including that in electronic formats. It
is expected that a series of regulations will be introduced under
the Act over a period of years, giving effect to the legislation
format by format.
8. Among this new, electronic material will
be periodicals and other material of direct relevance to scientific
researchersprovided they are published in the United Kingdom
or Ireland (there may be more uncertainty about "place of
publication" than in the case of printed publications).
9. One of the most obvious benefits of a
unit of digital information is that it is swiftly and cheaply
transportable by electronic networks to users, wherever they might
be. It is clear that this benefit will not be realised under the
new legal deposit regime. This is because the Act and its Regulations
will prohibit the networking of legal deposit material outside
the walls of the LDLs themselves. (This is a particularly severe
restriction in the case of the National Library of Wales because
of its remote geographical location.)
It will be necessary for the researcher to travel
physically to the legal deposit library to consult the material.
10. The researcher, however, increasingly
expects scientific information to be available virtually immediately,
and to the desktop. This is clear, for example, from the user
studies conducted as part of the work of the Research Support
11. In the case of scientific researchers,
therefore (except for the lucky few within very easy reach of
an LDL), the value of the LDLs' collecting electronic material
through legal deposit is likely to lie in their duty to preserve
that material into the future.
12. In an age when most research libraries,
even large university libraries, place much less emphasis than
in the past on future use than on present use, and when only a
few institutions will have the financial and human resources to
preserve digital material, the LDLs are likely to have a crucial
role to play in this area.
13. It is essential, in our view, that an
effective electronic legal deposit system is put in place as soon
as practicable, so that valuable research material is not irretrievably
lost. This will require:
(1) a speedy programme of regulations to
give effect to the new Act;
(2) the introduction and maintenance of technical
and administrative systems within the LDLs to manage the regime;
(3) the rapid development and planning of
the "secure network" that will enable deposited material
to be shared by the five LDLs;
(4) adequate funding for the LDLs to carry
out their responsibilities.
The responsibility for achieving this aim must
be shared: by the UK Government, working with the statutory Advisory
Panel created by the new Act, on which the LDLs and the publishers
will be represented (Requirement 1), by the LDLs themselves (Requirements
2 and 3), and by the funding administrations: the Department of
Culture, Media and Sport in England, the Scottish Parliament and
the National Assembly for Wales (Requirement 4).
14. One of the critical areas in this activity
is that of digital preservation. The National Library is working,
alone and in combination with other institutions, towards practical
methods of ensuring the continued availability of digital publications
to future generations. Although the costs of this are not fully
known, they will be substantial.
15. All the LDLs also acquire research material
by means other than legal deposit: mainly by purchase or subscription,
but also by donation, deposit and exchange.
In the case of the National Library of Wales
this extra-legal deposit material is selected according to the
terms of the Library's Collection development policy (2003).
Partly because of historical patterns of collecting and of use,
and partly because of the sums of money available for purchasing
for the collections, the Library concentrates on buying material
in the humanities and the social sciences rather than in science,
engineering and medicine.
16. The annual budget available to the Library
to purchase material is very limited. In 2004-05 it will amount
to no more than £711,000 (£611,000 in Grant-in-Aid from
the National Assembly, supplemented by £100,000 from other
sources). This sum must suffice to buy items for all the collections:
not only research publications but also manuscripts, archives,
art works, photographs and the other materials.
17. Among the purchasesmany of them
are licences rather than outright purchasesare many electronic
sources. They include generic resources, such as indexes and abstracts,
but little material that is directly scientific or technical in
nature. All these items are retrievable via the online catalogue,
but are at present available for use within the Library building
18. The Library is currently considering
introducing offering networked access to some of these resources,
probably in most cases to registered readers of the Library only.
This is likely, however, to increase the cost of taking out licences.
19. We are also exploring the possibility
of purchasing electronic publications for networking in collaboration
with other Welsh libraries, in order to reduce the overall costs.
20. The prospects of the Library making
a substantial improvement in its provision of networked information
resources depend on the answers to a number of questions:
would such an extension of provision
and access offer real and substantial benefits to those in Wales
in search of research information?
how would such provision relate to
similar provision by other libraries (eg in universities or the
health service) to their user groups?
would additional finance be available
to the Library to fund an extended provision?
21. In all of these areas the National Library
is an active collaborator in a number of partnerships, alliances
and joint projects in the UK. This is because we see sharing the
responsibility of researching and developing new systems in this
field as essential. Among these are:
the Legal Deposit Libraries Committee;
the Digital Preservation Coalition;
the Research Libraries Network (to
start work in 2004).
22. The National Library of Wales has two
rather separate roles in "making available non-print scientific
publications to the research community":
collecting, preserving and ensuring
the continuing availability (within the Library) of such material,
on the basis of the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003, and in collaboration
with the other LDLs.
offering access, within the Library
and (possibly) increasingly to Library readers via the internet,
other such material of value to the Library's users.
Both of these are mainly functions for the future.
The extent to which they can be realised depends not only on the
LDLs themselves, but also on the availability of adequate resources,
especially from government.
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