15 October 2008

The Elephant in the Library

As I read about the incredible riches of content stored on the Internet, one thing worries me increasingly: who's doing the off-site backups? Too many of the current stores seem to have single points of failure, but nobody's really talking about this serious issue - call it the elephant in the library.

So it's good to hear of new projects that aim to back up content independently of others. Things like HathiTrust:

HathiTrust is a bold idea with big plans.

As a digital repository for the nation’s great research libraries, HathiTrust (pronounced hah-tee) brings together the immense collections of partner institutions.

HathiTrust was conceived as a collaboration of the thirteen universities of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation and the University of California system to establish a repository for these universities to archive and share their digitized collections. Partnership is open to all who share this grand vision.

HathiTrust is a solution.

To prospective partners, HathiTrust offers leadership and reliability.

It provides a no-worry, pain-free solution to archiving vast amounts of digital content. You can rely on the expertise of other librarians and information technologists who understand your needs and who will address the issues of servers, storage, migration, and long-term preservation.

Not all of this content will be freely available to all, although that will be the main emphasis - here's the current stats:

2,123,209 volumes
743,123,150 pages
79 terabytes
25 miles
1,725 tons
335,300 volumes (~16% of total)
in the public domain

Still, it's good to have backups for proprietary content too: if in the coming apocalypse it's lost because the primary stores go down permanently, there's no hope of ever opening it up.

And if you were wondering:

What does the name HathiTrust mean?

Hathi (pronounced hah-tee) is the Hindi word for elephant, an animal highly regarded for its memory, wisdom, and strength. Trust is a core value of research libraries and one of their greatest assets. In combination, the words convey the key benefits researchers can expect from a first-of-its-kind shared digital repository.

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