The six legal deposit libraries of Ireland and the UK, comprising the Library of Trinity College Dublin, the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford and Cambridge University Library, are celebrating 10 years of collecting and preserving digital publications today [6 April, 2023].
The Library of Trinity College Dublin is the only library on the island of Ireland that enjoys UK Legal Deposit status which entitles it to receive a copy of every item published in Ireland and the UK. It has enjoyed this status since 1801, enabling the Library to build an unparalleled record of our intellectual and cultural heritage for the benefit of students, researchers and visitors from near and far.
In 2013 these powers were extended from printed publications to include non-print (electronic) legal deposit, allowing readers to access websites, e-books, and online journals, creating an unprecedented collection of digital and online publishing which captures contemporary living. The commitment to electronic legal deposit has also provided access to the UK Web Archive, which holds millions of websites and over 100 curated collections including Brexit and the global Covid-19 pandemic, to name but a few.
Ranging from the most contemporary electronic collections to 19th century print collections, the impact of both print and non-print legal deposit for the island of Ireland has been significant.
- In 2016, marking the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, the Library of Trinity College Dublin collaborated with the Bodleian Library and British Library to archive websites from both the Irish and UK web domains as they reflected on this pivotal moment in modern Irish history in the 1916 Web Archiving Project.
- The Library of Trinity College Dublin has one of the most significant collections of Northern Irish publications published on the island of Ireland, including books, pamphlets and local history, especially relevant as we mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement also this week.
- By the 1930s, the number of newly published books banned in Ireland each year was between 100-150, denying the Irish public the right to important Irish and international literature. Under Legal Deposit, the Library of Trinity College Dublin continued to receive these books and was able to provide access, albeit under very restricted conditions.
- Legal Deposit enabled the collection of books by women authors from the 19th century onwards, both from Ireland and the UK. This helped to counteract collection bias and improved representation.
Commenting on its significance, Librarian & College Archivist, Helen Shenton said:
“Today, the Library of Trinity College Dublin together with our five legal deposit libraries in the UK, celebrate 10-years of digital collecting, which has enabled the creation of a seventh, transnational digital library for the benefit of all. It is also an opportunity to look back on the significant impact Legal Deposit has had over centuries, building an unparalleled record of our intellectual and cultural heritage.”
About Legal Deposit Libraries
There are six legal deposit libraries across in Ireland and the UK. They are:
- The Library of Trinity College Dublin
- The British Library
- National Library of Scotland
- National Library of Wales
- Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
- Cambridge University Library
The legal deposit libraries work together to ensure the long-term preservation of Irish and UK publications. They ensure that publications are held securely and that they can be discovered and accessed by readers. For further details on the 10th anniversary celebrations on digital collecting see British Library announcement.