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United Kingdom Books Data Storage Idle

Oxford Expands Library With 153 Miles of Shelves 130

Posted by samzenpus
from the card-catalog-of-the-gods dept.
Oxford University's Bodleian Library has purchased a huge £26m warehouse to give a proper home to over 6 million books and 1.2 million maps. The Library has been housing the collection in a salt mine, and plans on transferring the manuscripts over the next year. "The BSF will prove a long-awaited solution to the space problem that has long challenged the Bodleian," said its head librarian Dr Sarah Thomas. "We have been running out of space since the 1970s and the situation has become increasingly desperate in the last few years." The 153 miles of new shelf space will only be enough for the next 20 years however because of the library's historic entitlement to a copy of every volume published in the UK.

*

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Oxford Expands Library With 153 Miles of Shelves

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  • LOC (Score:4, Interesting)

    by boristdog (133725) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @11:05AM (#33825696)

    How many typewritten pages or Libraries of Congresses is that?

    • Re:LOC (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lev13than (581686) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @11:39AM (#33826142) Homepage
      Wikipedia claims 21 million volumes in the LOC, so this would be roughly 0.27LOC. 6 Million volumes is not particularly large - even now it will only hold half of the current Bodleian collection.
    • by julesh (229690)

      How many typewritten pages or Libraries of Congresses is that?

      The LOC has already been answered for you, but for reference an average book contains around 100,000 words. An average typewritten double-spaced page has about 250 words. So this would be about 2.4 billion typewritten pages, or 1.2 billion if you condensed the typescript by not double-spacing it. Further paper savings could be made by decreasing margins from the standard of 1" on each side (for example, I find 2cm margins on A4 give about 275

  • The question is (Score:1, Redundant)

    by saurongt (1639029)
    How many libraries of Congress does that equal?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 07, 2010 @11:06AM (#33825706)

    "We have been running out of space since the 1970s and the situation has become increasingly desperate in the last few years."

    I wish my problems allowed for 40 years of procrastination!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This is Oxford, 40 years is nothing. Proficiency in Latin was still an entry requirement back then.
      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        If one had a stack permit, was he working in "the salt mine."

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by BrokenHalo (565198)
        Proficiency in Latin was still an entry requirement back then.

        Well, why not? Don't you people learn Latin in high-schcool any more? When I was a boy, it was compulsory.

        But that was so long ago, I no longer know what the Latin is for "get off my lawn". :-)
    • by Suki I (1546431) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @11:25AM (#33825958) Homepage Journal

      "We have been running out of space since the 1970s and the situation has become increasingly desperate in the last few years."

      I wish my problems allowed for 40 years of procrastination!

      I think those are metric years. They are different than our years.

      • by julesh (229690)

        I think those are metric years. They are different than our years.

        We don't have metric years. A year is unfortunately too far from a power-of-10 seconds to be standardised to a metric unit. Instead we have quarters of a metric quad-year, which is equal to 100,000,000 seconds (126,230,400 being an imperial quad-year[1]).

        [1] except unleap-quad-years. An unleap quad-year only occurs every 25 imperial quad-years and are shorter by around three-quarters of a metric day[2][3]
        [2] actually, 86,400 seconds, which

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MarkRose (820682)

      Well, they did eventually do something about the problem, as they could only shelve it for so long.

  • I can't see that thing filling up in 20 years. More and more books are being only released in digital format. In 10 years time, I'd hope that easily half of all books were digital only, and tens years past that I'd hope that nearly all books were digital. They're probably going to need to start investing in some snazzy super redundant storage servers instead.

    • by Reilaos (1544173)

      More and more books? How many books that we give two shits about won't release at least SOME form of physical copy?

      • by rwven (663186)

        People said the same thing about CDs once.

    • ...Such as? I can't think of a single notable book that wasn't released as a dead-tree book aside from a few books made to drum up interest for things like the Nook/Kindle but I wouldn't even call them notable.
    • by Zerth (26112)

      They've thought of that. An entire herd of interns will be retyping each ebook on a fleet of Underwood typewriters, then hand-binding them into leather covers.

      • If they'd just hire a herd of monkeys instead, given enough time they could retype all books written and all books not yet written as well.

        Fewer typos and txt spch than interns, too.

    • cat /dev/random >Bodleian
    • by itsdapead (734413)

      In 10 years time, I'd hope that easily half of all books were digital only,

      ...and unless we have a Sudden Outbreak of Common Sense, 10 years later they'll all be unreadable because the DRM-encumbered file format they were stored in is no longer supported.

      I don't think physical books will disappear completely in that time frame - they're too iconic - but the typical print run might be "one for Me, one for Mum and Dad, one for each legal deposit library and a couple of spares - everybody else can download". Modern print-on-demand technology makes that feasible.

      In any case, with al

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      1899: "We just invented a big carriage that can be hooked up to 50 horses! We're gonna be rich rich rich, and even get our loaned house back!"
         

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by julesh (229690)

      More and more books are being only released in digital format.

      Name a single one that is relevant, by which I mean it has either:

      1) made it into a best seller list somewhere
      2) been a recommended text on an academic course somewhere
      3) been recommended by a well-known newspaper or magazine

      Because believe me, if a book doesn't hit at least one of those criteria, almost nobody cares about it. Because almost nobody's heard of it.

      While I agree that ebooks are, in fact, the future, and that the future is now very

  • I don't see why they don't scan them into digital format using pdfs, or text files. Keeping a physical copy of all the books they want to is going to become a very overwhelming task. Not to mention if it was digital, the content could be indexed and searched much faster by more people.
    • by fantomas (94850) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @11:45AM (#33826220)

      One of the things the British Library is interested in is keeping books, not data. Books are valuable not only for the content but also may be of interest to future generations because of their typography, layout, binding, other aspects of their physical construction. Also it takes a lot more time and money to scan a book rather than putting it on a bookshelf.

      • Don't overlook inventory carrying costs. There are costs associated with maintaining the environment the books are stored in. Heating in the winter, air conditioning in the summer, humidity control, maintaining/repairing the structure, etc.

        Of course you have the same with digital media, periodically copying to newer media etc. If they had digitized in the 70's a lot of this would be on 8" floppy disks and huge disc packs. Forty years from now they might not be able to find a SD card reader or SATA cont

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          It is true that digital archives need to be refreshed to current media however the issue is overblown.

          There was roughly 10 years of overlap between 8" and 5.25" discs.
          There was about 15 years of overlap between 5.25" and 3.5" discs, and nearly 26 years overlap between 3.5" and optical formats (3.5" was available in 1982 and Sony stopped making media in 2008).

          CD and DVD can still be read in current BD drives so that window so conversion is still open.

          Likewise CF debuted in 1994 and is still readable today.

          Th

        • by Amouth (879122)

          they where storing the books in a salt mine.. that pretty much ensures zero humidity and constant temp across seasons.

          just people don't like going to salt mines to read.

    • by Mouldy (1322581)
      Yeah. Lets spend years scanning everything and save it as a PDF/Word/Whatever file that probably won't be readable a few versions down the line. While we're at it, lets store it on Tape/CD/DVD/BluRay/HDD that also won't be readable in years to come. I think just getting a bigger book case is probably the best option as far as long term storage goes.
      • With digital storage, they could fit their entire collection in a single room, and they save things in a totally generic format such as numbered jpgs or even raw bmps. Think raid arrays, and perhaps synced copies at multiple sites in the country. The costs would be negligible compared to physical storage and preservation, and all that money could be put to better use -- like digitising the books and recordings that time hasn't been so kind to.

        The real cost is scanning (and particularly getting permission fr

        • if you look at the pic in TFA it looks like it is just a single room, albeit a very big one.
          • The Bodleian library consists of a complex of several buildings (I should know, I studied in Oxford). Some of the library scenes in the Harry Potter movies were actually shot in the older buildings of the Bodleian..
    • by Markvs (17298) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @11:52AM (#33826342) Journal
      Because technology is fleeting, but paper remains (at least for a few hundred years).
      Consider that the best backup tapes from ten years ago are generally unreadable in most organizations. Nevermind things like Bernoulis, ZIP discs, CDs, 8mm tapes -- it all goes in the junkpile. There is simply no permanent technological solution available at any price. We have a hard time today reading the old NASA tapes from Apollo (and we saved some of that equipment!) Imagine what happens in 2110 when someone wants to find something?
      Heck, even the "Digital Doomsday book" lasted only 15 years instead of 1000! http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2002/mar/03/research.elearning [guardian.co.uk]

      And constantly re-scanning everything in existance every 10 years is not an option. :-(
      • by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash.p10link@net> on Thursday October 07, 2010 @12:13PM (#33826598) Homepage

        And constantly re-scanning everything in existance every 10 years is not an option. :-(
        Probablly the best option at the moment is to keep the data live on servers. As servers become unreliable or uneconomical they get replaced with new ones that store more for a given cost and size. Hard drives are now big enough that this form shouldn't be cost prohibitive. If we assume a megabyte per page (which is way more than needed for most documents) and 1000 pages per book then that is still a couple of thousand books on a modern hard drive!

        Formats becoming obsolete is a possible concern but pdf, png, jpeg etc have all been with us for over a decade and have multiple implementations in both closed and open source software so I don't see the ability to read them going away any time soon and if support does start to decline it should be a gradual process with plenty of warning to get the data converted.

        Heck, even the "Digital Doomsday book" lasted only 15 years instead of 1000! http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2002/mar/03/research.elearning [guardian.co.uk] [guardian.co.uk]

        That is partly because it was a construction before it's time and as such relied on some pretty specialised equipment. It was also an interactive system which is always more complex to handle than noninteractive stuff in standard formats.

        Had it just relied on a BBC micro i'm sure the roms sites would have kept copies and got it running in emulators no problem. The real problem was the special laserdisk player that the system relied on.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by JohnPombrio (1612147)
          Geez folks, Google is your friend. Check out "Digital Preservation, Planets" to find out that all the major libraries ARE digitizing everything they possibly can. They are also qualifying and choosing digital formats that CAN stand the test of time. If the formats change, the Planets committees will adapt and redo the work. This is not just "they should" but "they are." There is nothing special about paper, it's just was was available at the time. Digital is the next logical progressive step in passing kn
      • The archivists finally did manage to decode the Digital Domesday [bbc.co.uk], nine months after your article was written. Still, not every "digital" book is historically significant enough to merit this sort of rescue effort.

      • Because technology is fleeting, but paper remains (at least for a few hundred years) ... We have a hard time today reading the old NASA tapes ... And constantly re-scanning everything in existance every 10 years is not an option.

        Paper is vulnerable to fire, water, mold, etc. Newer paper contains acids resulting in far shorter lifespans than "ancient" paper.

        NASA made the mistake of not copying the analog tapes to any digital media. IIRC they even intentionally destroyed some tapes by reusing them.

        Scanning is a one time event. Once you have a digital copy it is trivial to copy, backup or move to another media or newer device.

        While any particular digital media/device may be temporary in nature the Oxford data would most like

      • Why would you rescan?

        Scan and store in multiple open formats archived across multiple redundant servers (each contains multiple redundant discs).

        Yeah there are technological dead-ends by staying to general purpose hardware, converting data to current formats periodically (like once every other decade) there is no reason a digital archive can't be readable forever.

        There is significant cost to physical storage. Temperature & Humidity control isn't cheap and neither are fire prevention & security syst

      • by VJ42 (860241) *

        Because technology is fleeting, but paper remains (at least for a few hundred years).

        Indeed, the British Library had it's original copy of the Magna Carta on display last year, that was written in 1215 and was still readable*; admittedly it was velum and not paper but the principle is the same.

        *it wasn't understandable, modern english but the individual characters were readable even if I didn't understand it.

      • The really trouble isn't technology it is level of comfort. Computers can go tits up for reasons that you don't readily understand or comprehend. When a physical book is destroyed there are indicators or a clear reason for it to occur. This makes people feel they have more control and perceived safety in storing the books in hard copy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cheesewire (876598)

      Keeping a physical copy of all the books they want to is going to become a very overwhelming task

      Given their hundreds of years of experience with an ever-growing collection, I'm confident they know what they're getting themselves into. Consider that their historical entitlement to receive a copy of each book published in the UK dates back to the early 1600s [ox.ac.uk].

      The library website implies that they do have digital resources. As for replacing physical with digital, consider that keeping a physical copy of each b

    • 'cos pdf is shit.

      If you want to scan use deja vu.

  • Sounds like a fairly generous timeframe.

  • How much of that space is filled with Harry Potter? Do they get a copy of every revision of every version, including the foreign language versions? That has to be several Rain Forests worth, or at least one Library of Congress.

    • I suspect the foreign language versions are not actually published in the UK but rather published under license by a publisher in the country where that language is spoken. As far as harry potter, IIRC the whole set takes up about a foot of shelf space on my daughters bookcase.
    • by Megahard (1053072)
      All versions of the Harry Potter books are stored in the Room of Requirement.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeremy Erwin (2054)

      I expect the Bodlein library has a retention policy not unlike the the Library of Congress's. They're entitled to receive copies, but not every copy is kept.

      • by RichiH (749257)

        The German national library is entitled to three copies and they keep them. I don't see why they would _not_ keep them....

        Salt mines sound perfect. Salt mines guarantee, by the very existence of the salt, that they are pretty stable over geological time-spans.

  • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Thursday October 07, 2010 @11:35AM (#33826094) Homepage

    The Library has been housing the collection in a salt mine

    they sent their poets to the salt mines, ... in the UK we sent their poetry there instead!

    I have read some of the modern poets, a salt mine seems like the best destination for much of what they produced ....

    • by Zephyr14z (907494)
      I know you're being funny, but do you mean modern or contemporary? An important distinction.
  • Easy (Score:4, Funny)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Thursday October 07, 2010 @11:38AM (#33826132)
    They were helped when the LHC testing at CERN caused a subspace distortion rift into the Unseen University's library on Discworld, so there's more space in that wing than is actually there. It's... quantum. It's actually 153 *thousand* miles of shelf space, so lots of room, but it smells like bananas all the time for some reason.
  • on the now abandoned salt mine.
  • because of the library's historic entitlement to a copy of every volume published in the UK.

    Is that everything published, even foreign works published in the UK or just things that originated in the U.K.

    If so, why does that sound so small?

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      Just things that originate in the UK and in the Republic of Ireland.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by julesh (229690)

      Is that everything published, even foreign works published in the UK or just things that originated in the U.K.

      AIUI, it is everything that is published in the UK. This includes foreign works in cases where there is an organisation acting as a publisher in the UK, but not if the publisher is outside the UK and retailers import directly from them.

      If so, why does that sound so small?

      Because unlike the US Library of Congress or the British Museum, the Bodleian only gets the stuff they specifically request, whi

  • Salt mines don't burn.
  • A good scanner would solve all your problems. Digitize everything and recycle the paper. All that paper is useless if no one has access to it. How often do people actually go down into the salt mine to retrieve a book?

    • by VJ42 (860241) * on Thursday October 07, 2010 @01:08PM (#33827388)

      A good scanner would solve all your problems. Digitize everything and recycle the paper. All that paper is useless if no one has access to it. How often do people actually go down into the salt mine to retrieve a book?

      The British Library has a copy of the Magna carta from 1215, I saw it on display last year & it was perfectly readable being written on velum. OTOH digitisation has given me a box full of useless floppy disks that I can't read due to the fact that my computer no longer has a floppy drive; there's no point getting a USB floppy as the data on these disks is meant for my dads old Atati ST. I'll stick with the technology that's proven to last a thousand years rather than the one that has failed to last even 30.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bill_mcgonigle (4333) *

        rather than the one that has failed to last even 30.

        The Magna Carta didn't survive because it was left out in somebody's barn for 800 years. Take care of your stuff over the generations and it'll last.

        Computer generations are faster, but I think the bigger problem is that we've been able to keep more stuff than we could store until just about now. I'm putting together a little 5x1.5TB ZFS box for home, and I don't think I have the data to fill it. That's a first. But I guess it's like having 153 miles

    • Paper in a mine doesn't need a farad cage to exist after the Goldeneye hits.

    • by RichiH (749257)

      I live and breathe computers and the fact that you want to _destroy_ the original sources tells me that you don't.

      And even if you copy to new tapes every five years, just have civilsation collapse for a few dozen years and... Yay... Papyrus and paper records survived hundreds and thousands of years. Stone and clay records longer than that.

  • Oxford Expands Library with 153 miles of shelves, adds 100 janitorial staff and 200 air filtration systems just to dust them off.
    Alternatively, 246.229632 kilometers of shelves were added (for those who will only officially recognize the metric system.)
  • And you're in the biggest library in the Universe! Look me up!
  • Ever try to prop a door open with a DVD?
    • by julesh (229690)

      Ever try to prop a door open with a DVD?

      Fail. The correct digital medium to prop open a door with is a hard disk. Preferably with the case partially removed so that visitors can see the platters. That's what I have my office door propped open with right now.

  • That salt mine might be a safer place than a surface building to house such a wonderful trove of books. I would be happier if they made digital copies and brought the copies to the surface for students and the public to use. The fire that wiped out the ancient great library at Alexandria should be instructive to us in this modern era. So much was lost. It must not happen again.

  • for my wife's and my book collection, which currently takes up space in every room of our house.
  • They must have taken over Warehouse 12.

Possessions increase to fill the space available for their storage. -- Ryan

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