Brewster Kahle - preserving the world's knowledge - digitally and physically

March 5, 2012

Brewster KahleBrewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive and visiting scholar at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was featured in the March 3, 2012 issue of the New York Times. The article refers to Kahle as a "latter-day Noah" whose goal is to not only digitize the contents of all books available to preserve them and make them accessible for future readers and researchers, but to preserve printed volumes as well. 

According to the NY Times article titled, "In a Flood Tide of Digital Data, an Ark Full of Books," he is preserving the physical books and film in 40 foot shipping containers located north of San Francisco, CA. His intent is to collect 10 million books and films in the storage units for future upgrades and as a kind of disaster recovery plan.

"What if, for example, digitization improves and we need to copy the books again?" Kahle is quoted as asking. “Microfilm and microfiche were once a utopian vision of access to all information, but it turned out we were very glad we kept the books.” 

He also refers to historical documents that were lost, including the Library of Alexandria. 

“We must keep the past even as we’re inventing a new future,” he said. “If the Library of Alexandria had made a copy of every book and sent it to India or China, we’d have the other works of Aristotle, the other plays of Euripides. One copy in one institution is not good enough.” 
Libraries looking to free up space in their buildings are happy to accommodate Kahle's quest by offering little used and duplicate volumes and in some cases their film collections.

University of Florida dean of Libraries and SILS Board of Visitor member, Judith Russell, says that her library is sending duplicate scholarly volumes to Kahle. She is quoted as saying, “It’s very much more palatable to us and our faculty that books are being sent out to a useful purpose rather than just recycled.”

Preserving and making accessible the world's knowledge has been Kahle's goal since he came up with the idea for an Internet archive. He indicates that this is still his mission.

“There used to be all these different models of what the Internet was going to be, and one of them was the great library that would offer universal access to all knowledge,” he said in the article. “I’m still working on it.”

SILS Board of Visitor member, Wayne Pond, conducted a live interview with Brewster Kahle a few years ago on Pond's radio broadcast, Soundings. The interview includes questions and answers about the Internet Archive and Kahle's plans and vision to make knowledge available to as many as possible via the Internet. To hear the interview, please click here and then on click on the program title.