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'10,000-year Library' Conference

The Long Now Foundation and Stanford University Libraries held an invitational conference, "The 10,000-year Library," June 30 - July 2, 02000 on the Stanford campus sponsored by the Lazy Eight Foundation. Two dozen participants - including Elizabeth Niggeman head of the German National Library; cuneiform expert William Hallo of Yale University; leading innovators in high-tech, such as Brewster Kahle the creator of the Internet Archive, Council on Library and Information Resources director Deanna Marcum; and others - joined the Long Now board (Michael A. Keller, Danny Hillis, Stewart Brand, Paul Saffo, Kevin Kelly, Peter Schwartz, and Doug Carlston) and librarians to deliberate on the permanence of information and the nature and need for long-term thinking about it. (See complete list of current attendees at the bottom of this page.)

In a time of accelerating technology, accelerating history, and a dangerous shortening of civilization's attention span, the role of libraries becomes deeper than ever. Libraries need to be rethought in the new context and in the light of civilization's now-global and very long term responsibilities. Some new initiatives need to be set in motion. The conference participants will address needed directions for such initiatives. According to Stewart Brand, co-chairman of the Long Now board, "We want to jump-start some serious, collaborative thinking about how to see information - the real narrative of civilization - in very long-term ways. We're talking in part about technology, but it goes much deeper, right to the root of why we are here, what we're doing, and what kind of legacy do we want to leave to our descendents and to their successors."

"Stewardship of cultural content is the essential role of research libraries," says Stanford University Librarian Michael A. Keller. "Serious players in this field have always collected, organized, and preserved information - OK, books, mostly - on behalf of future generations, but up to now, we haven't really thought seriously about how many such generations, or how to think about the mission in terms of thousands of years. Digital information technologies, with their notorious instability, force us to reassess how we go about fulfilling this mission hereafter. So we are an interested party. But nobody knows what the important questions are, to say nothing of solutions. This conference has been tremendously valuable in helping to pose the right questions." Adds Brand, "The issues are pan-disciplinary, so the group we're bringing together is as broad as we can make it with a small group."

The format was similar to what Long Now used successfully in 1998 at the Getty Center in Los Angeles with a related conference called "Time & Bits: Managing Digital Continuity." The participants met for dinner and introductions Friday evening; scheme and probe all day Saturday; spell out next steps Sunday morning, and sum up and for a public audience Sunday afternoon. The public event - for invited press, scholars, technologists, and others - also included a question & answer session. Delivered at the conference was be the first prototype of the 'Rosetta Disk' also being produced under the Lazy Eight Foundation Grant. This modern Rosetta is a micro-etched nickel two inch disk which includes all the worlds translations of the book of Genesis written at a scale to be read by microscopes.

The Long Now Foundation was officially established in 01996 to develop the 10,000-Year Clock and 10,000-Year Library projects as well as to become the seed of a very long term cultural institution. It has been nearly 10,000 years since the end of the last ice age and the beginnings of civilization. Progress during that time was often measured on a "faster/cheaper" scale. The Long Now Foundation seeks to promote "slower/better" thinking and to focus our collective creativity on the next 10,000 years. One of its related projects is development of the Rosetta Disk, a long-term linguistic archive and translation engine that allows for the recovery of "lost" languages in the deep future, the storage technology for which is a 2" nickel disk which records analog text and images at densities up to 350,000 pages per disk, with a life expectancy of 2,000-10,000 years. For more information about the Long Now Foundation: http://www.longnow.org/

Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources (SUL/AIR) develops and implements resources and services within the University libraries and academic technology units that support research and instruction. With collections containing over seven million volumes and numerous of archival, manuscript, map, media, government document, database and serial materials among its fourteen libraries, SUL/AIR coordinates with Stanford's Business, Law, Medical, and SLAC libraries and the Hoover Institution to provide comprehensive information resources to the Stanford Community. The Academic Information Resources division provides information-technology support and instruction and network services to the entire campus community, whether in the library or in the dorm. SUL/AIR's HighWire Press division provides advanced online publication and access services to over 170 of the world's leading peer-reviewed scholarly journals in science, technology, and medicine, and thus is significantly involved in the provision of information to the world's research and academic communities. For more information about the Stanford Libraries: http://www-sul.stanford.edu

The Lazy Eight Foundation is a non-profit, charitable organization dedicated to promoting research and development in the sciences and education. It supports efforts to bring together scientists, artists, and educators across disciplines, with a focus on projects that offer creative solutions to educational, social and environmental problems. The Lazy Eight Foundation works with its "Lazers," individuals from a broad range of disciplines who advise the Foundation on various projects. For more information about the Lazy Eight Foundation: http://www.lazy8.org

Library Conference 02000 Attendees