People like to prepare for end of the world, and sometimes they use libraries to do it.
There is, of course, the Survivor Library, a digital collection of over 7,000 freely available PDFs intended to help humanity rebuild after a cataclysm. It contains information about “[h]ow to make water safe to drink. How to build a weather proof shelter from available materials. How to build a fire….[And how] to build a new infrastructure which can eventually replace what was lost.”
It all sounds a bit melodramatic, but the Library Index with its sections on accounting, livestock, and welding is interesting to peruse if nothing else.
However, I am more of a romantic about the end of the world. (Or perhaps just more of a historian.) I worry about preserving books that I love. Luckily folks in Norway share similar concerns.
Far to the north in an archipelago called Svalbard near the North Pole sit several vaults, each haunted by ice and the Northern Lights. The first of these is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which contains emergency samples of Earth’s plant seeds to protect them in the event of an emergency. As of February 2017, the Vault contained over 930,000 sample sets, each containing around 500 seeds. But humanity is built on books as much as it is on agriculture.
To that end, several groups coordinated to create a second vault in Svalbard. This one, the World Arctic Archive, is intended to house digital versions of books and documents from all around the world. Rather than use hard drives to store the data, the process relies on a type of film, which is a more reliable storage medium and is not vulnerable to cyber attacks. The company Piql, which developed the new technology, believes that their film will be able to safely store data for 1,000 years.
At the moment, only Norway, Brazil, and Mexico are taking advantage of the World Arctic Archive, but the project is still young. Other countries will likely join the project, and books such as To Kill a Mockingbird and The Illiad will no doubt make their way into the digital archive. (Or who knows? Perhaps the curators of the Archive have a sense of humor and will focus on preserving books like 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and Brave New World first.)
Though I hope that there is never any need for the World Arctic Archive, I appreciate that it exists. Even if I’m not entirely sure how after the end of the world people will manage to make their way to the frozen islands of what was once Norway.