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Library of Congress advised to start collecting Web pages

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WASHINGTON — The world's biggest library could turn into just a "museum of books" unless it gets started this year on long-range plans to collect and secure the rising flood of digital information, a federal advisory panel warned on Wednesday.

If there are any questions about the right of the Library of Congress to collect material from American Web sites, the National Research Council said in a thick report, it should try to get the law changed to make clear that it has the right.

"(The Library) serves no narrow set of interests but the broadest public purposes of a powerful nation," the report said. "It represents the commitment of the governing bodies of that nation to a strategy of preserving the heritage of the past and making it useful for the future."

The National Research Council advises the federal government, the public and the country's scientists and engineers. A committee prepared the report under the leadership of James J. O'Donnell, chief information officer and vice provost of the University of Pennsylvania.