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LC Labs Letter: September 2022

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September 2022

Monthly News from the Library of Congress Labs Team

Our team, LC Labs, turns 5 this month! In September 2017, the Library established a group of innovation specialists to support creative uses of the digital collections. LC Labs works with colleagues around the institution to help throw open the Library’s treasure chest, connect more deeply with researchers and the public, and cultivate a culture of continuous learning. Over the past five years, we’ve done just that!

This month’s issue contains exciting updates on the 2020 Staff Innovator project, a walk down memory lane, and a look to the future with our new Chief, Laurie Allen! Enjoy.


Q&A with Laurie Allen, Chief of LC Labs

The LC Labs team is excited to share that our colleague Laurie Allen has been selected as the new Chief of the Digital Innovation Lab (LC Labs)! In her new role, Laurie will lead LC Labs’ experiments into the digital collections and the team’s support of the Library’s ongoing digital transformation.

Laurie brings decades of experience in libraries and digital librarianship to her position as Chief – read this interview to learn more about her background and discover her thoughts about the future of LC Labs.


Born Digital Access! Where are we Now?

The Manuscript Division (MSS) is excited to announce the launch of a born-digital access workstation in the Manuscript Division Reading Room, located in the Library’s Madison Building in Washington, DC. The workstation’s specialized software means it can render born-digital collection materials, which have inherent, unique challenges related to preservation, appraisal, and access. Practically speaking, this new workstation makes it possible for interested researchers to come onsite and access thousands of files in over 120 collections held by the Manuscript Division.

The workstation represents the fruition of the 2020 Staff Innovator project, Born Digital Access Now!. Staff Innovators Chad Conrady and Kathleen O’Neill identified the barriers to accessing the full range of the Manuscript Division’s born-digital holdings. With the help of staff in the Manuscript Division, LC Labs, and OCIO, Conrady and O’Neill stewarded this solution to meet the division’s goal of improving access to and engaging researchers with born-digital materials.

Now, the Manuscript Division is looking for researchers! Most notably, many science and journalism collections, previously impacted by the lack of emulation tools, are now more easily accessible. MSS born-digital holdings span the late 1970s to the present and include the papers of scientists like Nina V. Fedoroff and Edward N. Lorenz. To find out more about what materials are available, please browse or search the MSS Finding Aids or ask a librarian in the Manuscript Division. You may also directly call (202) 707-5387 or email to set up an appointment to use the workstation in the reading room. Please help us spread the word!


Five Years of LC Labs

Through research, experimentation, and collaborations with other federal agencies and cultural heritage groups, LC Labs has helped some of the Library’s brightest ideas become vivid reality. The original Library of Congress API has evolved into three distinct services and an array of machine-readable access methods. The early Beyond Words crowdsourcing pilot has grown into By the People, now a permanent Library program with thousands of dedicated volunteers. The efforts of the Library’s very first Innovator in Residence, data artist Jer Thorp, now sit in company with ideas from Brian FooBenjamin Lee, and Courtney McClellan. And numerous other investigations have explored machine learningspeech-to-text transcriptionemulation environments, and other ways of using technology to help make the collections more available.

Join us in celebrating our anniversary by looking back at some of our most illuminating research and collaborations since 2017.



  • LC Labs calls for shared ML framework at iPres 2022: Team members Abbey Potter and Meghan Ferriter presented alongside the authors of the Digital Preservation Coalition’s Beginners’ Guide to Computational Access at last week’s International Conference on Digital Preservation. In their talk, Abbey and Meghan proposed a step toward collaboratively generating a LAM-specific framework for understanding and implementing ML and AI technologies built on the long-term stewardship and ethical responsibilities of cultural heritage organizations.

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Comments (2)

  1. I wonder whether some born digital files are also available online? Can some be requested without coming to the library in person? Or do all people who want to look into them need to come to the library?
    Thank you!

    • Born-digital collection material is currently not available online. However, some born-digital collection material can be sent to offsite researchers pending a review of the requested files and subject to any access restrictions set out in the Gift Agreement. Only processed, open collections are available to researchers. To identify collections with born-digital materials, search the MSS Finding Aids using the search term “digital ID” and limit the search to the Manuscript Division. Do not select “contains links to digital content”. Contact the Manuscript Reading Room reference staff to request offsite access. Manuscript Division reference staff will conduct a review of the request and let you know if your request has been approved.

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