Introducing our 2019 Innovators in Residence Brian Foo and Ben Lee. Learn more about their backgrounds and experience, as well as what they plan to accomplish during their residencies.
The Digital Content Management Section (DCM) is excited to announce the release of over 1.7 million images scanned from the Library of Congress U.S. Telephone Directory Collection. These images originate from thousands of reels of black and white microfilm held in the Main Reading Room – now available on the Library’s website. The process for getting […]
Discussion of the progress toward the goals of the five year plan described in Collecting Digital Content at the Library of Congress, with emphasis on the six objectives of the framework and a list of notable accomplishments in FY2019.
A lab is where experimental and research-focused tools, methods, and services are incubated. The starting premise for a lab is often wanting to spur change and make space for new practice and new people. Yet calling something a lab can also signal separation between traditional services and new approaches. Labs, and innovation in general, can seem like a passing fad that promotes shallow thinking about the application of digital technologies. Considering the limited resources and lack of cutting-edge technologies available at most galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAMs), should GLAMs consider opening labs?
To begin to answer this question, the British Library Lab, which opened in 2013, held a meeting in September of 2018 called “Building Library Labs” to start a conversation among practitioners who were currently running a lab or thinking of opening one. There was a lively enough discussion to warrant another meeting in March of 2019 in Copenhagen. The buzz from these events created a community of “labbers” and the lab-interested that has grown to 250 participants from 20 countries.
Even with this momentum and interest, participants identified a need to articulate lab values, share relevant experience and case studies, and suggest some best practices for those starting up cultural heritage innovation labs. One year after the first gathering in late September 2019, a group of 16 librarians, developers, archivists, curators and academics from around the world (including myself) landed in Doha, Qatar, to embark on a BookSprint, a collaborative and rapid publishing methodology to write a book in five days.
At the end of that five days, the authors strongly argue, yes, “Open a GLAM Lab”.
Labs can be directly tied to achieving the missions of GLAMs and they can be inclusive change-makers. GLAM Labs build on the work of their institutions to create, preserve and provide access to collections. They can work with and share new technologies and methods for creating and disseminating expertise embedded in and adjacent to cultural and memory organizations. By explicitly inviting new users into GLAMs and designing new partnerships with communities, labs can address contemporary challenges around reaching new audiences, collaborating with communities, and sharing the value of collections broadly.
Tools and services created in a GLAM Lab are not devised as permanent. Therefore, space emerges where researchers, artists, educators and the interested public can collaborate with a group of partners with the time and remit to explore questions that help create new collections, tools, and services. These outcomes help transform the future ways in which knowledge and culture are disseminated. The exchange, experimentation and data created in a Lab are open, iterative and shared widely, which can feel risky to authoritative organizations. But GLAMs are full of people who are passionate about connecting collections to communities; Labs provide opportunities to combine new ideas with the deep expertise of existing staff and a mechanism to imagine and test future possibilities.
All this positive thinking about the future of digital transformation in GLAMS can be contagious, and we (the authors) hope that it is. But, there is very hard work involved and a resilient mindset is required. Bureaucracy-hacking, risk-taking and reacting to criticism are all everyday activities in a Lab. It is challenging to navigate ingrained processes, anxieties, user expectations, and technical limitations while generating momentum toward future progress. Not all experiments or partnerships end with the hoped for results. Labs can help articulate criteria and provide evidence for hard choices that GLAMs make everyday.
As exciting as the new methods and technical possibilities are, people are the center of a GLAM Lab. Only through engaging with people can you change the culture and direction of an organization. A GLAM Lab helps to translate expertise and generosity from across the organization to make collections and technologies approachable and usable. Establishing values for a GLAM Lab provides guiding principles for how to engage with partners and communities. Nurturing staff and taking an inclusive and transparent approach to engaging with collaborators and user communities help to ensure all groups feel welcome and supported in lab environments.
People were also at the center of the experience of writing the book. Capturing the collective experience and perspective from 16 people was a unique experience. As we reflected in the Introduction: Making this book was hard but is was also very special. The themes you see reflected in this book: being open to experimentation, risk-taking, iteration, and transformation also capture the methodology of the BookSprint. The process of extracting ideas from sixteen heads and making a coherent narrative under extremely tight deadlines sometimes got messy. There were highs and lows, moments of brilliance, feelings that we’d never finish, and very late nights. We had to push each other to keep going, be uncomfortable, debate, disagree, come to a decision, and move forward to finish. Sometimes we didn’t do this well, but we were always able to come together again. The five days of intense work resulted in a book, but it also resulted in a very bonded group that is galvanized to make positive change. The process allowed diverse experiences and perspectives to meld together into a unified book that we hope you find useful in answering questions about why time, space and resources for experimentation are important to create.
You can download the open access e-book from http://glamlabs.io and sign up for the GLAM Lab listserv for updates. The book is a collective product with contributions from Mahendra Mahey, Abigail Potter, Aisha Al-Abdulla, Armin Straube, Caleb Derven, Ditte Laursen, Gustavo Candela, Katrine Gasser, Kristy Kokegei, Lotte Wilms, Milena Dobreva-McPherson, Paula Bray, Sally Chambers, Sarah Ames, Sophie-Carolin Wagner and Stefan Karner who are from the following institutions.
- Austrian National Library, Austria
- The British Library, UK
- Fundación Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, Spain
- Ghent Centre for Digital Humanities, Ghent University, Belgium
- History Trust of South Australia, Australia
- Library of Congress, USA
- KB National Library of the Netherlands, The Netherlands
- National Library of Scotland, UK
- Qatar University Library, Qatar
- The Royal Danish Library, Denmark
- State Library of New South Wales, Australia
- UCL Qatar, Qatar
- University of Alicante, Spain
- University of Limerick, Ireland
The University College London, Qatar, Qatar University, the British Library and the Library of Congress provided funding to hold the BookSprint. Read more »
The Digital Content Management section has been working on a project to extract and make available sets of files from the Library’s significant Web Archives holdings. This is another step to explore the Web Archives and make them more widely accessible and usable. Our aim in creating these sets is to identify reusable, “real world” […]
Celebrating the 1 year anniversary of By the People, the Library of Congress crowdsourcing platform that engages volunteers to explore and connect to Library of Congress collections while enhancing searchability, readability, and research use of digitized collections. In the last year over 11,000 volunteers have registered and even more have contributed anonymously to complete transcription of over 31,000 digital collection pages, with 55,000 awaiting peer review.
Over the past two years, my colleagues and I in the Digital Content Management section have been working with experts from across many divisions of the Library of Congress to collate and assemble guidance and policy that guide or reflect the practices that the Library uses to manage digital collections. I am excited to share […]
This is a guest post by Camille Salas, a Senior Digital Collections Specialist in the Digital Content Management Section in Library Services. Staff of the Library’s Digital Content Management Section hosted nine participants in an Association of Research Libraries (ARL) initiative this summer, arranging presentations and tours throughout the institution. The ARL Fellowship for Digital […]
The following is an announcement from funding and cultural organizations from the United States and the United Kingdom about a new collaboration supporting digital scholarship. The Library of Congress Labs team is co-hosting a workshop to kick-off international collaborations around digital scholarship. Partners in the UK and the US are coming together to collaborate on the […]
Interview with University of Nebraska-Lincoln research team about their machine learning approaches and experience working with Library of Congress collections and LC Labs team.