Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library, gave a talk last night as part of the University College London’s 21st Century Curation series
She had some good points about what makes a 21st-century digital library, but the real focus of the presentation was on the library’s inclusion of Web2 technologies within the resources they are making available online. Projects such as the Archival Sound Recordings allow users to tag content.
While such a focus on user-friendly features is maybe not a surprise for an institution forced to justify its broader public remit, it was odd to see such a focus on Web2 to a relatively sophisticated audience.
Web2 technologies are great, but they have to be based on a bedrock of other skills and expertise for them to work. The sound recordings project mentioned above could not have worked with the in-depth knowledge of project staff in selecting, creating, processing, cataloguing and delivering the audio material. Web2 tools only come into play once you have created or digitised high-quality material.
UK research libraries hold thousands of nineteenth-century pamphlets of interest to historians, linguists, politicians, genealogists and students and learners of all ages. But this material is not straightforward to digitise – the pamphlets sit in many different libraries (sometimes duplicated in many libraries), are of different quality and binding, use different typefaces, are sometimes annotated or include adverts and have various other qualities which impede a straightforward workflow.
As part of their digitisation programme, funding body JISC commissioned scoping study on the pamphlets to determine various issues in advance of the project as a whole. These include
- developing selection criteria
- benchmarks for OCRing
- planning a workflow
- agreeing metadata standards
The resulting study gives an excellent basis for this project, but also a helpful guide for other projects having to digitise a wide range of heterogeneous material.