Session 4

Session 4: Managing & renovating Collections

Wednesday 6th July – 14.45-16.15

Chair: Heli Kautonen, Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura – Finnish Literature Society, Finland

4.1 Bridging the Gap: Enhancing Digital Discoverability of Special Collections, Adam Barry, Lean Library, United Kingdom, Andrew Barker, Lancaster University, United Kingdom

As we move through the digital age, certain areas of the library are becoming less and less discoverable. In 2021, Lean Library published the Librarian Futures report, with various findings on user-centricity. Modern patron workflows now begin outside the library, with 79% of faculty and 74% of students beginning discovery outside of the library’s tools, on websites such as Google Scholar. Modern consumers are used to ‘point of need’ information, getting the content and information where and when they need it, rather than having to leave their workflow and look for it elsewhere. 
 
The report also uncovered the lack of awareness of the full extent of library services available to patrons; when students were asked what sources of information they used the most, the librarian was used the same amount as Wikipedia. This disconnect between the library services available and patron usage may be due to the large number of libraries that have not yet embedded their services around the workflow of their users. 
 
Lancaster University’s vision for 2025 includes a specific focus on user-centred strategies and ensuring visibility of content at the point of need. As the research heart of the university, they are beginning to think differently about what the library does and how it engages with its users. Working with Lean Library, Lancaster University have begun to use existing workflow tools to support their visions for the future, including adopting user-first strategies and expanding focus into new areas of library provision, such as surfacing special collections. 
 
As a small research-intensive university, Lancaster University collaborated with the University of Cambridge on the Lancaster Digital Collections, based on a digital collection that Cambridge created to raise visibility of their distinct collections. Where special collections and archives were previously locked away in rooms, they can now surface this content online and, using Lean Library, deliver to patrons at the point of need. 
 
This presentation will include a summary of key findings from the Librarian Futures report, along with an overview of how Lancaster University have worked with Lean Library to increase discoverability of their special collections, ensuring these resources remain easily accessible to patrons in their workflow, and fostering an open, collaborative community. Working as partners, Lancaster University and Lean Library have continued the transition of the library into a digital space, bridging the gap between the physical and digital collections, and bringing specialist knowledge to the wider library community. 

4.2 De-coding our Collections : Enhancing data literacy, research, and outreach through cultural heritage hackathons, Karolina Andersdotter, Åbo Akademi University, Finland, Uppsala University Library, Sweden

Research libraries are putting in a lot of effort to make their collections available to researchers, students, and the general public. Through digitisation, crowdsourcing of metadata, online exhibitions, and initiatives focused on creativity and remixing, the cultural heritage of Europe is made available and put into a contemporary spotlight, whether it is through artificial intelligence image analysis or quarantine at-home remakes of famous paintings.

While making collections accessible in online repositories and search portals is important, challenges remain in increasing interaction with the digitised collections. One way of doing this has been to use crowdsourcing. This co-producing method increases exploration and interaction with collections, but yields varying results in terms of coverage and quality. Crowdsourcing is continuously explored and evaluated in many fields of science, and one identified success factor is community building.

As a librarian I wanted to explore how we as a research library could facilitate community building in crowdsourcing while also experimenting with novel ways to enhance collection metadata, teach data literacy, and support research projects.

In terms of digital humanities, it is important to de-mystify data and coding, so that digital humanities researchers can have an audience who understands their methods (even if they cannot apply them). The (albeit constantly renegotiated) gap between digital humanities and humanities needs to be bridged, and libraries teaching data literacy is a partial solution to this issue.

In this case study, I sum up the experiences from eight cultural heritage hackathons I organised in 2018-2020. The hackathons were connected to five different themes, related either to humanities research projects or to specific parts of the library collections.

While a “traditional” hackathon focus on writing code together, the cultural heritage hackathons were focused on performing a digital task together. The term “hackathon” was chosen to de-mystify data as a concept and to bring different user groups together. (In the physical events we also fully embraced the hackathon trope of soft drinks, pizza, and coffee.)

In the hackathons, participants were tasked with adding or editing data (e.g. OCR corrections, transcriptions, geotagging, image tagging). Difficulties, clarifications and common practices (e.g. deciding transcription conventions) were discussed and solved among the participants, creating an atmosphere of trust and co-ownership. The hackathons varied in type of audience (some were open for all, others only for invited participants (so-called “expert sourcing”)), medium (online, hybrid, physical events) and tools (spreadsheets, dedicated platforms, or built-in solutions).

The multipronged approach aimed to cater to several stakeholders at once and partially succeeded with this goal. However, some issues (e.g sustainability and completion rate) still need to be solved. The experiences from the hackathons have resulted in best practices and recommendations for libraries who wish to explore this methodology further.

An important outcome is knowledge of the role libraries can play as an intermediary between researchers, the general public, and librarians, and how this can result in mutually beneficial practices between all parties, thus enhancing data literacy skills, supporting research, and increasing library outreach. 

4.3 Landscaping with books — How to repurpose the print collection to foster community building and knowledge creation , Michiel Cock, David Oldenhof, University Library Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands

As many other libraries, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam faces the challenge of dealing with a large but very little used print collection. In 2021, we started the project Omboeken (“Rebook”) in order to repurpose our print collection in innovative ways. In our paper, we will outline several approaches and illustrate how print collections can contribute to fostering community building and knowledge creation in a 21st-century library. 
 
To assess the different values and potentialities of our books, we identified four categories: 1) rare books, 2) books for research and teaching, 3) books for inspiration and 4) books for artistic endeavors and social activities. One of the most interesting aspects of analysing a large print collection with modern computational tools is the possibility of exploring the collection with a data driven approach, instead of working with long lists of titles. Furthermore, in developing the collections and the accompanying activities, we use the principles of Design Thinking that stimulate creativity and experimentation. In our paper, we explore how we have applied these tools to stimulate our own research mindset. 
 
The innovative core of the project consists of books from categories 3 and 4. For the selection of books for inspiration, we co-create with researchers and students from different disciplines to curate “inspiration libraries” based on the Sustainable Development Goals. In the paper, we will outline the initial experimentation with building a Pride Library, the Decolonization Lab and the Green Office Library. By collaborating with these groups, we intend to provide student communities with spaces where books, art and community building come together. Furthermore, these libraries make VU research themes visible and foster interdisciplinary knowledge creation. 
 
Finally, we will discuss a case study pertaining to the last category, books that have lost their informational value (due to their online availability or outdated content) but still have value as objects. One of the goals of the project is to explore the value of books on campus in the form of artworks. We will present the “Pantheon of Humanity”, an artwork fully created with books which aims to create a campus environment that fosters creativity and a researching mindset. 
 
With our paper we would like to share our approach and hope to inspire other librarians to develop a new perspective on the value of their print collections. 

Lighting talk:

Can Brocade be friends with data science? An implementation story, Linda Sīle-Shriram, Alain Descamps, University of Antwerp Library, Belgium

The last decade has witnessed numerous initiatives that celebrate the wealth of data within libraries. Attempts have been made to reconceptualise library collections as data and render them usable within computational research. Library analytics have become more elaborated and offer increasingly detailed insights drawing upon data on library transactions. Similarly, libraries play an increasingly active role in open science and research intelligence. All these different developments set new demands for library information systems. 
 
In this talk, we present a two-year infrastructure project that was launched in December 2021. The goal of this project is to open up for the use of computational methods the data that are stored and generated within Brocade. Brocade is a library information system developed and maintained at the University of Antwerp library since 1998 and implemented in more than 40 research and specialised libraries, musea, and archives within the Antwerp and Limburg provinces in Belgium. Within the project, we, first, implement a technical solution that enables exploratory querying of Brocade data. Second, we audit the current uses of Brocade data and design tools that would ease the work of library staff as well as make the data available for library users and other information systems. The focus of this talk is on our implementation strategy and tools for library staff. 
 
Making use of concrete examples from library routines we discuss the challenges faced in libraries today: How to make the best use of data that are stored within library systems? How to best facilitate access to these data? What should be regarded as data in this context? This discussion along with the concrete steps we have taken towards a data science infrastructure in a library information system serves as a case study that contributes to the ongoing developments within the library domain. 

51st LIBER Annual Conference