Session 8

Session 8: Research Libraries on a Mission: Engaging the Public

Thursday 27th June 2019 – 9:45-11:15

Chair: Siobhán Dunne, The Library of Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

8.1 The Social Mission of 21st Century Research Libraries: Building Data Literate Communities

Sheila Mary Corrall, University of Pittsburg, United States of America


The datafication of research, higher education, and society has made data literacy a key requirement for academic and professional success. It is also a prerequisite for successful participation in citizen science, open government, community development, smart healthcare, and social networks. The data revolution has similarly penetrated all areas of frontline and backroom work in libraries and turned research libraries into data-intensive organizations as a result of developments in digital scholarship, bibliometrics and altmetrics, open science, linked open data, learning analytics and data-based decision making. All library workers will increasingly need at least basic competence in dealing with data to contribute effectively in the research library of the future.

Many research libraries have responded to the data challenge by evolving their data literacy support from helping students and faculty to find and use external social data sets to advising on management and sharing of original research data in the context of funder requirements for data management plans. A few libraries have extended the depth and breadth of their data literacy support to cover other areas and involve more library staff via data literacy training. However, our study suggests more radical change in data literacy practice is needed for research libraries to support their communities effectively in the connected data society of the 21st century.

Our research is based on a comprehensive investigation of the impact of data on society and understandings of data literacy among different disciplines, professions, and institutions. We also explored approaches to data literacy education, including information literacy and digital skills practices that could be adopted or adapted to develop data literacy. We supplemented evidence from a variety of literature (research papers, academic textbooks, professional manuals, agency publications, popular treatments, and industry newsletters), with data from project databases and organization websites to capture current thinking and emergent practice in this fast-moving field.

We found significant variation in how different groups and sectors define and position data literacy, which has implications for the scope and focus of library data literacy interventions. We also identified a range of stakeholders as potential collaborators for research libraries in advancing data literacy locally and globally. In addition, we found evidence of research librarians acknowledging responsibility to ensure all staff and students have the digital skills required to be successful in scholarship, employment, and lifelong learning; and another example where librarians successfully delivered an information literacy course helping students to handle information from multiple life perspectives, supporting their information needs across their academic, professional, and personal lives.

We conclude first, that data literacy is an essential competence for all members of society; second, that existing models of data literacy education need to be extended to reflect alternative conceptions of data literacy and cover settings where people interact with data in their personal and social lives; and third, that research libraries are uniquely placed to lead the development of data literacy in society, by virtue of their expertise, structure, and relationships, but should collaborate with salient stakeholders to develop a more diverse and inclusive approach.

Sheila Corrall is Professor of Library and Information Science in the Department of Information Culture and Data Stewardship at the University of Pittsburgh School of Computing and Information, where she is lead faculty for Academic Libraries and teaches courses on academic librarianship, research methods, and scholarly communication. She moved to the USA in 2012 from the University of Sheffield Information School in the UK and in her earlier career served as director of library and information services at three universities and as a senior manager at the British Library. Her research interests include collection development in the digital world, data literacy as a transversal competence, the open movement in higher education, reflective practice in information work, and the social future of academic libraries. She enjoys mentoring and collaborating with practitioner-researchers and currently serves on the editorial boards of six international journals and on the program committees of two international conferences.

8.2 Enriching Europeana: the Crowdsourcing Platform of the European Library

Hui Ting Chung, Austrian National Library, Austria


As the digital platform for cultural heritage, the Europeana Collections preserve over 50 million digitised items from various libraries, museums and other cultural institutions. With digitisation comes the challenge of transforming these materials into useful and searchable information sources. This is particularly problematic for cultural heritage objects with handwritten texts. Digital images of handwritten documents are holding a lot of information that is not included in the metadata provided. The texts are difficult to decipher and it takes a lot of time to read, search and find them. Currently there are no accurate technical solutions for this problem. Automated Handwriting Recognition is a very difficult and error-prone task and technical solutions with high accuracy for character recognition on heterogeneous datasets are not available yet. Due to the lack of machine-interpretable text, it is not possible to perform a search based on the informational content and the covered topics. Similarly, it is presently not possible to use advanced AI technologies for performing exact automatic text processing. Thus, even with increasing automation, the transition from paper format into digitised items is not possible without human resources.

The Enriching Europeana project fills this gap by developing a crowdsourcing platform that will enable citizen science transcription and enrichment campaigns for a wide variety of digital heritage collections in the Europeana library. The aim is, on the one hand, to transcribe, annotate and translate content that is currently only available in image formats and, on the other hand, to improve the accessibility of Europeana content for a diverse group of people. Manual transcription of text material generates high-accuracy resources, supports a better understanding of materials and allows further reuse. It also facilitates the extraction of additional information such as dates, locations, subjects depicted (e.g. in the case of photos or illustrations) and relations with other resources. The newly created information will be integrated with the original collections and made available for the public user in the portals of Europeana, aggregators and content providers. By round-tripping enriched metadata and transcriptions, the Europeana metadata database will be improved and the improvements will be sustained.

The Enriching Europeana platform can be used by non-specialist end users: transcription and enrichment will become an easy, enjoyable and engaging task to perform and users will take part through gamification with competitions, ranking lists, levels and rewards. In order to bring a mixed user base together and to promote greater cross-generational cooperation in crowdsourcing activities, events, called ‘Transcribathons’, will be held during the lifetime of the Enriching Europeana project. A Transcribathon is a marathon-like competition where people form teams and compete against each other in the transcription of selected material within a fixed time. These events provide both a discussion platform and a learning platform.

European citizens will be able to make a meaningful contribution to their shared heritage through joining in the enrichment, transcription and translation activities of Enriching Europeana. By furthering the access to cultural heritage, their personal involvement holds a central role in the formation of European historical narratives.

Hui Ting Chung works as a communication expert for the Enriching Europeana project at the research and development department of the Austrian National Library. Born in Vienna, she studied Management & Entrepreneurship at the FHWien of the WKW and currently she is studying for a Master’s Degree in East Asian Economy and Society at the University of Vienna. After professional stays in Vancouver and Amsterdam, she last worked for the marketing and communications department of the Austrian Red Cross.

8.3 #Protest: Info-Activism, Archive Literacy and Digital Learning

Dr Barry Houlihan, NUI Galway, Ireland


In 2016, a refrain synonymous with the Brexit campaign was “we have had enough of experts”. The phrase signaled a turn in public consciousness regarding the info-sphere that citizens inhabited while also deliberately seeking to silence dissenting voices. Informed and rational discussion is the antithesis of populist discourse. Public intellectual Tony Judt posits that “A well organised society is one in which we know the truth about ourselves collectively, not one in which we tell pleasant lies about ourselves.” (Judt, Schnieder, 2012).

The paper will address new academic modules and projects developed at the Hardiman Library and which reflect and respond to contemporary concerns regarding collective identity, information ethics, and the protest towards info-activism that, I argue, can be sustained through archival literacy.

Protest, in both its physical and online form, are powerful demonstrations against authoritarian thought and propaganda. 2018 and 2019 are years that commemorate the anniversaries of major international protests which were among the first to create a global experience of communal protest – protests in the late 1960s included civil rights in the United States and Northern Ireland, student protests in Paris and Prague and later subsequent events in locations like Apartheid-era South Africa, create an archive of global protest that is being re-animated through digital means today and disseminated and embedded into pedagogical and structured learning environments through libraries and archives.

The dissemination, distortion, and analysis of information, through multiple fora, presents challenges on how to critically judge and analyse information. It moves beyond what is accurate or even ‘scholarly’, but rather to questioning what does evidence mean and how do users encounter and judge that information – trustworthy or not. A myth of archival infallibility is important to question. Gaps in the archive are routine. Records may not have been kept or were destroyed, inadvertently or not. This necessitates a dialogue between user and archive, creating an important space for the archivist as mediator and teacher. Through online and print/material sources, there is instant access to endless information. The archive records, retains and re-disseminates this information to new audiences across generations. Whether this re-transmission of information happens objectively and passively bears the responsibility of mediation – a responsibility to encounter the archive through critical thought.

By using a mixed-media of information sources, from official publications, digitised news footage, diaries, private correspondence, and public ephemera retained within political activist archives at the Hardiman Library of NUI Galway, reveal how the politics and ethics of information creates new opportunities for impactful academic and public learning.

A blended learning approach, combining pedagogical pillars – digital search skills and metadata, source identification, critical evaluation and academic writing – allied with collaborative academic partnerships, enabled progress in creating positive user engagement and learning through encountering – all the while questioning the evidence, sources and truth of the archive.

This paper will address recent case-studies in devising bespoke academic programmes, online learning projects, structured archives literacy and pedagogy methodologies with key impacts for libraries, engagement of new audiences, and transformative learning.

Barry Houlihan is an archivist at the James Hardiman Library and is part of the Collections Management and Research and Learning teams. Barry has worked on a range of archive collections in areas such as law, human rights and politics, theatre and the performing arts and heritage and archaeology. Barry teaches on a range of courses to postgraduate and undergraduate students at NUI Galway, including modules on Digital Archives, Children’s Studies, Media Studies, History, and Drama and Theatre Studies. Barry has published widely in various academic journals and books in the field of theatre archives and historiography and is president of SIBMAS, the International Association of Libraries, Museums, Archives and Documentation Centres of the Performing Arts. He has curated exhibitions including “Lyric50: Fifty years of Belfast’s Lyric Theatre”, ‘Judging Shaw” and “Yeats and the West” and is a project board member for an NUI Galway project, “Archiving Personal Histories: An Oral History of The Tuam Mother and Baby Home”.

8.4 Open Data for the Crowd: an Account of Citizen Science at the ETH Library

Stefan Wiederkehr, ETH Zurich, Switzerland


This papers gives an account of ETH Library’s combined strategy of implementing an open data policy and making benefit of crowdsourcing for improving metadata. Both activities go hand in hand and promote each other.

ETH Library renders bibliographical metadata and digital copies publicly accessible and reusable, provided this is not opposed by any third-party rights. Open data at ETH Library pursues the following goals:

  • Open licence: whenever possible, ETH Library makes its data available using the public domain mark or a CC0 licence. If the prequisites for this are not fulfilled, an open a CC license is used.
  • Transparency: reliable re-use is indicated transparently for each dataset.
  • Currentness: ETH Library regularly updates variable datasets.
  • Freedom from discrimination: there are no access restrictions to the data. The data is available to anyone at any time and without registration.
  • Free download: the data is free to obtain.
  • Machine readability: ETH Library provides its data in an open and, whenever possible, machine-readable standard format.
  • Availability: the data is provided via a suitable interface or platform.

ETH Library’s Image Archive was the first unit to provide content for free download in high resolution. This paved the ground for a very successful crowdsourcing campaign during which citizen scientists located places, dated photographs, and identified people and artefacts. This positive experience led to further activities in diffent units. Recently, tools for georeferencing maps and aerial photographs were implemented and enthusiastically taken up by the crowd. The most recent step was offering the opportunity to transcribe archival documents.

Other important conditions for success apart from the open data policy were a conscious community management by social media channels and promoting competition within a gamification approach.

Stefan Wiederkehr has been the Head of Collections and Archives at ETH Library since 2014. He took his PhD in History at the University of Zurich and graduated in Library and Information Science at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

8.5 Crowdsourcing at the Austrian National Library

Paul David Sommersguter, Austrian National Library, Austria


In recent years, crowdsourcing has started to play an important role in community-driven knowledge production. Many successful projects in both libraries and cultural institutions have demonstrated that this phenomenon strengthens the bond between users and institutions. Firstly, by opening interesting, previously unseen collections and secondly, through addressing and involving the general public to engage in sharing knowledge about image data.

In October 2018, the Austrian National Library established a crowdsourcing initiative as part of its institutional Strategy 2017-2021. The first campaign, called “Austria from above”, exhibits 10,000 aerial images: historic photos that depict Austria’s idyllic pre-World War II era landscapes, rural areas, and urban spaces. After in-house digitization of bespoke images, the vast majority still lacked standardized descriptions. Via the platform, the general public was asked to take part in three tasks: categorization, tagging, and georeferencing. In a later stage of the campaign, crowdsourcing-participants will additionally be able to participate in the quality assurance of these annotations. Since the platform’s launch, a group of about 1,500 registered volunteers invested time and energy in contributing and accumulating thousands of relevant annotations. With the help of these annotations and descriptions, specific images are now significantly easier to find for the average user.

Since the crowdsourcing platform was entirely conceived, designed and implemented in-house at the Austrian National Library, this talk will discuss a wide range of topics: the crowdsourcing platform’s key functionality, design and interface principles, and its general user experience guidelines. The project setup will also be covered since crowdsourcing initiatives constitute a huge challenge and effort for an institution. Still, the crowdsourcing platform evolves. By adopting an agile development approach, new project requirements and learnings from past versions can inform future releases. The talk will shed some light on some of these learnings since the platform‘s launch.

Throughout the design process, the project team at the Austrian National Library constantly studied peer-projects. Hence, the aim of the talk is to give back some insights into the planning, the conception, and the design of a crowdsourcing initiative to the scientific and librarian community.

In the near future, the project team will continue to iteratively refine the platform’s software. New, thematically different campaigns will be published for the crowdsourcing-community.

Paul Sommersguter works as a specialist in the fields of UX design, project management, product design, and music. With an academic background in Media Informatics, he always aims to place the user first. Before joining the Austrian National Library’s Department for Research and Development, he previously worked in a design agency in Vienna and as a programming freelancer. At the Austrian National Library, he now is, together with his colleague, Stefan Frühwirth, responsible for the conception, design, implementation, and testing of the crowdsourcing platform

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