Digital Scholarship Training Programme @ British Library
Digital Scholarship Training
Programme at British Library
Overview March 2014
Curator, Digital Research
• Libraries and archives have spent the last two decades creating digital
assets through digitisation and preserving born-digital objects.
• We can now do much more than use technology to simply discover these
digital objects and embrace the opportunities afforded by analysing these
digital collections at scale.
• If scholars view our archives as an infinite pool of multiple layers of loosely
held data from which new research questions can be wrung then so must
• The Library needs to provide services beyond simple resource discovery
then, that is, beyond helping to point a single user to a single items or
objects via a catalogue
Digital Scholarship at British Library
“The production, use and
integration of digital content,
services and tools to facilitate
scholarship and research. It
allows research areas to be
investigated in new ways, using
new tools, leading to new
discoveries and analysis to
generate new understanding”
Head of Digital Scholarship
Created in 2010, the department
works to enable….
• production of digital content
• sharing and integration of
• wider collaboration and
contribution around digital
• complex analysis & facilitation of
It is about acclimatising to the idea that the Library is becoming a place full
of data as much as it is a place full of physical stuff, and that there is a
growing community of users who see it that way.
Who are we?
• We explore how digital technologies are
re/shaping research and how this informs
how the library does its business.
• The team focuses on supporting staff
across the Library to identify the
opportunities that digital tools and
collections afford in modern scholarship
and to gain the skills to engage confidently
in this area.
• We also support scholars of all disciplines
to work innovatively with and across the
library’s diverse digital content.
James Baker Nora McGregor
Stella Wisdom Aquiles
The Digital Scholarship Training
Programme is an ongoing internal
training initiative created by the Digital
Research team that launched in
We’ve designed fifteen bespoke one-
day courses for staff covering the
basics of Digital Scholarship which
we deliver on a rolling basis.
The programme will evolve as
Our Digital Scholarship Training
What do we hope to achieve?
• Staff across all collection areas have the opportunity to become familiar and
conversant with the foundational concepts, methods and tools of digital
• Staff can situate their collection expertise in the realm of facilitating digital
scholarship and have the practical skills to do so.
• Staff are empowered to innovate
• Cross-disciplinary collaborative digital initiatives flourish across subject areas
within the Library as well as externally
Design & Development
• Surveyed the current literature, primarily around Digital Humanities
• Sought out scholars working at the intersection of computing and
scholarship and joined them for informal chats about their research.
• Consulted the proceedings of major conferences across Europe such as
Digital Humanities 2012 in Hamburg and the Digital Humanities Congress
2012 at University of Sheffield
• Surveyed the skills which academics were acquiring by attending pertinent
training courses and reviewing open syllabi and course materials.
• Drafted individual briefs and learning outcomes for what would become our
core offering of 15 one-day courses.
• Each of the team members took responsibility for managing a set of the
courses and worked with our internal advisory board and experts from
within the Library and institutions on the leading edge of digital scholarship
such as King’s College London, University College London and University
of Oxford to finalise the courses.
The Initial Courses
• 101 What is Digital Scholarship?
• 102 Digital Collections at British Library
• 103 Digitisation at British Library
• 104 Communicating our collections online
• 105 Crowdsourcing in Libraries, Museums and Cultural Heritage Institutions
• 106 Text Encoding Initiative
• 107 Data Visualisation for Analysis in Scholarly Research
• 108 Geo-referencing and Digital Mapping
• 109 Information Integration: Mash-ups, API’s and The Semantic Web
• 110 Managing digital research information
• 111 Social Media: Introduction to Twitter, and Blogging
• 112 Working collaboratively: Using the BL Wiki and Beyond
• 113 Presentation skills: From Powerpoint to Prezi
• 114 Foundations in working with Digital Objects: From Images to A/V
• 115 Metadata for Electronic Resources: Dublin Core, METS, MODS, RDF, XML
• Deliver from the library practitioner
perspective and highlight the
Library’s current work, or potential
for such work. It is crucial that staff
clearly connect the relevancy of this
new knowledge to their role at the
• Focus on the wider concepts,
methods and processes which tools
enable rather than teaching to the
• Include a hands-on practical
element preferably using British
Library digital content.
• Content should be aimed at “intelligent
novices”, that is, staff who have heard
about the concepts but haven’t had the
time, space or opportunity to explore
them in any depth.
• Deliver a one-day workshop onsite
rather than online as audience comes
to table with varied technical skills.
• More important to alert colleagues to
what is happening outside the Library
so they can make informed decisions
on whether to adopt a new tool or
method, rather than stay solely within
boundaries of current British Library
policies and practices.
So far so good!
“Great to have something often
referred to demystified”
“I’ve never done anything like this
“Well done to you and your DC
team, I have attended some of the
other courses myself and am
recommending my staff attend
“[I valued] the time to explore our ideas
and see how to develop current projects
into a more useful resource”
“…I was very grateful to attend this and
learned a great deal…Look forward to
more. Renewed thanks for organising this.”
November 2012-March 2013 saw:
50 course days delivered
245 individual members of staff
attended one or more
653 seats filled
3 courses attended pp on average
On the right track…
“We have a large collection of Canadian
photographs and associated data at the
Library and I’d been considering for
some time now ways in which to work
with them beyond simply hosting them
in a typical image gallery. The course
on Data Visualisation gave me the
space to play around with some of my
ideas for visualisations and pointed me
in the direction of free tools out there
such as Google Fusion Tables. I hadn’t
realised it was so easy to get started
and was able to see the shape of the
collection almost immediately.”
Curator Canadian & Caribbean Studies
Lessons Learned Challenges & Future
We set course capacities too
ambitiously which made them a
challenge to deliver & reduced
capacities from 30 to 15.
Opened up courses to any staff
member with an interest, not just
Structured exercises with clear
step-by-step directions are favoured
over unstructured time devoted to free
exploration of tools.
Having our own training laptops with
local admin rights crucial along with
direct access to our internal wiki for
downloading course documents.
Initial take-up has benefited from a core
of early adopters and new hires,
challenge is always in reaching those
Need to keep up with changes in the
digital research domain.
Demand has arisen now for follow-on
support. We are looking for solutions for
providing advanced training with our
limited resources including set open
office hours every week with experts.
Looking to open the programme up in
collaboration with similar institutions in
order to leverage greater expertise and
Follow: Digital Scholarship Blog: http://bit.ly/11bhQ5k
Read: DH2014 Abstract on the Program: