As I am here as a substitute speaker I thought I’d share a little about myself to begin. I work at the State Library of Queensland as the Coordinator of Discovery Services, a new role that is pretty exciting but that I’ve been in for only a month. I came to that role by way of managing a sheet music digitisation project – ensuring It’s hot in Brisbane but it’s Coolangatta is available for all – then a couple of years hacking our library catalogue to get it to do things it wasn’t designed for, and finally working on two National and State Libraries of Australasia (NSLA) projects. I also Chair the State Library’s Copyright Advisory Committee, a fun group whose theme song is The fine line between pleasure and pain and whose internal tag line has recently changed from “Making copyright sexy” to “Making copyright work for you”. So there have been many points of resonance for me in this conference and I am really thrilled to be here, particularly as I am escaping the citywide sauna that is Brisbane in late November.
I spent some time looking at the tweets from yesterday’s sessions last night and it seemed to me that the clearly identified common threads – as articulated in these 4 tweets fit synergistically with the theme of my presentation, which centres on this idea.
Being open. Open to re-use, re-purposing, re-mixing and re-inventing using library collections and data. Open to creating a collaborative community of practice. Open to change in our institutions to move work in this space from “projects on the side” to “core”. And I believe we are all on a journey towards this kind of openness.
For some, just beginning by looking at the doorway.
For many, the door is unlocked and tentatively ajar.
And for a growing number, at the edge of a world of possibilities waiting to be embraced.
I’m going to use the vehicle of a project that I worked on for around 12 months to discuss being open – the rewards and the challenging lessons learned. In 2008 the National Libraries of Australasia committed to a new vision that centred on collaboration and community empowerment to create, discover, use and transform our collections. There were a number of projects developed to realise different aspects of this vision.
Project 5 – Community Created Content was all about making real the vision for libraries to empower people to find, share and create content.
It was a little bit like bridging the canyon in this image – the vision on one mountain and the preferred future on the other. The question we asked was what was a tangible way to get to that preferred future or even just to demonstrate its value.
From that challenging question came the idea of Libraryhack – a mashup competition using library data and digital content, combined with community “hack events” and including a learning component, both for our communities of users and our staff.
The competition ran from February to the end of May this year, beginning with an ideas competition – to provide the opportunity for people without the technical skills to make a mashup to participate and possibly inspire entries in the main competition. There were a number of categories in the competition and prizes for each category. We were really happy when Ex Libris came on board to sponsor the staff prizes and there were some very happy NSLA staff who won ipads for their entries. There were more than 100 entries in the competition and Libraryhack finished with a public forum on open data and a small exhibition of some of the entries at The Edge, State Library of Queensland’s digital culture centre. I’d like to reflect on 2 areas of Libraryhack where the idea of being open was significant – content and community
Early on in the project we decided that all of the data sets would be uploaded to the Australian government data repository. There were a number of reasons for this: We wanted the library data to be discoverable with other public sector datasets We wanted the library data to be discoverable in the same place rather than on individual corporate websites We wanted to support the open government initiatives that had led to the establishment of the data repository in Australia. It helped that the folks at data.gov.au were moving from their beta iteration to full production at the same time and were keen to have more content from the cultural sector and to raise the profile of the repository. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement. Around 60 datasets were released by the participating institutions and they included lots of image collections and metadata but also databases of public library information, search transaction logs from catalogues, maps and sheet music.
The data repository had some features that fitted neatly for us into the concept of opening up our content for re-use. Datasets could be released using Creative Commons licences and were able to be grouped by loose subjects to other datasets in the repository. The site also kept top level metrics on the number of times any dataset had been viewed. Altogether there have been more than 15 000 hits of datasets in the repository – which exceeded our expectations.
Each dataset was also indexed on search engines, so in the case of this dataset – the convict transportation registers, it appears almost at the top of the list when searched for in Google. This is interesting to us because although there were a number of entries in the competition that used this dataset – a laborious 10 year labour of love by some very dedicated volunteers to index the names, aliases, place of conviction, ship transported on, and length of term of imprisonment for over 123 000 of the convicts sent to Australia, it has been used many more times than in the competition. People and organisations from all over the place have incorporated it into their family history resources. Although there is much more to do here, and I believe easier and better ways to open up library data can and should be created and used, we know for sure that people are interested in datasets from libraries.
Next I’d like to talk a little about building a collaborative community of practice and how being open to this during Libraryhack brought new users to our libraries, built engagement with our institutions and I believe demonstrated the value listening to new ideas from people about how they want to interact with library collections. We saw in Libraryhack “hack” events that we had the right group of people working together , creating new content from library content in ways we (the libraries) either couldn’t do or hadn’t even thought of doing.
The right people included collections experts, who were really critical to bringing deeper understanding of some of the content. Here is a staff member discussing an amazing collection of aboriginal tree carvings at the SLNSW at Mashup at the Mitchell.
Movers and shakers such as Paul Hagon from NLA.
Industry experts who came to talk with Libraryhackers about tools such as Google Fusion tables that could help them transform data.
And coders – Libraryhackers who really got into the whole idea of making something with library datasets.
There were lots of coders
Really dedicated coders who, in some cases hacked for 24 hours straight.
Really cool coders who could do stuff with data
There was even a poet – who challenged us to think about search transaction logs in an entirely different way.
We saw amazing creativity. “ I worked on Reflection of time over a period of about a month and spent a few late nights in front of the computer much to the dismay of my wife. The hardest part was sourcing photos to fit. I decided it would be easier to take my own, one of my friend on his motorbike and another one of the tilt train at a local station. It took me a few weeks to catch it, once I was all set up with the perfect shot and location until I realised my camera’s SD card was still at home. Eventually I did catch the train and it was well worth it.”
We saw Library content contextualised and rendered in meaningful ways. Talking maps draws on multiple historical sources, including maps, manuscripts, photographs and audio recordings to enable history to come to life. Maps are central to the experience. They allow us to see the world as it was, to appreciate historical artefacts with additional insight of their time’s surrounds. What was alongside this building? How developed was this street when this photograph was taken? How densely populated was this area.
I particularly loved the inclusion of contemporary material in this app, which we are hoping will be further developed from web to mobile. The image on the right has become one of the iconic images about the resiliance and laid back attitude of Queenslanders after the floods in January. You might not be able to see the 2 green blobs at the left edge, but they are two blokes on pool loungers floating down the river, I think with beer in hand.
We saw content being able to be found in new ways - I’ll just show you three examples that illustrate how this transpired through the entries. This entry took the convict transportation registers data and presented that content in a different way through visualising the data about ships, where convicts were sentenced, the length of their punishments and more. Its interesting because it is a much richer way to explore the convict records (even though it was created only over a weekend. It is much more generous than the way this data is presented in the library catalogue.
So stingy – and I can say this because it is from my own institution , although I will say it is much better than the access database that was the previosu iteration of this dataset and not at all accessible to anyone except staff.
This photo mashup was an attempt to “show it all”. 10 Gigapixel mosaic of the State of Queensland made from around 50 000 images from our collection. The image for the mosaic is NASA’s Blue Marble Imagery cropped to the political boundary of Queensland. It took just under 7 days to compile the images, mosaic, process, tile and upload to the website.
You can move in and around the map at greater levels of detail.
Down to this level. At the event where we announced the winners, the mosaic was connected to Kinnect and here you can see my daughter controlling her experience by jumping up and down and using her arms to move around the map. This entry begs to have additional layers of context and connection and we at SLQ are working with the developer of this entry to add those layers.
Finally we saw some really cool stuff that we hadn’t even thought of. This entry projects images onto three dimensional objects which spins and whose speed and size can be controlled by a mobile device. This entry showed how a serendipitous encounter between an artist and a tech head resulted in something interesting.
So to return to the idea of being open to re-use, re-purposing, re-mixing and re-inventing using librarycollections and data. There are three challenges that I believe we need to address to build an even more open approach to community created content than we had in Libraryhack - changes that become embedded in our practice and relationships with our communities of users. I feel here that what I am saying now has been said multiple times over the last two days but as I think it bears repetition – not in the sense of a broken record but more in the sense of singing from the same hymn sheet.
Firstly– a thumbnail is not enough. If we want to encourage creative re-use of digital content, particularly image content, to facilitate works such as that beautiful digital story featured yesterday then a low resolution image is not useful or helpful.
A larger jpeg is much better than a thumbnail.
But this is where I believe we should all be heading. I’ll give a shout out to my colleagues at the State Library of Victoria who have made all out of copyright digital content in their collections available for download both as a large JPEG and at very high resolution as a .TIFF file. I also love that fact that they have explicitly stated that they are providing access to “support creativity, innovation and knowledge exchange” and that they say all you need to do when you use this image is acknowledge the creator and SLV as the source.
I also think this is really great and I’ll give kudos to my own institution, the State Library of QLD for donating all of their out of copyright photographs and the descriptive metadata to Wikimedia Commons in December last year, at the time the fourth largest donation to the Commons.
Secondly– we need to change the way we talk about what people can do with out of copyright digital content in our collections. I believe that requiring permission for uses other than private research and study stifles creativity and innovation and that rather than ask for permission people will either go elsewhere, or use it anyway.
We need to let go here – the permissions barrier should be torn down. And for content for which we own the copyright, wherever possible, we should not retain exclusivity of reproduction rights – we should be using licences to allow re-use without permission. The digital content from public institutions is created using the resources of our communities through their tax dollars and they should not need to ask if we could do them the favour of letting them use it , or worse, make them pay for it twice.
Making datasets available in data repositories is good, for all the reasons I iterated earlier – but there is a sense in which this data is ‘dead’ (I’m quoting Tim Sherritt here from a tweet he sent to Libraryhack back in March) If corrections are made to the data, if new items are added, then the dataset either becomes obsolete or outdated or needs to be reloaded.
Creating APIs that dynamically query datasets is the next logical step and I acknowledge the great work that NZ has done and continues to do here. We saw compelling examples of the power of APIs yesterday and in Tim’s presentation. You’ll see that I’ve featured his API for Trove newspapers on this slide.
There were significant rewards from the Libraryhack project and the openness it encouraged Ongoing availability of data Built staff capability and competence The beginnings of a participatory community of practice Great new content created by our communities of users! The path forward is ongoing demonstration to policy makers of the value of being open with cultural sector content, working with creators of mashups and apps to further build collaboration and better apps, and including in our collections content created in the competition.
Above all, we need to continue to dream big and set our content free.
Margaret Warren, State Library of Queensland How open are you?
In collaboration , the National, State and Territory Libraries of Australia and New Zealand will become leaders in empowering people to create, discover, use and transform our collections, content and global information resources.
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