A Mini Adventure to Repository Fringe 2016

After 6 years of being Repository Fringe‘s resident live blogger this was the first year that I haven’t been part of the organisation or amplification in any official capacity. From what I’ve seen though my colleagues from EDINA, University of Edinburgh Library, and the DCC did an awesome job of putting together a really interesting programme for the 2016 edition of RepoFringe, attracting a big and diverse audience.

Whilst I was mainly participating through reading the tweets to #rfringe16, I couldn’t quite keep away!

Pauline Ward at Repository Fringe 2016

Pauline Ward at Repository Fringe 2016

This year’s chair, Pauline Ward, asked me to be part of the Unleashing Data session on Tuesday 2nd August. The session was a “World Cafe” format and I was asked to help facilitate discussion around the question: “How can the respository community use crowd-sourcing (e.g. Citizen Science) to engage the public in reuse of data?” – so I was along wearing my COBWEB: Citizen Observatory Web and social media hats. My session also benefited from what I gather was an excellent talk on “The Social Life of Data” earlier in the event from the Erinma Ochu (who, although I missed her this time, is always involved in really interesting projects including several fab citizen science initiatives).


I won’t attempt to reflect on all of the discussions during the Unleashing Data Session here – I know that Pauline will be reporting back from the session to Repository Fringe 2016 participants shortly – but I thought I would share a few pictures of our notes, capturing some of the ideas and discussions that came out of the various groups visiting this question throughout the session. Click the image to view a larger version. Questions or clarifications are welcome – just leave me a comment here on the blog.

Notes from the Unleashing Data session at Repository Fringe 2016

Notes from the Unleashing Data session at Repository Fringe 2016

Notes from the Unleashing Data session at Repository Fringe 2016


If you are interested in finding out more about crowd sourcing and citizen science in general then there are a couple of resources that made be helpful (plus many more resources and articles if you leave a comment/drop me an email with your particular interests).

This June I chaired the “Crowd-Sourcing Data and Citizen Science” breakout session for the Flooding and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Network (FCERM.NET) Annual Assembly in Newcastle. The short slide set created for that workshop gives a brief overview of some of the challenges and considerations in setting up and running citizen science projects:

Last October the CSCS Network interviewed me on developing and running Citizen Science projects for their website – the interview brings together some general thoughts as well as specific comment on the COBWEB experience:

After the Unleashing Data session I was also able to stick around for Stuart Lewis’ closing keynote. Stuart has been working at Edinburgh University since 2012 but is moving on soon to the National Library of Scotland so this was a lovely chance to get some of his reflections and predictions as he prepares to make that move. And to include quite a lot of fun references to The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 ¾. (Before his talk Stuart had also snuck some boxes of sweets under some of the tables around the room – a popularity tactic I’m noting for future talks!)

So, my liveblog notes from Stuart’s talk (slightly tidied up but corrections are, of course, welcomed) follow. Because old Repofringe live blogging habits are hard to kick!

The Secret Diary of a Repository aged 13 ¾ – Stuart Lewis

I’m going to talk about our bread and butter – the institutional repository… Now my inspiration is Adrian Mole… Why? Well we have a bunch of teenage repositories… EPrints is 15 1/2; Fedora is 13 ½; DSpace is 13 ¾.

Now Adrian Mole is a teenager – you can read about him on Wikipedia [note to fellow Wikipedia contributors: this, and most of the other Adrian Mole-related pages could use some major work!]. You see him quoted in two conferences to my amazement! And there are also some Scotland and Edinburgh entries in there too… Brought a haggis… Goes to Glasgow at 11am… and says he encounters 27 drunks in one hour…

Stuart Lewis at Repository Fringe 2016

Stuart Lewis illustrates the teenage birth dates of three of the major repository softwares as captured in (perhaps less well-aged) pop hits of the day.

So, I have four points to make about how repositories are like/unlike teenagers…

The thing about teenagers… People complain about them… They can be expensive, they can be awkward, they aren’t always self aware… Eventually though they usually become useful members of society. So, is that true of repositories? Well ERA, one of our repositories has gotten bigger and bigger – over 18k items… and over 10k paper thesis currently being digitized…

Now teenagers also start to look around… Pandora!

I’m going to call Pandora the CRIS… And we’ve all kind of overlooked their commercial background because we are in love with them…!

Stuart Lewis at Repository Fringe 2016

Stuart Lewis captures the eternal optimism – both around Mole’s love of Pandora, and our love of the (commercial) CRIS.

Now, we have PURE at Edinburgh which also powers Edinburgh Research Explorer. When you looked at repositories a few years ago, it was a bit like Freshers Week… The three questions were: where are you from; what repository platform do you use; how many items do you have? But that’s moved on. We now have around 80% of our outputs in the repository within the REF compliance (3 months of Acceptance)… And that’s a huge change – volumes of materials are open access very promptly.


1. We need to celebrate our success

But are our successes as positive as they could be?

Repositories continue to develop. We’ve heard good things about new developments. But how do repositories demonstrate value – and how do we compare to other areas of librarianship.

Other library domains use different numbers. We can use these to give comparative figures. How do we compare to publishers for cost? Whats our CPU (Cost Per Use)? And what is a good CPU? £10, £5, £0.46… But how easy is it to calculate – are repositories expensive? That’s a “to do” – to take the cost to run/IRUS cost. I would expect it to be lower than publishers, but I’d like to do that calculation.

The other side of this is to become more self-aware… Can we gather new numbers? We only tend to look at deposit and use from our own repositories… What about our own local consumption of OA (the reverse)?

Working within new e-resource infrastructure – http://doai.io/ – lets us see where open versions are available. And we can integrate with OpenURL resolvers to see how much of our usage can be fulfilled.

2. Our repositories must continue to grow up

Do we have double standards?

Hopefully you are all aware of the UK Text and Data Mining Copyright Exception that came out from 1st June 2014. We have massive massive access to electronic resources as universities, and can text and data mine those.

Some do a good job here – Gale Cengage Historic British Newspapers: additional payment to buy all the data (images + XML text) on hard drives for local use. Working with local informatics LTG staff to (geo)parse the data.

Some are not so good – basic APIs allow only simple searchers… But not complex queries (e.g. could use a search term, but not e.g. sentiment).

And many publishers do nothing at all….

So we are working with publishers to encourage and highlight the potential.

But what about our content? Our repositories are open, with extracted full-text, data can be harvested… Sufficient but is it ideal? Why not do bulk download from one click… You can – for example – download all of Wikipedia (if you want to).  We should be able to do that with our repositories.

3. We need to get our house in order for Text and Data Mining

When will we be finished though? Depends on what we do with open access? What should we be doing with OA? Where do we want to get to? Right now we have mandates so it’s easy – green and gold. With gold there is PURE or Hybrid… Mixed views on Hybrid. Can also publish locally for free. Then for gree there is local or disciplinary repositories… For Gold – Pure, Hybrid, Local we pay APCs (some local option is free)… In Hybrid we can do offsetting, discounted subscriptions, voucher schemes too. And for green we have UK Scholarly Communications License (Harvard)…

But which of these forms of OA are best?! Is choice always a great thing?

We still have outstanding OA issues. Is a mixed-modal approach OK, or should we choose a single route? Which one? What role will repositories play? What is the ultimate aim of Open Access? Is it “just� access?

How and where do we have these conversations? We need academics, repository managers, librarians, publishers to all come together to do this.

4. Do we now what a grown-up repository look like? What part does it play?

Please remember to celebrate your repositories – we are in a fantastic place, making a real difference. But they need to continue to grow up. There is work to do with text and data mining… And we have more to do… To be a grown up, to be in the right sort of environment, etc.



Q1) I can remember giving my first talk on repositories in 2010… When it comes to OA I think we need to think about what is cost effective, what is sustainable, why are we doing it and what’s the cost?

A1) I think in some ways that’s about what repositories are versus publishers… Right now we are essentially replicating them… And maybe that isn’t the way to approach this.

And with that Repository Fringe 2016 drew to a close. I am sure others will have already blogged their experiences and comments on the event. Do have a look at the Repository Fringe website and at #rfringe16 for more comments, shared blog posts, and resources from the sessions. 


Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Network (FCERM.net) 2016 Annual Assembly Liveblog

Today I am at theFlood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Network (FCERM.net) 2016 Annual Assembly in Newcastle. The event brings together a really wide range of stakeholders engaged in flood risk management. I’m here to talk about crowd sourcing and citizen science, with both COBWEB and University of Edinburgh CSCS Network member hats on, as the event is focusing on future approaches to managing flood risk and of course citizen science offers some really interesting potential here. 

I’m going to be liveblogging today but as the core flooding focus of the day is not my usual subject area I particularly welcome any corrections, additions, etc. 

The first section of the day is set up as: Future-Thinking in Flood Risk Management:

Welcome by Prof Garry Pender

Prof Hayley Fowler, Professor of Climate Change Impacts, Newcastle University – An Uncertain Future: Climate, Weather and Flooding

Phil Younge, Environment Agency – The Future of Flood Risk Management

The next section of the day looks at: Research into Practice – Lessons from Industry:

David Wilkes – Global Flood Resilience, Arup – Engineering Future Cities, Blue-Green Infrastructure

Stephen Garvin, Director Global Resilience Centre, BRE – Adapting to change – multiple events and FRM

Jaap Flikweert – Flood and Coastal Management Advisor, Royal HaskoningDHV – Resilience and adaptation: coastal management for the future

Sharing Best Practice – Just 2-minutes – Mini presentations from delegates sharing output, experience and best practice

I will be taking some notes in this session, but I am also presenting a 2 minute session from my COBWEB colleague Barry Evans (Aberystwyth University), on our co-design work and research associated with our collaboration with the Tal-y-bont Floodees in Mid-Wales.

At this point in the day we move to the Parallel Breakout sessions on Tools for the Future. I am leading Workshop 1 on crowd sourcing so won’t be blogging them, but include their titles here for reference:

  • Workshop 1 – Crowd-Sourcing Data and Citizen Science An exploration of tools used to source environmental data from the public led by Nicola Osborne CSCS Network with case studies from SEPA
  • Workshop 2 – Multi-event modelling for resilience in urban planning An introduction to tools for simulating multiple storm events with consideration of the impacts on planning in urban environments with case studies from BRE and Scottish Government
  • Workshop 3 – Building Resilient Communities Best-practice guidance on engaging with communities to build resilience, led by Dr Esther Carmen with case studies from the SESAME project

We finish the day with a session on Filling the Gaps– Future Projects:

Breakout time for discussion around future needs and projects

Feedback from groups 

Final Thoughts from FCERM.net – Prof. Garry Pender 


Upcoming Events: Citizen Science & Media; PTAS Managing Your Digital Footprints Seminar

I am involved in organising, and very much looking forward to, two events this week which I think will be of interest to Edinburgh-based readers of this blog. Both are taking place on Thursday and I’ll try to either liveblog or summarise them here.

If you are are based at Edinburgh University do consider booking these events or sharing the details with your colleagues or contacts at the University. If you are based further afield you might still be interested in taking a look at these and following up some of the links etc.

Firstly we have the fourth seminar of the new(ish) University of Edinburgh Crowd Sourcing and Citizen Science network:

Citizen Science and the Mass Media

Thursday, 22nd October 2015, 12 – 1.30 pm, Paterson’s Land 1.21, Old Moray House, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh.

“This session will be an opportunity to look at how media and communications can be used to promote a CSCS project and to engage and develop the community around a project.

The kinds of issues that we hope will be covered will include aspects such as understanding the purpose and audience for your project; gaining exposure from a project; communicating these types of projects effectively; engaging the press; expectation management;  practical issues such as timing, use of interviewees and quotes, etc.

We will have two guest presenters, Dave Kilbey from Natural Apptitude Ltd, and Ally Tibbitt from STV, followed by plenty of time for questions and discussion. The session will be chaired by Nicola Osborne (EDINA), drawing on her experience working on the COBWEB project.”

I am really excited about this session as both Dave and Ally have really interesting backgrounds: Dave runs his own app company and has worked on a range of high profile projects so has some great insights into what makes a project appealing to the media, what makes the difference to that project’s success, etc; Ally works as STV and has a background in journalism but also in community engagement, particularly around social and environmental projects. I think the combination will make for an excellent lunchtime session. UoE staff and students can register for the event via Eventbright, here.

On the same day we have our Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme seminar for the Managing Your Digital Footprints project:

Social media, students and digital footprints (PTAS research findings)

Thursday, 22nd October 2015, 2 – 3.30pm, IAD Resources Room, 7 Bristo Square, George Square, Edinburgh.

“This short information and interactive session will present findings from the PTAS Digital Footprint research http://edin.ac/1d1qY4K

In order to understand how students are curating their digital presence, key findings from two student surveys (1457 responses) as well as data from 16 in-depth interviews with six students will be presented. This unique dataset provides an opportunity for us to critically reflect on the changing internet landscape and take stock of how students are currently using social media; how they are presenting themselves online; and what challenges they face, such as cyberbullying, viewing inappropriate content or whether they have the digital skills to successfully navigate in online spaces.

The session will also introduce the next phase of the Digital Footprint research: social media in a learning & teaching context.  There will be an opportunity to discuss e-professionalism and social media guidelines for inclusion in handbooks/VLEs, as well as other areas.”

I am also really excited about this event, at which Louise Connelly, Sian Bayne, and I will be talking about the early findings from our Managing Your Digital Footprints project, and some of the outputs from the research and campaign (find these at: www.ed.ac.uk/iad/digitalfootprint).

Although this event is open to University staff and students only (register via the Online Bookings system, here), we are disseminating this work at a variety of events, publications etc. Our recent ECSM 2015 paper is the best overview of the work to date but expect to see more here in the near future about how we are taking forward this work. Do also get in touch with Louise or I if you have any questions about the project or would be interested in hearing more about the project, some of the associated training, or the research findings as they emerge.


CSCS Network – Seminar 1 Science and the citizen worker: the Zooniverse – LiveBlog

This morning I am at the first seminar arranged by the University of Edinburgh Citizen Science and Crowdsourced Data and Evidence Network. The Network brings together those interested in citizen science and crowdsourcing from across the organisation and this event is also supported by the Academic Networking Fund, IAD. Today’s seminar looks at the Zooniverse crowdsourcing organisation and suite of projects with two guest speakers, and I’ll be taking live notes here. As usual, because these are live notes there may be errors, typos etc and corrections are welcomed. 
We are starting our day with an introduction by James Stewart on the focus of the network, which will particularly focus on methodological approaches.
Grant Miller (Zooniverse): ‘The Zooniverse – Real Science Online’
About Grant and his talk:
‘The Zooniverse is the world’s largest and most successful citizen science platform. I will discuss what we have learned from building over 40 projects, and where the platform is heading in the future.’
Grant Miller is a recovering astrophysicist who gained his PhD from the University of St Andrews, searching for planets orbiting distant stars. He is now the communications lead for the Zooniverse on-line citizen science platform.
I had kind of a weird introduction into crowdsourcing and citizen science.. But the main thing I will be talking about today is about how we engage the Zooniverse community to participate and enjoy doing that and being part of our community.
Zooniverse all started with Kevin, a student at Oxford who was tasked with looking at thousands of images of the universe to find two sorts of galaxies: eliptical galaxies and spiral galaxies. He had a million to classify. He did 50,000 and then met with his supervisor and had some strong arguements: he didn’t want to spend his whole academic career classifying galaxies, and he argued that it didn’t require his training. So, by show of hands who thinks this image of a galaxy (we are looking at one of many) is an eliptical, how many think it is a spiral? The room votes that this is a spiral and it is indeed a spiral – and that’s basically how Zooniverse works. We show an image, we ask people what it is, and they choose. And people, en mass, really went for this. They went through huge amounts of images very quickly.
Other things started to happen to… The first community around the project was the Galaxy Zoo forum. A participant called Hanny found a thing (vootwerp)… It didn’t look like the galaxies she was classifying. This was a completely new astronomical phenomenon, which was never known about. An amateur had found this through this very simple platform. People aren’t just good at recognising patterns, they also get distracted and find new things. And after discovering and publishing on this phenomenon – a huge cloud of gas associated with a galaxy – a group from the community decided to make a project of looking for more of these in other Galaxy Zoo images. And this is why communities are so brilliant. On another project our community found a whole new worm under the sea. That’s the power of having this community taking part.
So, how do we do this? Well we really simplify the language of the task, make it easy for people to take part. And when Galaxy Zoo took off we found other scientists and researchers approaching us to build new projects including humanities projects, and biological projects. So we set up projects such as Snapshot Serengeti – used to indicate what you can see in images from camera traps on the Serengeti. I was working with a group of computer scientists trying to work out how to identify the object in the image, and also my 4 year old nephew… and he said in seconds, the computer scientists are still looking for a solution.
So at this point in time we now have 42 projects in the Zooniverse. Old Weather in 2010 was our first humanities project. It started as a climatology project, but because it was using historic ship logs and those include so many other types of data we found humanities researchers and historians coming on board so it has had a second life. We have other humanities projects, cancer research projects, etc. Of those projects about 30-35 are currently live. We think this will expand rapidly soon but I’ll come back to that. And last year we passed the 1 million volunteer mark, that’s registered volunteers. Mostly those are in Western Europe and North America, but we have participants in 200 countries (7 countries have not).
The community is expanding, the projects are expanding… But there is a lot of potential out there, a huge cognitive surplus we could be using. For instance Clay Shirky notes that 200 billon hours are spent watching TV by adults in the UK, it took only 100 million hours to create Wikipedia. We are only beginning to tap that potential. On January 7th last year we relaunched a project called Space Warps – we had over a million classifications an hour – when Prof Brian Cox and Dara O’Brien asked the public to do it on live TV. That meant that overnight we had discovered an object it can take astronomers years to discover. It’s good but it’s no 200 billion hours… Imagine what you could do with that much time. Every hour there are 16 years worth of human effort spent playing Angry Birds… How do we get that effort into citizen science?
So, if gamification the way to go? For those working in citizen science you could probably run a week long conference just on whether you should or should not do gamification. We have decided not to but some of the most successful – foldit and Eyewire – do use it. Those projects gave huge thought about how to ensure participants reward efforts in the right way so that people don’t just game the system. For us we are worried that that won’t work for us, not convinced we would be good enough building a game and end up with something neither game nor citizen science. But some of our projects have tried gamification and we have studied this. On Galaxy Zoo we used a leader board to start with but that caused some tension: those in the lead were doing hundreds of thousands of classifications and people felt the leaders might have cheated, others felt that they could never get there so just left. On Old Weather we enabled those participants who focused on a particular ships log could become captain – but it put off as many people as it attracted. And those who became captain had nowhere to go.
This comes back to motivation for taking part. When we do ask our volunteers frequently it comes down to those participants wanting to contribute to research. So, for instance, The Andromeda project involved images that weren’t that exciting… They were asked to circle clusters of galaxy. The task is simple, they feel they are really contributing… They finished the task in a week. This time, when we had finished we put up a message thanking participants for their contribution, saying that we had enough for the paper, but they were welcome to carry on… And that shows a rapid fall down to zero participation – they were only interested while the task at hand was useful. And that pattern reminds us not to mess with our community, they use precious spare time and they want to be doing something useful and meaningful.
Planet Hunters is a project we used to detect planets based on data. People don’t take part to discover planets, it is because they really are interested in the science. Some of our really active participants choose to download the data, write their own code, doing work at PhD level as a volunteer and sending data back… The planets discovered in that project are rare and weird – things we didn’t spot with algorithms – the first one found had 4 suns. And recently we found a seven planet solar system, the largest other than our own .
Volunteers are keen to go further, so we have a discussion area – labelled Talk – for all of our projects. That means you can comments, Twitter style, or you can use old style discussion boards for long form discussions. Those areas are also used by the scientists, the researchers, the technical teams and developers, and the community can interact with them there – the most productive findings often come from that interaction between volunteers and scientists. The talk areas of our community are really important. In fact we have a network diagram for our community we can see some of our most active participants  – one huge green blob on this diagram is a wonderful woman called Elizabeth who posts and comments, and moderates, helps fellow volunteers come along. And we are looking at those networks, at who those lynchpins are, etc.
I said that people write their own code, do their own analysis… So can we get that on the site? We have been playing with the tools area, which we’ve tried this for Galaxy Zoo and for Snapshot Serengeti. We’ve been funded to build a broader set of tools, to map data, etc. from the website itself.
One of the other big things we are trying to do is to translate the site. For instance here is Galaxy Zoo in traditional character Mandarin. And we are doing this through crowdsourcing. You pick your site, and you show words or sections for users to translate. I talked about understanding the community and their interest and motivation. You also need to understand how we allocate images etc. We have done it based on seen/not seen but have been toying with the idea of shaping what images you see based on what you have seen, or are good at, or particularly like or are good at identifying. We tried that, shaping images to suit interested folk. When we tried that it wasn’t that successful, this was on Snapshot Serengeti, and realised we hadn’t been showing them blank images… So we looked at usage data to see to what extend seeing blank images impacts classifying images. It seems that the more blank images a user sees, the more they classify. When you classify a few/lots in one go they leave the site sooner. But psychologically we aren’t sure why this is yet – to classify a blank image its one click, that’s quick… But also what is the reward there for that image – is it just as rewarding to classify a blank image. There seems to be a sweet spot here… The same team trying to automatically spot a zebra has also been looking at identifying anything being in the image… But doing that may mean they leave the site sooner so we could be shooting ourselves in the foot…
So, we’ve been thinking who should see what? And as part of that we have been trying, with some of the space image projects, putting some simulated images into the mix  to rank/detect expert level – and looking at that in comparison to their experience/expert level within the system. We want to see if there is a smarter way to do a Zooniverse project.
The other thing that can happen is fear, a sort of classification anxiety. For instance for cancer images people can be quite scared to click the button and contribute to the research. So we are toying with showing volunteers how the consensus clustering works – so we can show people that their marking counts but that they are backed up by the wisdom of the crowds we think that may help them trust themselves. At the moment we just blog about this stuff, but how can we show this on the site.
Panoptes is our new infrastructure platform, which we’ve been building for the last year, built with 2 million dollars of funding from Google. And the first project using this appeared on Stargazing Live this year, looking for Super Novas. We discovered five Super Novas during the week long run of that programme.
Mark Hartswood (Oxford University & CSCS Data and Evidence network founder): ‘Intervening in Citizen Science: From incentives to value co-creation’
About Mark and his talk:
‘This talk reflects upon a collaboration between SmartSociety, an EU project exploring how to architect effective collectives of people and machines, and the Zooniverse,  a leading on-line citizen science platform.
Our collaboration tackled the question of how to increase engagement of Zooniverse volunteers. In the talk I will chart how our thinking has progressed from framing volunteering in terms of motivation and incentives, and how it moved towards a much richer conceptualisation of multiple participating groups engaging in complicated relationships of value co-creation.’
Mark Hartswood is a Social Informatician whose main employer is Oxford University and currently working in the area of Responsible Research and Innovation.


Follow Up Post: Crowdsourcing Your Neighbourhood

Following my post earlier this month on the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas event which myself and my colleagues Addy and Ben ran on Fieldtrip GB, I am delighted to have some additional follow up.

The main reason for this follow up is because Eccentronic have created a fantastic and, in their words, “quite bizarre”  video using the map of public toilets we created specially for our event using Fieldtrip GB. Watch it in all of it’s glory here:

Click here to view the embedded video.

Do let Eccentronic know what you think – comment or like the video over on YouTube, tweet them @eccentronic, or leave comments below.

Now, this is definitely the most creative response I’ve seen to Fieldtrip GB… so far! I’m hoping it’s the start of many weird and wonderful uses of the app! On that note do share your own thoughts on our key question from the event :

If you could map anything in your community, what would it be and why?

here, in the comments below.

And the other goodies to share…

The Edinburgh Beltane Network – who were coordinating the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas events with Susan Morrison – have now set most of the images from the very varied Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas events live here on Flickr.

Addy Pope speaking to the small audience at the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas

Addy Pope speaking at our Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas event.

This leaves only the audio file from our event. If it is sounds reasonable we will share it via an update to this post so bookmark this post and keep an eye out!


AddressingHistory Update

The waiting is finally over! The AddressingHistory team are pleased to announce that the remodeled AddressingHistory crowdsourcing tool is now available. We have added six further Post Office Directories to the collection for the years 1881 and 1891 (to coincide with census years) and extended the geographic coverage to include the cities of Aberdeen and Glasgow in addition to Edinburgh.

The tool itself has been refashioned with refined parsing capabilities incorporated. Searches can now be made across those instances of records with multiple addresses, those records with multiple addresses also being editable. Spatial searching can now also be conducted using a bounding box facility and the searching of professions has been enhanced by assigning Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes to Professions.

As mentioned in a previous blog post you can now explore an “Augmented Reality” version of AddressingHistory using your iPhone or Android device.  Currently this is for Edinburgh only but plans are afoot to extend this to other geographies within the web tool.

In addition to new features and functionality it is now possible for requests to be made for a new POD to be added to AddressingHistory.  Once a request for a new POD has been made we can either provide assistance in using our POD parser (this requires some time and technical knowledge) to convert the requested POD, or we will add that POD to our priority list for future AddressingHistory development.

We are currently evaluating possible business models for sustainability and would like to hear of any ideas or initiatives that could feed into this exercise.

Please get in contact and let us know what you think.

Stuart Macdonald
AddressingHistory Project Manager

LIFE-SHARE Digital Collaboration Colloquium (#lifeshare)

On 29th March 2011 Nicola, from the Addressing History team, gave a short “Pecha Kucha� presentation on AddressingHistory at the LIFE-SHARE Digital Collaboration Colloquium in Sheffield. LIFE-SHARE has been a project looking at digitisation and digital preservation of historical materials across three universities (Leeds, Sheffield and York) and the event focused on sharing experiences and ideas about the ways in which digital materials can be made available and shared with wider communities.

You can view Nicola’s presentation – which won the best Pecha Kucha prize! – on Slideshare or here:

Nicola had hoped to liveblog the day but for various technical reasons had to save her notes for later hence this very belated write up.

The day opened with a welcome from Jacky Hodgson, head of special collections at Sheffield. Then Bo Middleton, Lifeshare project director gave us our mission for the day: each of the six or so tables we were gathered around needed to formulate one good Round Table question.

Digitisation, collaboration and WHELF – Peter Keelan (WHELF / Cardiff University)

Peter is Head of Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR) at Cardiff University.

One of Peter’s colleagues David Learmount from Bangor can’t make it along today but he has fed into this presentation.

WHELF is the Welsh Higher Education Libraries Forum and it combines Higher Education Chief Librarians, the National Library of Wales (NLW) Librarian, and a part-time development officer. The forum meets 4 times a year though there are various subgroups for projects. The group was originally founded in the 1980s and has existed in various forms since.

WHELF’s mission is to:

  • Influence policy makers – there have been lots of policy decision makers on the doorstop since devolution which makes a big difference.
  • Implement collaborative services.
  • Work with other sectors.
  • Raise profile of Higher Education (HE) libraries work.
  • Enable training, communication and support roles.

WHELF Projects (some current, some now complete):

  • Information Literacy Wales – this is a major project which the National Assembley’s Museums Archives and Libraries Wales (CyMAL) has substantially funded.
  • E-book deals – although this is about to end and unfortunately it has not been cost effective in terms of what libraries found they were getting from suppliers.
  • E-resource procurement – generally this is at the level of the National Library of Wales which purchases materials to be made available to all of Wales. The policy of NLW is that if you live in Wales (and/or have a Welsh address) then you are a member of their library. You just need to login to access e-resources as well as their own digitised resources.
  • Better student access – for instance WHELF has enabled a common borrowing policy in West Wales so that students at a series of smaller institutions have access to all local collections not just those of their own institution.
  • Welsh Repositories Network (work completed as part of the JISC repositories preservation programme).
  • E-thesis harveting service (NLW) – if that continues then e-thesis submission will be mandatory with the NLW harvesting the theses from the HE organisations’ own copy.

The WHELF Digitisation Strategy is about:

  • Creating Content.
  • Supporting knowledge and expertise.
  • Supporting the take-up for learning or research.
  • Raise the profile of the institution’s researchers .
  • All through collaboration, partnership and alliances. WHELF is a leader in the coperation and collaboration space and seen that way by the National Assembley and ministers.

WHELF/NLW – digitisation has been led by NLW as they are best resourced to do this. Materials have included:

  • Welsh 20th C journals – digitised 400k pages of welsh journals across all subject areas – in welsh and in english. Had to tackle major copyright issues (not all overcome). Some did object to materials being available on the web (some are blanked out) but a very useful resource.
  • Welsh 19th C Newspapers – heavily funded by Welsh Assembly Government with some funding from NLW
  • Welsh 18th-19th Ballads – Cardiff has been doing a smaller project with JISC funded – about 1500 pages of ballads digitised across NLW and Cardiff University. And the NLW learnt much from this process of working together with another organisation.

NLW aims to digitise the whole Wales print corpus. This will contribute to the “People’s Collectionâ€� and feeds into the National Assembly for Wales agenda. Despite this work coming under the authority of both the Culture and Heritage Minister and the Education Minister there is real agreement around the education, heritage and cultural tourism areas.


Digitisation in Wales

  • NLW – early starters, major player, own digital website, Culturenet Cymru (Arms Length body in Aberystwyth, People’s Collection.
  • NMW – own website, Peoples Collections, Partners eg. BBC (digitising art works across UK)
  • RCAHMW – own website, Peoples Collection
  • Welsh Archived – People Collection (piece meal)
  • Local Authorities – limited local initiatives
  • Media etc – various projects
  • NAFCW (CYMCAL) – initiated People Collections Wales

Peoples Collections Wales is history from the grassroots up rather than an academically driven initiative (though some academics involved).  A very interesting development. Bilingual interface and funded by Assembley. Staff of 8. Uses pretty cutting edge digitisation methods (including commercial software involvement) and community contributions (crowd sourcing – eg one academic collected memories of the first world war and digitised artefacts; anyone can add comments or metadata). The site is being pushed heavily because of it’s fit with the broader Education, Heritage and cultural tourism agendas. TV ads are running for this website with a very sophisticated advert highlighting different use cases (including mobile).

Not WHELF but input from NLW, RCAHMW, NMW, academics, communities, individuals etc. Two years start-up funding. Three more years guaranteed. Twitter Facebook and phone apps are/being added. Complex sophisticated – sustainable? (hard to know as can only see 3 years ahead)

Back to WHELF

  • NLW – plans to digitise
  • NMW – similar
  • County Archives – Peoples Collections
  • University Libraries – most of our institutions are not very large so what we do we do through WHELF to get things undertaken.

Digital work – e.g. Cardiff

  • E-theses into ORCA (mandatory)
  • e-prints (REF) into ORCA (supported by deposit tools for academic staff)
  • Academic schools have their own projects running
  • Digital Humanities research centres being discussed – Cardiff and Bristal are talking about this.
  • Recent Bristol Seminar
  • Digital Preservation task groups – just kicked off to look at long term futrues of digitised materials

Digital Work – SCOLAR (last decade or so)

  • In wales only Cardiff has done digitisation on a regular basis for so long.
  • 2002 project for School of Welsh
  • Commercial digital repository – brought of the shelf, predecessor of Digitool (now replaced and being migrated to it)
  • Maintained for 9 years, now trans to Digitool
  • 100k hits for one welsh project (Ann Griffiths Collection)
  • Five other digitised collections to be added and released shortly
  • Scholar – nicher teacher/research agenda
  • Recent profile investment TTP (Turn the Pages) – digitised about 15 works to promote the rare books collections – these are accessed via large touchscreens for venue and for travelling with.

So looking at stats for Ann Griffiths hits – a big spike thanks to TV coverage of her work. About 100k hits average for this collection and we expect similar for other projects.

SCOLAR – Cymru

  • WHELF Special Collections Group (Peter sits on David Learmount chairs)
  • Charged with progressing digital agenda
  • Only Cardiff (SCOLAR) doing systemativ digitisation presently
  • Bangor, Swansea, etc, one-off works
  • Examining Digitool for Welsh HE (first need to launch in Cardiff – over next 6 months or so)
  • Links to WHELF’s digital strategy.

Benefits of Digitool Cymru

  • sharing expertise (abased work already done)
  • creating content
  • partners raise critical mass of material
  • partners lower overall costs
  • raised profile. So better take-up for teaching/research
  • meets untouched niche academic needs – reaches the parts other beers… non welsh related digitisation: Greek manuscripts, Pharmacology history, etc.) – doesn’t fit remit for assembley or NLW but does fit into HE remit

Issues for the future

  • managerment of shared resource
  • funding of share resource
  • input mechanisms for data uploading
  • longer term sustainability of shared resource
  • Major mergs within Univeristy of Wales presently (being promoted by Welsh Education Minister), so libraries too. Idea is to make bigger more impactful universities and that will impact libraries. Two have recently merged and libraries and computing merged so that libraries now run by IT admin manager which has an impact too.
  • Digital Humanities link to research support
  • to avoid being left behind what others are doing.


Q1) Is WHELF a legal entity? What happens re: funding and lead institutions?

A1) Not a legal entity. We have Memorandums of Understanding for projects and it hasn’t been a problem at all to date.

Q2) Standardisation of metadata or ingest across instititions?

A2) When Cardiff started digitising we followed what NLW were doing. We’ve stuck with basic Dublin Core but NLW have forged ahead so we need to look again and make sure we stay in synch

Q3) Digitool – does it provide search for resources? Can it link to others’ catalogues?

A3) Not at that stage yet but we hope it ties up in that way. All but one institution in Wales uses the same Library catalogue suipplier so we don’t experience problems with cross searching etc.

Q4) How would Digitool Cymru be cross searchable with NLW and Peoples Collections?

A4) It wouldn’t. It would fill that niche. But it would feed into NLW’s collection of print copies (by passing on copies) and we would also feed in a small group of materials to the People’s Collection.

Q5) Must be downsides too?

A5) From a Cardiff perspective, other institutions look from other locations down into Cardiff. There is a phrase that goes around Anywhere But Cardiff – people want to ensure they have a stake too. National Assembly, NLW and CYMAL is all in Cardiff. There is a tension but not a major problem.

Virtual and Actual: collaborative digitisation at the Victoria and Albert Museum – Doug Dodds (Victoria & Albert Museum)

Doug begins: “This is going to be quite a visual presentation but do ask technical questions if you like!”

The V&A is the UK’s national museum of art and design with a collection of around 2.7 million objects. There are 4 main sites:

  • Victoria & Albert Museum at South Kensington
  • Museum of Childhood at Nethnal Green
  • Blythe House, Olympia
  • V&A Website

Curatorial Departments include Asia, fashion etc.

The Word and Image Department, where Doug is based, is very wide-ranging. The National Art Library is the biggest specialist collection of art books in the country (perhaps except British Library), Printings, Drawings, Paintings and Photographs Collections (¾ million items), Archive of Art and Design, records of the museum itself and three reading rooms.

Cue: National Art library, Prints and Drawings Study Room (was renovated when British architecture drawings joined the collection), 20th Century gallery is actually in one of the library spaces. Artists books in the National Art Library – these are described in AACR2 and MARC21 even though they include globes, impenetrable books etc.

V&A has three documentation systems as well as a a Digital Asset Management System – provided by the same supplier as LMS. Currently 2 different systems but will be one – VADAR+ [some information on VADAR can be found in this Ithaca report on image licensing at the V&A]

The V&A Website is about to change to a very different look and feel. The current one is more information management, the new one [now in place] is more magazine-like.

One of our big challenges is how to combine different collections into one place – the William Morris Collection say may be archives, books and collections materials.

Few years ago involved in Beyond the Silos of the LAMS: OCLC Report in 2008. Identified many areas that should be working together and talking to each other. Brought about a huge difference in the collections and how they are displayed to the project with cataloguing and digitisation work to follow.

A few years ago we were quite conservative. 20-30k records. Very contained, we only published when up to a perfect standard,. A number of people felt this no longer worked in the modern world and that we should make collections and images as available as possible. We want people to use our images in classes, in Wikipedia articles, whatever. We did it with an eye on the rights side but we went out a lot further than many others had at that time. So we put the 1.2 million records up a year or two ago. Suddenly lots of records – many have little there but they are available. As you’d expect you can search the collection in various ways. A search for Sheffield found lots of Sheffield silver work and you get back images as well as records – ordered by quality so those with images and detail appear first. When you click on the record you get more info, can download a fairly good image to download – this is where we really went out on a limb. You can use them in Academic publications (as long as less than 4.5k copies). There is small print but do look.

In addition we published the API for the way the catalogue searches our server. Also works on the iPhone really well.

We also deliberately made the images available to Google so they appeared in Google Image Search. Also experimenting with other ways to look at the data – FABRIC Project Prototype – ways to search with colour, texture or shape based on image content. Highly experimental.

The Factory Project.

  • Started Dec 2007
  • Systematic digitisation and documentation of prints, drawings, paintinsg and photographs
  • Using High resolution digital camera and large scale scanner
  • Key in any data that enhances records etc.

Production lines

  • audit
  • conservation and storage
  • photography
  • cataloguing

Photography and cataloguing are separate but get tied together –you  don’t have to wait on the one to start the other.

We have been transferring earlier published catalogue entries and updating these as needed. The older PDP Catalogue entries are being handled by four or 5 staff who key in these card entries.

This work lets us exploit our infrastructure and content. The Public Catalogue Foundation create printed catalogues and are collecting information on all of the oil paintings in public collections. We provided basic images and descriptions. Records could then be further enhanced. There is also a Your Paintings (PCF/BBC) project across the UK to enhance records, and to search for unrecorded oil paintings.

There has also been a National Inventory Research Project with project partners including the University of Glasgow. This is new fundamental research on top of existing records – some outcomes included good quality digital records and even re-attribution of the artist behind a painting.

British Printed Images to 1700 (British Museum and UCL) project is also worth noting. The V&A and British Museum provided images, for example early prints from Richard Barlow – our books included the original design for the printed image –so that you can compare the print and the original drawing.

We also work on various printed catalogues etc. based on online catalogues. All records online are updated to reflect these printed collections.

We do focus on collections of broad interest – so Recording Britain Watercolours looks at the UK after the second world war and landscapes at risk of changing.

We are currently working on National Photographic Record. Sir Benjamin Stone operated at the beginning of the 20th century took pictures, particularly of York or nearby, and these are being collected together. Anyone is welcome to use these images although a link back is appreciated of course.

Computer Art and Technocultures was a major AHRC-funded history of digital design, art, graphic design. People think this is a new field. Started about 50 years ago and we had accumulated early exampkes of this work. So we have a collection of computer art. The AHRC funding with Birkbeck we were able to go through systematically improving records, enhancing data nad creating potted history of the medium. Most of these images are now included in Search the Collections again. We didn’t know much about some of our objects, we didn’t know the artist in some cases. We put them online nad asked people to contact them with more info and we’ve had artists etc. contact us since and very pleased to provide more information.

Hope to build on this project in the future in a similar way.

Factory Achievements to date

  • 2010/11 to date – items audited – 6146 – total to date – 46,102 etc. Have atarfets for catalogue records and images – we are exceeding our targets at the moment.
  • See number of records on “Search the collections” site some years ago. Huge difference between 2009 to 2011. Huge policy change behind that of course but a huge jump.
  • Website: http://www.vam.ac.uk
  • Collections Pages: http://collections.vam.ac.uk


Q1) What kind of resources are involved in this work?

A1) Started small and built up. Started with volunteers, with 1 cataloguer a part time photographer. Now 6 catalogueers and 2 full time photographers. Tend to get funding for specific sets of materials

Q2) Is there a stand alone digitisation strategy? Or does this work form part of a larger group?

A2) We have a digitisation plan but aso sit on a group which coordinates plans across the museum – led by curational teams.

Q3) Any ideas about what users are doing with collections online/ What users are interested in and what they do?

A3) We get lots of stats off the website generally. Haven’t done a lot in detail with that yet. But we do try and track the images and see where they end up, look for links back to the V&A. They pop up in all sorts of good places actually.

Q4) How do you trace the images?

A4) One of the things you do is site searching for links. Without that it’s harder.

Q5) How do you determine what to digitise with that quantity of items?

A5) I am keen on just doing it systematically – doing every box in a room. But in the real world you have to do particular collections, particular sets of materials etc. So that Recording Britain image I showed for instance – clearly we do items where there is a known interest.

Update from Alastair Dunning, JISC on Digitisation funding etc.

This is a brief alert to a call for large projects. Also for CC and OER type projects. It will be 250k-750k, for around 18 months. Eligibility will definitely include England, not sure where else. The call will come out in mid april, submissions mid June. Get planning now!

There will be a town meetings coming, keep an eye on the JISC-DIGITAL-CONTENT mailing list for more information.

Pecha Kucha Sessions

These sessions are very tricky to summarise as they are fast, often a bit randomly structured, and usually very visual! Hopefully the notes we grabbed will give you a sense of the projects who took part. 

University of Southampton Knitting Collection

We have knitting collections – cue toy rabbits from collections. Collaborating with lots of different groups, lots of different people. Patterns and knitted jugs. 19th Centurey knitting – see lace collar knitted from 19th century manuals. We have lots of collections on wartime manuals and knitting patterns. We hope to work with RunCoCO on community project – maybe conference in 2014 on World War Knitting.

Been working with VADS on a project with Look Here! We are not at the stage of digitising lots of materials. Cue the famous poodle. The poodle has been to the Woman’s Hour studio. Even in her organisation there is a split about should you take knitting seriously or not. Bit of a revival of knitting, a now popular activity which is still going so the digitisation project is trying to help get more knitting resources out to those groups, not just academic conferences.

Now looking at thematic patterns – sports patterns for the Olympics. Can be very hard to find information on the patterns – designers etc. Will apply to Jaeger for permission to digitise as we have a lot of their patterns.

Crowdsourcing ideas – people can put in own pictures and patterns. But needs to be focused – I don’t want to take over from Ravelry, just want to have focused projects.

Hope to digitise images as well as collections

Have huge collection of knits from patterns – not historical items – that we show and handle with students etc.

Cue awesome Mary Quant pattern – when we apply for copyright on this there are multiple people to check with. Had lots of donations recently and we now have to have an area for collections that have been donated from 70s, 80s, 90s. We collect every year. So we are approaching having a national knitting collection.

Cue some gloves knitted in Shetland added to the hand knitted collection

Men & Cardigans book based on collection. Cue image of community of knitters.

Playbills – Helen Westmancoat etc.

Project began 2007 when we gained funding for a digital repository. Have Theatre Royal archive so saw this as a means to gather playbills from across the city – some painted on walls, some in private hands.

Got scanning done on basic scanner at city of york, raised publicity and it was hoped that would lead to the community contributing more materials. See: Yorkshire Playbills website.

ArchiveWave is repository software that can be searched and viewed – you can access the description and metadata as well as image. Fascinating variety of information on these playbills – and for instance first lion king production. Great for family history researchers because of the names and the costs also.

During wartime you can see that they playbill printed both sides to save paper. Also cost and types of play varies. 20th Century part of the collection contains much less information – by now you have programmed and so on so detail not needed.

Lydia Stafford is a student under York St John’s “Students as Researchersâ€� project. Currently scanning playbills and adding metadata about names on this work. Her aim is to expand the archive by adding to the collection, particularly for genealogists. Also assessing the archive as research and education resource.

Future direction for project partners – applying for funding, possibly Heritage Lottery funding.

Green Eyed Monster – play of 1830 – playbill on screen – includes printers as well as show details.

AIMS: Born-Digital Archives

The project wants to create a model/framework for other digital archives to use and follow. Partners are Uni of Virginia, Uni of Hull, Stanford and Yale. Traditional manuscripts – message and medium are inseparable. This is very different to born digital materials – both are separate and threatened with obsolescence. And in this case the copy we have are duplicates and the original are usually in use. We all use FedoraCommons which is one of the reasons we are working together. Software is a big issue – versions bring incompatibilities. Out of 65 computers in our building only 2 read a floppy disc. We don’t want to become a hardware museum.

Challenges – how do we preserve, convert, catalogue and manage born digital materials.

Depositors – working with Stephen Gallagher, novelist and screenwriter. His work is only on paper when printed for actors. We have to know about his hardware and software. We also have hybrid collections – we print some and provide access to digital version in parallel for some formats.

Social Media – huge amounts of data created and we can’t/don’t collect it all.

Working with 3 transatlantic partners has been a learning process. Some problems – 3 American partners have good conversation when Hull is in the evening, hard to join in. Have a secure sharing space (UvaCOLLAB) but we found Google Docs was more effective as you can edit documents and chat in parallel.

Conversations have been critical – we have a Skype call once a week. Huge difference in knowing each other and in progressing the project.

Conclusions – libraies are changing and we must act now to deal with that.

See the AIMS website for more details.

Digitisation in the Public Eye – John Rylands University Library (Manchester), CHICC Centre for Heritage Imaging and Collection Care.

We have medium format digital cameras and cradles, portable kit (so you can do all the taxidermy you like). Worked with Chethams library, Brotherton library, Manchester Metropolitan, Manchester museum, etc.

Digitised Chaucers Canterbury Tales at Petworth House, Sussex. Set up (and publicly viewable) to take images of the book then processed on laptop, a second laptop showed a presentation on the project for people to come in and see.

Had Digitisation Day at John Rylands Library – used a facsimile of a German manuscript that demonstrated techniques. Had lots of visitors with questions, advice for caring for items, and promote th service to the public.

Tatton Park, Knutsford – similar idea to Petworth. Historic house that people tour. At Tatton they took out furniture and boarded up so that they had lots of space to work. Digitised pages and then put them on an iPad so people could instantly look.

Got press coverage from the BBC, went out on the internet on blogs etc. When the Chaucer materials went online it crashed the system – from a few hundreds to 27k. A lot of the hits came from a US website.

Good idea. Some costs involved – slower digitisation process and needs more staff, and the objects are somewhat less secure/safe but we monitored the onjects carefully. It really opened up awareness of the materials at the venues – many of the houses are known but their libraries perhaps not. Introduced new technology to these events etc.

When we started doing the days people were wondering why this would be interesting but people do like to see behind the scenes. The items are usually locked away. Projectors etc. really help raise awareness of the objects. Gave lots of advice on care for books, negatives etc. Lots of interest from the BBC – were on the radio one of the mornings we were there, was on local BBC news at night. Brought more people out. Used Twitter a lot and our blog had loads of interest. Building audiences for the future through these channels.

What’s interesting is that the audio visual technology they brought into venues aren’t already in use – things like the iPad etc. were really engaging especially with younger visitors and perhaps give ideas for future use of that tech in those spaces in the future.

What’s next – want to work digital days to social media. Talking about making facsimiles for exhibits in some of the spaces.


Q1) The business modelling aspect you mentioned – where did you get to?

A1) An intern from Manchester Business School came and did work and surveys with partners – about process of digitisation and having the library going out and about as a business. More information on this will be one of our outputs on the website.

Library seeks partner, must have GSOH… White Rose Libraries and the future of digitisation – Beccy Shipman, Ned Potter and Matthew Herring (LIFE-SHARE Project)

This presentation is based on material covered in this blog post by the LIFE-SHARE team.

We wanted to look at examples, best practice, frameworks, models.  And decided on the Collaboration Continuum from the Beyond the Silos of the LAMS report [PDF]:

The Collaboration Continuum. Quoted here from Collaboration Contexts: Framing Local, Group and Global Solutions by Gunter Waibel.

So the key thing was to make this part of the normal process of working, that there is a great White Rose way to do digitisation etc.

We are: Beccy, Project Manager, and Matthew and Ned, both Project Officers.

Relationships – your eyes meet across a SCONUL Meeting!  Get to know each other very informally. We’ll go through the continuum and what we’ve done and learnt.

Lifeshare project came into context of the White Rose consortium which already existed and was already a relationship and connection between libraries. There are already shared services – White Rose Research Online and eTheses. Already some joint projects, a project on collaborative collection management which took place with the BL.

You can email, which is great. Telephone is immediate but not always perfect. If you just go in for a one-off workshop on collaboration you can say what you like. If you have another meeting booked you actually have to have realistic aims and come through on them.

To get to the next stage you need

Co-operation – dating, no strings attached. Informal working on an activity with tangible benefits. Can be a bit unrequited or one-sided. Quite informal but you help each other out and have sharing going on. You have already been meeting regularly by this point – there is an established exchange of experience. For LIFE-SHARE we had regular meetings with White Rose and also with JISC. We also had regular exchange of experience events – copyright, repositories, digital course readings, digitising archive materials from Special Collections. And we have case studies with various organisations at this level. We have also had training arranged on a consortial basis at this level – allowing us to bring trainers up to Yorkshire with only one set of costs for the whole consortium. Creating open environment and communication will flourish. Earlier we heard that Silos of LAMS involvement had instigated better internal cooperation even though that was an external event, we found that too with these informal settings.

Co-ordination – time to book the removals (what does a lesbian do on the second date…). Move beyond the ad hoc stage, starting to share calendars, committees, slightly more formal – softer infrastructure is there at this stage. So we investigated in digitisation suites – we invested in particular areas in particular libraries. At Sheffield did audio visual, York did large things like maps. Coordinating these purchases means 3 sets of kit cover all types of materials but that relies on trust between partners. Also digital course readings led to working group set up. Last thing is bid writing. The lifeshare bid itself was at this level. Out of this project came a bid After-Life – not successful but set up a precedent for future bids. This is formalisation of the collaborative process. Needs investment in staff time, not just about grabbng piecemeal time at this level. Senior Management approval needed at this level. You need the tools that support shared working – Google docs, wikis etc. all come in here.

Collaboration – getting hitched. Hard to find an appropriate picture for 3 partners though! Working in a shared creation process – something different, wasn’t there before, couldn’t be done alone. A real jump from the previous stages which is why so few groups get to this stage of the contiuum. Real need for new ways to working and how you do your work together. We were asked by White Rose directors at how the libraries can work together at these levels. Were asked about sharing digitisation training – too small an area really. We suggested instead a shared training service – they had perhaps already been thinking about this. Also thinking about a shared digitisation service – beyond each institution having particular expertise and into a state of one work flow and set of processes. Very difficult thing to achieve. If you look at LIFE_Share website you’ll see some models of how this can be achieved. One of the things in that original paper is that hardly anyone gets this far as it’s hard to get there. It’s easy to be trustworthy, but it’s harder to trust your partners to be completely open about your resources. A key part of this stage is to be better about what you are doing. Something innnovative, something that wouldn’t be

Convergence – much closer to collaboration than collaboration was to the stage before. It’s having a baby or buying a puppy – you aren’t a partner you are part of the family now. Collaboration is fully embedded and you are focused on the task in hand. And part of infrastructure of how you deliver those services. Share digitisation service and a possible model for the future of White Rose Libraries, along with some blue sky thinking is where we are heading for. You have to do all the previous stages to get there – you don’t rush into a baby or a puppy! You are so cooperative that you don’t even know what you are doing

It’s amazing what you can achieve if no-ones getting the credit for anything – Gary Speed, Welsh Football coach

Our presenters not that this is a good quote though perhaps a bad example given the state of Welsh foodball! And then they finish with a LIFE-SHARE inspired singles ad!

See also:


Q1) What is beyond convergence?

A1) Well that original diagram has investment, risk, benefit on it. Perhaps after convergence risk converges and benefits still rise. I think trust should be on that diagram too.

Q2) Anything on size and nature of institutions involved? Does being bigger or smaller make a difference?

A2) Sometimes there is an advantage to being different, sometimes a disadvantage. We are all research libraries and we had this long established consortial bond. Each library would like to think their materials are unique. We have core elements that are the same though. We are academic organisations, we have students. I don’t think of us being unbalanced but maybe I have rose-tinted spectacles. We do always want to benefit our own institutions in the end.

Q3) picking up on trust. When Peter talked about Wales he talked about sustainability. Some areas of White Rose and Life-Share – if you have converged digitisation service and it falls apart you could rebuild. But some other activities, particularly digital preservation, you can’t start again from scratch if you need to. How do you cope with change?

A3 – Bo) We have a memorandum of understanding and we have a ratification every year for our repository service – that process itemises what would be done if something does go wrong. Seen as 3 way ownership of the data, and we have an agreeement fo what happens if any of us wants out.

A3 – Another member of the project team) Digital preservation is too big a task not to cooperate. If we don’t do it together it just won’t get done.

One of our external partners in Life-Share was the British Library. As an outcome of that we had some funding for another project – there is a flyer for the Aqua project in your bag for that!

Q4) Is there a geographical limit to the effectiveness of a consortium? Is being physically close important?

A4 – Beccy) It is relatively easy for us to all meet up – 45 min train journey only – so that closeness was really imporant for us.

A4 – Bo) The relationship metaphor is imporatnt. You need something in common. We are near each other but others may have a particular subject interest or similar that makes the difference.

Q5) How important in having the right people? What is the risk associated there as well?

A5) Library directors have changed through this project so there is momentum that can be kept up. But I know that the White Rose directors looked at the contiuum they asked us to look at the top end of the continuum. They are brought in already. Not the case already. We need to think about how we move people from that early contact and informal sharing stage to those later stages. We have directors on board but we need to ensure everyone on th eground gets it too – that’s part of the White Rose Staff Development.

Q6) Embedded in projects, now want it embedded in every thought. The next stage is moving from where we are to where collaboration is a normal natural process

A6 – Bo) we should do a collaboration continuum roadshow at each of the three universities.

Roundtable discussion

Alastair Dunning of JISC chaired these discussions with input from the panel:

  • Doug Dodds (Victoria & Albert Museum)
  • Jodie Double (University of Leeds)
  • Martin Lewis (University of Sheffield)
  • Peter Keelan  (WHELF / Cardiff University)

Introductions all around.

Question: How does the idea of having collaborative work like this work with individual priorities and distinctive in our proposal. How do you retain identity and priorities when working in collaboration?

Peter: Not thrown up any serious issues of competition / conflict for us. We do work well together and in our context most projects or topics only relate to one institution strongly. Individual priorities don’t go. Collaboration is just part of that.

Martin: Distinctiveness isn’t challenged by cooperation. If priorities were conflicting than it might be more of an issue

Doug: We don’t generally find ourselves competing with people, we usually are looking for complimentary skills of experiences.

Alastair: Much of the White Rose stuff is behind the scenes so may not alter public perceptions anyway.

Question: In terms of feasbility studies for digitisation projects or products – how can you tell there is interest or a market for that at the outset?

Jodie: Don’t build then assume. Best to start with where interest is already being triggered. But you can start to do some items and your community comes to you. When looking at millions and millions of objects you need to digitise stuff that’s in need by the community, or a research unit. Etc.

Doug: we conciously create images etc. knowing that people using online collections may know nothing about the wider context, they may never visit the building, they have a very different relationship.

Peter: we canvas opinion ahead of all digitisation at Cardiff – every time we do that we get half a dozen ideas related directly to core research or teaching aims. One example – a project we digitised 10 years ago – we had a call from the BBC asking if they could use a higher res version for Countryfile so we re-digitised, charged £10, and it’s on their website with a link back.

Martin: we all want to see return on investment in research, learning or teaching. We need to have evidance that digitisation supports one of those areas.

Doug: difficult though as some of the aduiences using archival content may be small but the material may be obscure and unique, you might be the only place to find that. I am keen to focus on what is unique to us, that no-one else will be able to digitise.

Alastair – in terms of JISC we have funded the Strategic Content Alliance and we publish case studies on how to do audience analysis – we have one from the BBC around iPlayer for example. Another JISC example is the Scott Polar Ice Caps images – 20k images and in their bid they listed all the groups within the university that would be interested – anthropology, geography, fashion, etc. Made specific relationship between content and courses it would be embedded in. That way of thinking about breaking down the audience is really important. Need to identify really fine grained communities.

Question: How do you make sure with staff in your institution that collaboration isn’t seen as doing things on the cheap or giving them more to do?

Martin: well there is a sense that it is a benefit of collaboration that we do cut costs. If you look at ePrints online for White Rose there is no question that we create one better resource than could have been provided as multiple separate resources. Sometimes it’s about doing stuff cheaper, sometimes about doing things better together online.

Jodie: When things do work well things want to keep growing. Can’t do business as usual, you have to make changes.

Peter: From a special collections point of view if you are being successful and it is relatively inexpensive but you may be streched for staff you have your case for adding more resources using that as evidance for need and benefit of doing things.

Alastair: Must be difficult to demonstrate benefits at outset – can be recognised later on though.

Doug: V&A have a commercial arm and they were very concerned about us losing that income stream. All the profits from that service pretty much just covered cost of checking emails, giving permissions etc. Beurocracy was expensive. But potentially you can still get income stream – commercial use is a focus but non commercial use is self-managing now. You have to be aware of consequences further along the food chain.

Jodie: If institutions really open to collaboration. People at bottom level can all work through common sense tasks togather. And then apologise later if needed.

Martin – Hate to criticise the collaboration continuum but it’s non linear. At a state near collaboration/convergence level you need to business plan. Mostly we have been at the informal stage. Needing more staff to take up a level then you need to have good business case. It is a difficult thing and it varies.

Comment on commercial aspect: The National Fairground Archive has generated great income stream.

Question: We envied your existing relationship. We wondered how you can create an entirely new relationship and quickly have a strong collaborative bid?

Jodie: It’s not one easy solution. A good conversation might lead to a working partnership a few eyears later.

Doug: Don’t happen overnight. Have lots of partnerships in the UK and abroad. V&A staff spend a lot of time talking to institutions, some of us have academic links to institutions around the country, we already know some of the people we’d want to work with.

Peter: We’ve been building relationships with Bristol later around a centre fir Digital Humanities research centre. On the wider issue one of the staff at NLS are reassessing all alliances and links to see which ones are of real benefit in the short and the long term in the current financial climate. You may need long term relationships and some shot gun weddings.

Martin: There are risks in Multiple Collaboration Syndrome – sharing interests with various overlapping groups and consortiums. Choosing collaborations are relaly important and you have to stay focused.

Alastair: For that specific question on JISC digitisation monies. You will know researchers, institutions etc. yOu will have connections in place even if they aren’t formal relationships. You can also ask out about possible collaboration and people coming forward.

Jodie: have to advertise in the right place to – would be great to have a collection audit to draw upon when funding comes around.

Alastair: JISC funded a project called DiSCmap that aimed to list the UK’s special collections.

Question: We’ve learned about what to learn form positive experiences, how do we learn from mistakes – are there ptfalls to avoid?

Alastair: Having too many partners can be a problem – what do you want out of the partnership and what do they want? You need to be clear what you want throughout.

Jodie: I’ve been in partnerships where someone leaves at the last minute. Or where one partner does most of the work, but the other holds most of the funds. Particularly tricky when budgets get tight.

Peter: You also have to make sure all partners deliver. This comes down to trust and how you manage that relationship.

Questioner: Having the person you know you can work with at an institution can be the distinction between a functioning partnership and one that that doesn’t. Even one enthusiastic person can make all the difference even if not senior staff.

Bo: Problems in Lifeshare project came down to the fact that senior staff can be brought in but not every member of staff can be assured to be convinced of the value to them.

Comment: Leeds and York teams are small, Sheffield is very large. Her staff at Sheffield are concerned that if cuts come they would be at risk – sort of issues on the ground that undermine trust in partner working. It is concerning especially in the current climate.

Comment: One of the concerns is that defining what you are trying to do. Your ideas tend to evolve as the project develops and goes along. Very easy to become derailed – one of our case studies moved from a practical project to a much more theoretical project. That definition can be a difficult point. If you have a good relationship you can manage that process much more easily. Can go back to first principles and look at interests in the institution.

Question: With more and more partnership working will there be a standard for digital imaging?

Jodie: There already are for some communities but would hope these would be more unified and international.

Peter: Probably not quite. It’s horses for courses – some students want thumbnails in a powerpoint file, others want a major high res Tiff (e.g. BBC).

Doug: We create the biggest quality file we can do at the time – then you can make available other useful lower res formats. But standards of tech go up so you are always trying to avoid redoing the digitisation as much as possible

Alastair: Some digital projects combining content still have their own institutional needs. Can get high level agreements but maybe not enforce the format.

Jodie: Becomes about guidelines then – especially for community generated content.

Alastair: Things will evolve.

Peter: Maybe we will have to redo all 2D in 3D in the future

Doug: We aren’t the first generation to do this stuff of course, we just change specs.

Martin: The great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from. For people dipping toe in the problem of standards is that they can become a reason for not doing things.

Alastair: Important to support and convert data and metadata – everone can use their own stuff but you can find your way through all of it (like Google).

Question: Does this sort of working benefit smaller libraries and institutions, can you bring them into partnerships? How do you work with smaller partners like museums?

Peter: think small institutions in Wales are so keen on WHELF as smaller institutions benefit more greatly, though larger institutions are seen as leading for taking part in these projects.

Martin: could say that it’s not our problem. We concentrate on our own collections, perhaps the last thing we need worry about is the small institutions. But we as a partnership become a service provider so perhaps the thought is whether you become a commercial service. But in absence of national funding for digitisation perhaps expert centres around the country start providing service to other small institutions for cost or near cost perhaps

Doug: we do small scale digitisation for partners where we want access to content – for instance for items that build the history of the V&A itself. Don’t do it on a commercial basis. We have a good relationship with RIBA. We have some very specialist equipment housed with us and they can use it.

Jodie: can see that as we build business cases – internal digitisation can be done but external digitisation may also be useful. Maybe bartering of expertise or similar could be traded for use of equipment / digitisation skills.

Question: Don’t suppose there is anything new in collaboration but what is unique or new about collaboration around digital activities?

Alastair: New challenges but also new technologies for communications. Maybe some new twists though.

Peter:  Need capacity to start. Smaller institutions aren’t in the game, you have to have capacity to be in the game.

Alastair: Other aspect is that you can have global collaboration – and if universities are looking at securing or increasing international students that is more important.

Question: How do we evaluate and measure relationships and present that? And how do we provide ourselves with a business case for more digitisation? How do we form that?

Peter: WHELF – where would we be without collaboration – easy to measure by where we would be without collaboration – a much worse situation.

Martin: Difficult area. Contingent valuation approach can be a useful way to measure what we’d want. I’d pay 50k for a repository say, it’s worth having there and we get a better service that way. That sort of approach is how we deal with other partners like the NHS. But we need some sort of value to compare scenarios.

Alastair: How about the Manchester example?

Comment from Manchester staff: We haven’t seen the business case yet but different staffing proposals (and we already have the kit).

Alastair: JISC’s point of view is about thinking about digitisation and how it fits within your organisation. How does it fit in the workflow of teaching and research staff. How does it benefit the university? Metrics for that are increadibly difficult.

Martin: To disagree with myself – actually it’s all very well to measure stuff but sometimes benefits are very long term indeed. The Fairground Archive – when we started to digitise that it wasn’t automatically clear what the benefits would be but 10 or 15 years later it’s proved to be a pretty crucial resource.

Comment from Manchester staff: It has evolved. Business models have changed over time. Building a structure that will benefit broadly.

At this point Brian Clifford, University of Leeds took over as chair since Alastair Dunning had to leave early.

Question – The primary source being digitsed, secondary research being carried out on that data. Then talk about curating digital content – a lot of social media is ephemeral how do we collect and tie that to the original sources.

Peter: People’s collection wise I don’t know. They are doing something which is part of current agenda, funding is there, demand is there, issue is known but not a known solution

Doug: We are using crowdsourcing at the moment, some more public than others. One was to do with cropping images. Someone in our online museum section suggested crowdsourcing cropping of images – flagged as crowdsourced and not overwritten. Similarly people could add notes and thoughts to our own objects. Don’t want that data to be cluttered – so you have to manage that appropriately.

Jodie: Have a few collections we want to crowdsource so looking out at other examples.

Comment from Manchester staff: Thinking about using flickr for some crowdsourcing.

Comment: Looking at Transcribe Bentham there are 8 regulars out of hundreds of users. Realigning expectations of crowdsourcing. Not just output but community built.

Comment: Other useful examples here include the work the National Library of Australia have done with digitised newspapers and the work the National Library of Scotland have done via Flickr.

Comment from Manchester Staff: Who will moderate this material?

Comment from representative from the National Fairground Archives: We’ve done some mocked up surveys on fairground bulletin boards on habits. Less care taken over digital images. When 35mm was in use you are careful anout taking pics, but now people will throw tons of materials online but how do you curate that material? Need to look at it now. We don’t really have “quality” listed in our collections policy – how do we add or deal with that? I follow threads on discussion forums. If this was unleashed on our online space there would be lots of moderation. Need to differentiate between good quality information and everything else. We have diaries from the 1950s but in the future that inormation will be on blogs and messageboards.

Comment: Would’t disagree but strategically we have to engage with this material. What struck me about Peter’s presentation on WHELF what struck me was that the govnerment are happy to put money in that sense of Welshness. Strategically as curators of information we have to engage with identity as that matters to people. Many of us are from HE perspective. Other part of that is that future material for future history is arriving. How we do it – no clear answers.

Comment: Napier University have been using mystery objects of the day for unknown items in their printing archive. The Library of Congress is preserving, there is commercial tracking of comments for product mentions and that will also surface useful techniques.

Peter: That’s leaving it to commerce!

Comment: No the LC work is important, the NLS Flickr work reuses user data. Twapperkeeper has been locked out of accessing and archiving tweets for download (as it once did). Commercial monitoring can help us find the right methodology here.

And with that last set of discussions the day ended with Martin’s thank you’s to all speakers and panellists. He also wanted to thank the LIFE-SHARE team as they are now at the end of the project. The  Legacy of materials and good practice advice is all on the website: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/library/projects/lifeshare/