Day 12 of blog every day in June 2012

by | Jun 12, 2012 | Uncategorized

Sharr medal presentation – Enhancing
Access to Digital Collections
Tebo, Sharr Medallist 2011
is the talk I presented at my interview for the Sharr Medal and reprised at the
award ceremony. The prezi to accompany the talk can be found here:
world is going online. Increasingly people are turning to the internet to seek
information and answer their questions. This trend includes parts of our
collections, here is a digitised manuscript from the National Library that has been
given greater reach by being made available online.
what about browsing? Historically one of the reasons people were drawn to
libraries was the serendipity of looking through the shelves to find something
of interest. This is more difficult on an iPad.
quote “The opacity of digital collections is frustrating” is something most
Librarians would agree with. What I find noteworthy about this quote is that it
is from a paper published in 1997 and arguably not much has changed. Some of
the current methods we give people for finding online material aren’t very
intuitive for users. If you were looking for an Indian cookbook on a library
catalogue, you probably wouldn’t think to look under the subject heading:
Cooking, Indic.
certainly not all doom and gloom though, Libraries are increasingly finding new
ways to connect people to ideas through multiple points of access. My first
example of this is the State Library of NSW website which features a large and
obvious block on the right hand side promoting their online collections. Next
up is Trove, a fantastic interface that helps people search across the contents
of Australian Libraries. It highlights different types of items and gives visual
York Public Library (NYPL) have very cleverly created virtual shelves to give
clients the browsing experience without having to visit a physical branch.
Curtin University Library are showing excellence in professional service (one
of ALIA’s core values) with the app that they created for smartphones. I’ve
used this app as a student at Curtin and found it very useful to get
information and do catalogue searches.
was impressed to find ALIA leading the way on Pinterest, a fairly new social
media service that involves pinning pictures to virtual pinboards. I also found
Yarra Plenty Library on there and was interested to see that they labelled
their boards in Dewey order. This is very cute, but it might be more useful to
clients if they also add titles to them.
example that I’m thrilled by is the library game created by NYPL. They invited
500 young people to stay the night in their main branch and explore their
collections with the help of a specially created app. Groups competed to find
clues and unlock more information, it sounded amazing. The app is still
available for people to use to explore the Library in an interactive way.
these examples are very encouraging, but what else can we do to make our online
collections more accessible? One method is geotagging; this involves adding
geographic information to photos, maps, archives or just about anything. This
can help clients find information local to them or specific to a particular
area using a map interface. The example here shows photos from the NLA
collection from Bondi beach, geotagged using Flickr an online photo sharing
up is timelines. This example is from the World Digital Library and shows
collection items organised in chronological order. This is interesting for
people to explore and can help add context. For fiction collections, genre maps
can be a useful tool. This method can help people gently step away from their
reading comfort zone and also helps respect the diversity of interests of
clients. It can be helpful for readers who aren’t sure how to go about
selecting a novel to read.
next example is a frivolous one from Star Wars that shows influence mapping. This
indicates how items or events inspire or are inspired by others. It could
equally be done with composers, authors, etc. Another way of helping clients to
find things is to allow user tagging of collection items. When done well, this
can add rich levels of additional data to items and greatly increase their
usefulness to specific communities. The Powerhouse museum is having a lot of
success with this approach.
point I’m trying to make with most of these examples is that information wants
to be free. The more different means we can give our users to interact with our
collections and create their own notes and pathways, the more useful and well
used it becomes. One of the key ways of doing this is to provide an API or
application program interface. An API is a way of letting other websites or
computer programs make use of information from yours. Websites such as Flickr
and Twitter provide APIs to allow others to create mobile phone apps and other
innovative platforms to give users new ways of utilising their service. If
Libraries provide APIs, our clients will have the means of using our data in
interesting and innovative ways that probably haven’t even occurred to us! As
you can see from the graph, use of APIs is growing greatly in recent years.
it all sounds like a great deal of work doesn’t it? That’s where Library
partnerships can come in. Very few Libraries will have the resources to make
many of these things happen on their own but they may well have the interest
and expertise to manage one or two. Between us, we can achieve more than you might
think. Strategically it is a good time to look at these sorts of digital access
questions. Western Australia
is looking at implementing a statewide Library Management System for all public
Libraries. What better time to consider the additional services it could offer
end with a picture of Ali Sharr. He was very forward thinking in his time and
oversaw the rollout of Libraries across WA. I think if he was here today, he
would be excited by the possibilities and would be urging us to get on with it.

1 Comment

  1. Geoff Strempel

    Great presentation Molly & I love the Prezi that accompanied it. And congratulations on winning the F.A Sharr medal.

    The opportunities that are created by being able re-purpose information provide libraries and their users with endless possibilities. Here's hoping that as a profession we stay at the forefront of the creative ways that information can be arranged, presented and accessed.


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