Digital Humanities Australasia 2018

Building better 'Library Labs' - Experiences and lessons learned from the British Library and around the world engaging with researchers, artists, educators and entrepreneurs who have used digitised cultural heritage collections and data (147)

Mahendra Mahey 1
  1. British Library, London, United Kingdom

The British Library is one of the largest national libraries in the world and is creating and storing millions of digital items every year such as digitised books, newspapers, maps, sheet music, manuscripts, audio / TV recordings as well as born digital archived websites, personal digital archives, electronic books, radio, performances, and artworks. This incredible range of digital material is having a profound effect on the way our libraries are supporting those who want to use digital content and methods in their work. What new facts will scholars discover when they analyse thousands of digitised books computationally using data-mining techniques? What are the challenges and solutions for libraries to build systems and services that provide seamless access to its digital material from a radio recording to newspaper story? What are the practical experiences of working on digital crowdsourcing projects, and how is machine learning really helping libraries to unlock new information hidden in its digital archives? Can we use digital technologies to visualise and shine light on a library’s holdings, and unearth unusual and surprising findings artistically?

Mahendra will give a brief overview of digital collections and data being made available through British Library Labs (BL Labs) and examine how some of them have been re-used by making connections and collaborating with digital researchers, artists, entrepreneurs, educators, curators and librarians around the world through a range of innovative projects, research questions and engagement activities. He will highlight the myths and assumptions many make about libraries and address the significant issues and challenges they face when working with digital collections and data (e.g. legal, technical, human etc.). He will reflect on lessons he has learned over nearly two decades of working in Further and Higher Education, suggesting the types of digital research that could bring significant benefit and impact to the way libraries in particular may work into the future.

To conclude, Mahendra will report back on an exciting international support network that he is starting to build with colleagues around the world. This community is bringing national, state, university and public libraries together that either had, are planning or already have experimental digital ‘Library Labs’ which encourage their users to re-use their digital collections and data. The group are already providing support to each other, sharing expertise, knowledge and experience and are pooling resources together in order to build better innovative digital ‘Library Labs’ that bring value to their organisations and users well into the future. They also intend to publish a practical open access book in 2019 about 'Building better Library Labs' which will include a description of the landscape of digital 'Library Labs' worldwide and provide advice and guidance for libraries who are in process of setting up or currently running digital 'Library Labs'.

Mahendra tweets at @BL_Labs and @mahendra_mahey

The slides for the session are available from the following link: