Learning the Lessons of working with the British Library’s Digital Content...

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Open University

Open University Library

Milton Keynes: the Library Presentation Room

Milton Keynes


United Kingdom

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A workshop organised by British Library Labs and the Open University as part of the British Library Labs Roadshow (2017).

A series of presentations exploring the British Library's digital collections, how they have been used and the lessons learned by working with researchers who want to use them. This will be followed by discussions and feedback around potential ideas of working with the Library's data.

The Roadshow will showcase examples of the British Library’s digital content and data, addressing some of the challenges and issues of working with it, and how interesting and exciting projects from researchers, artists, educators and entrepreneurs have been developed via the annual British Library Labs Competition and Awards. This year we intend to focus on some of the lessons we have learned over the last four years of working with the Labs, promote our awards and get attendees thinking of what they might do with the British Library's collections. The team will also talk about future plans at the Library to support Digital Scholarship. The day will include presentations from the researchers who are working on interesting Digital Humanities projects at the Digital Humanities Hub.

Date and Time:
Wednesday 3rd May 2017, 1300 - 1630


Open University Library, Milton Keynes: Library IL Suite

Please refer to the following map detailing how to get to the event. The Library Presentation Room is on the ground floor of the Betty Boothroyd Library.

BL Labs Roadshow (2017)

The British Library Labs project has been running since 2013 and the Labs team are regular visitors the Open University. Labs will reflect on the lessons they have learned over the last four years and focus on some of the typical questions researchers first ask and the common misconceptions they have of working with the the British Library's digital collections and data. They will also provide examples of what researchers were able to actually achieve and the challenges they faced.

Hundreds of thousands of digital items and objects are being created and collected for researchers to use such as digitised manuscripts, sheet music, newspapers, maps, archived websites, radio, performances, TV news broadcasts, and artworks, as well as the more expected items like scanned versions of books.

This wonderful cacophony of content is having a significant effect on how institutions like the British Library support the research needs of their users. Will people discover new information when they are no longer restricted to viewing a single page from a single book at a time? How can the British Library build systems that provide a coherent route across its content, regardless of whether it is a televised news report or a unique signature drawn in the margins of a map? How can we use crowd-sourced information, computer vision and machine-learning techniques to provide people with better tools to better judge and interpret the context of illustration or work? How can we exploit animations and interactive infographics to better convey the information found in our holdings?

This is the research space that British Library Labs explores and we want to encourage researchers at the Open University to work with us and share their research questions and innovative ideas around this.


1300 Lunch

1330 Introduction

What is British Library Labs?

The British Library Labs project supports and inspires scholars to use the British Library’s incredible digital collections in exciting and innovative ways for their research, through various activities such as competitions, awards, events and projects.

Labs will highlight some of the work that they and others are doing around digital content in libraries and also talk about ways to encourage researchers to engage with the British Library.

Labs will discuss the annual BL Labs Awards which recognises outstanding work already completed, that has used the British Library’s digital collections and data. This year, the Awards will commend work in four key areas: Research, Artistic, Commercial and Teaching / Learning.

What have we learnt over the last for years of Labs

An examination and reflection on the lessons the Labs team have learned by working with those who have wanted to use the over the last four years.

1430 Reusing and enhancing library linked data to catalogue listening experiences in literature
Alessandro Adamou (Knowledge Media Institute)

The Listening Experience Database collects documented evidence of listening to music as found in literature and social media and publishes them in freely searchable and explorable form as well as open data. It incorporates linked data from the British National Bibliography as a primary source of reference and re-publishes them with the added output of its life-cycle of detecting evidence of listening.

1445 Linked data without the pointy brackets: capturing place information in BL maps
Elton Barker (Classical Studies)

Linked Data is a way of connecting online resources that have something in common. Since 2010 Pelagios has been pioneering the means of linking documents (texts, maps, databases) through common references to places, using the process of annotation. In this presentation I will talk about our Web-based, Open Source platform, Recogito, a DIY annotation toolkit for people interested in capturing place information that enables the linking of data to take place "under the hood".

1515 National libraries and digital resources for the historian of Scotland and Wales
Richard Marsden (History)

This short talk will flag up some of the issues which historians may encounter when using digital resources available from the national libraries of Wales, Scotland and Britain. Those issues are intended as examples of the challenges facing those who research and teach Welsh and Scottish history online at a time when tensions between British institutions and their Celtic counterparts have yet to be fully resolved.

1530 Coffee

1600 British Library data and collections and discussions and feedback on ideas, challenges and issues.

Labs will give an overview of some of the Library's digital collections and lead on a discussion on how they can be used. The team will also give feedback on ideas delegates might have on using the collections.

1630 Finish

Feedback Form
Please complete the following feedback form for the event

Speaker Biographies:

Mahendra Mahey, Manager of British Library Labs.
Mahendra came to the British Library 4 years ago to manage the Andrew W. Mellon funded British Library Labs (@BL_Labs) project. Together with Ben O’Steen (Technical Lead) and colleagues in Digital Scholarship, they have been working pragmatically to open up the wealth of the British Library's digital collections and data for those that want to use it in transformative and innovative ways. Importantly, they are learning what researchers, educators, artists and entrepreneurs want to do with the Library’s data and in turn helping them together with others in the Library to try and achieve this. As a result, Mahendra and the team are also discovering where the gaps are and what tools, services and processes the Library will have to modify or develop to support the ever increasing demand to use the Library’s digital collections. Currently, he is working on a possible new project to build on the work of Labs to design, create and implement a business model to support scalable sustainable services for scholars to use the British Library’s digital collections in their research.

He has a long background of working with digital technology as a manager, educator and adviser in Further and Higher Education for researchers, educators, librarians and businesses both in the UK and internationally. He spent 4 years working on a unique project which built a network of nearly 2000 software developers working in UK universities and colleges, the Jisc funded Developer Community Supporting Innovation (DevCSI) initiative. He organised several very well received ‘Developer Happiness’ conferences (Dev8D) and carried out research to understand and articulate the value and impact software developers bring to UK academia as well as exploring existing and new career pathways for them.

Before that, he worked on several projects. One which focussed on how UK and European academic institutions could manage their research information and processes more efficiently using a common standard.(CERIF). Another which carried out research and supported several other projects which focussed on several aspects of open access digital repositories (e.g. technical, legal, strategic, metadata etc.) for scholarly outputs such as peer-reviewed articles, research data and grey-literature.

For five years, he was an adviser and trainer encouraging scholars, educators and librarians to access, re-use and re-purpose digital resources in their work and at the same time showing them how this can be augmented through the effective and best-practice use of digital technologies, techniques and methods.

Finally, he has worked as a manager and educator in Further and Higher education in the public and private sector for over 10 years in Social Sciences, Computing, Multimedia and English for Speakers of Other Languages both in the UK and internationally in Poland.

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Milton Keynes: the Library Presentation Room

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