citylisHappy New Year (only a month late!)

I’m kicking the new year off with a quick recap before the main event, the British Library Labs 2016 Roadshow.

Since last we met, or rather since last I blogged, I have been busy with assignments, Christmas and now I’m back into lectures for a new semester. Last Semester I started my MSc Library Science at City University, which provided me with the impetus and opportunity to (re)start this blog. Last term I studied the grandly titled Library and Information Science Foundation, a whistlestop tour of history, looking at the origins of Libraries and Information Science as we know it today, and the enigmatic sounding DITA which translates to Digital Information Technology and Architecture.

This time around its Digital Libraries, looking at the collection and management of Digital and Digitized Materials (including repositories – which gives me a head start, since I focussed on that for my assignment) and Information Resources and Organisation, which looks at cataloguing rules, taxonomies, thesauri and more.

So the main event, The British Library Labs Roadshow 2016. Last year, I was fortunate enough to attend the British Library Labs Symposium, which you can read all about right here, the Roadshow kicks off the process for the British Library Labs Competition 2016 which will culminate in this years BL Labs Symposium, when the competition winners are announced.

British Library Labs Competition 2016

The annual Competition is looking for transformative project ideas which use the British Library’s digital collections and data in new and exciting ways. Two Labs Competition finalists will be selected to work ‘in residence’ with the BL Labs team between May and early November 2016, where they will get expert help, access to the Library’s resources and financial support to realise their projects.

Winners will receive a first prize of £3000 and runners up £1000 courtesy of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation at the Labs Symposium on 7th November 2016 at the British Library in London where they will showcase their work.

The deadline for entering is midnight British Summer Time (BST) on 11th April 2016. 1


The evening kicked off with an introduction by #citylis course director and lecturer Dr Lyn Robinson who said a few words about the late Marvin Minsky’s work in artificial intelligence and about Luciano Floridi’s concepts of AI and Ethics (Floridi says robots are more likely to be like hoovers, both less and more than we can imagine. (Although, even the BL are using robots for some tasks)

Motivator HAL 9000 soory dave
Stanley Kubrick’s HAL – Minsky advised Kubrick on the capabilities of the homicidal AI
 She said that its not contrary to what fiction would have us believe, its not killer AI we need to be concerned with so much as Digital Data, Big Data, Metadata and Meta-Metadata (Metadata about Metadata);

Data, Data everywhere – inside a Google Data Centre

Lyn Handed over to Dr Aquiles Alencar-Brayner, a Citylis Alumnus and now a Digital Curator for the British Library Labs. His presentation provide an overview to the work of and challenges faced by the BL Labs team, he talked about the 10 ‘in’ rules of Digital Libraries and the problems of scale in terms of storing and managing the data that is generated every day.

Digital Libraries: 10 “in” rules – from a presentation by  Dr Aquiles Alencar-

Dr Alencar-Brayner went on to discuss how the Digital Scholarship team supports BL staff and researchers  through  training courses and the projects they have run. He talked about how Digital Scholarship team are working to assist in the capture and conservation of personal digital devices and born digital manuscripts (the modern equivalent of the handwritten notebooks and diaries of old) for future analysis and access.

Lastly he gave some examples of how they have engaged with the public through exhibitions and crowdsourcing efforts such as the Growing Knowledge Exhibiton (2010 – 2011) and the BL Sound Map ‘Your accents’ interactive map of accents (more about the project here).

Next to take the floor was Mahendra Mahey Project Manager of the British Library Labs. Mahendra talked about the reasons for the British Library labs Awards, a means to learn about who is using the Library’s digital content and data, what they are doing with it, why and how. He explained that they also want to understand how they are supporting future users of their digital content/data and how they should be supporting them.

He then talked about last years winners, and the ways in which they made use of the British Library’s digital content (see my post for last years awards) and went on to announce this years competition. (see above).

Following on from Mahendra’s presentation, was a Q & A panel from #citylis students who were asked to talk about their experience and involvement with the British Library Labs. The Q & A was joined by former BL Labs Trainee Dimitra Charalampidou, via Skype, who talked about her experience of uploading Digitized Bookbinding sets to Wikimedia. It was a great opportunity to learn first hand the ways in which students can gain skills and experience through working with the BL Labs.

Farces… a slide from Ben O’Steen’s presentation

After the Q & A, Ben O’Steen, Technical Lead for BL Labs, gave a though provoking presentation called Farces and Failures. He talked about how the when the British Library Labs team work with researchers on a specific problem, they are also trying to understand how widely that problem is felt by the wider community. He talked about how we name and label things can shape the questions that people ask and the assumptions they make. Introducing the the concept of the farce where two people have a conversation and leave with a completely different ideas of what they talked about he said that common farce inducing words included Access, Collection, Metadata content and even Crowdsourced. Access to one person can mean a completely different thing to another. Much of the confusion can come from the assumption that a sample of digitized works, such as the Microsoft Books Collection, is representative of the overall sample. Other examples included the best guess dates in metadata. This led to the development of the sample generator a tool that was created which created statistically representative samples from the British Library’s book collections.

What does do we mean by “Access”? Ben O’Steen

He rounded out the talk by discussing how failure and imperfection can be helpful, the misconceptions surrounding crowdsourcing and a look at the use of games to aid in tagging content.

The final part of the evening, the ideas lab, was the most fun. In groups we had, 15 minutes, to try an pitch an idea to the BL Labs team for innovative use of their digital data, there were some intriguing ideas such as a soundtracks for novels using Archival sounds, and a tinder style app for tagging content. In the end the winning idea came from my team led by fellow #citylis student Hannah Kolef, which pitched a mashup between crime fiction metadata and real crime statistics to see explore possible correlations between fantasy and reality.

Overall it was a great and informative, evening and a privilege to be able to attend the inaugural stop on the 2016 Roadshow, in the company of fellow #citylisers and others. These events are one of the great things about #citylis, and also the BL, the opportunity to meet, interact and learn from so many different people.

1. British Library Labs Competition:








Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s