THE NATIONAL LIBRARY
of Finland Bulletin 2014
The National Library of Finland Bulletin 2014

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Majlis Bremer-Laamanen
 

See an interesting item in a newspaper or periodical? Clip it. Advertisements, articles and photographs from the past are now the object of crowdsourcing

Anyone browsing the Internet can collect images, advertisements and articles from the Historical Newspaper and Journal Library, the National Library's digital collection of newspapers, periodicals and ephemera. We can also share them with others who share our interests. The digital collections are a cornucopia of material dating from 1771 to 1910. Almost half of the material is in Swedish and the rest is in Finnish. You can use Finnish, Swedish or English for text searches on the website. Help us enrich our material. It's easy – just collect the items that interest you.

We live in a time when many people want to influence and enrich the content of the Internet. On the net, we meet people who share our interests.

The role of libraries as the disseminators of knowledge and information is particularly important in this context. For libraries, crowdsourcing can be a way of offering better services and giving users helpful tools at the same time. Our digital collections are available to multiple groups of users working together for the common good.

There are many types of crowdsourcing on the Internet. The National Library of Australia in Canberra uses crowdsourcing to enable text correcting for their digitised newspaper collection.

In 2011–2012 the National Library of Finland collaborated with the company Microtask on a project that enlisted volunteers to correct digitised material. The corrections were performed as tasks in online games. The success of the project prompted us to explore whether we could use crowdsourcing in our work with clippings of articles, images and advertisements from digitised newspapers, periodicals and ephemera. In this project, the focus was to be on the content of the collections and not on the gaming element. In 2011 we applied for and received funding from the European Social Fund for a two-to-three-year project called Kuvatalkoot. The alpha version of the service was launched in the summer of 2013. The beta version will be in place by the conclusion of the project in April, 2014.

Unlike many other libraries, the National Library of Finland boasts extensive in-house digitising operations at the Centre for Preservation and Digitisation in Mikkeli. The library's digital collections can be accessed at digi.nationallibrary.fi. The collections offer the following:
- The Historical Newspaper Library: all newspapers published from 1771 to 1910 (with two titles digitised up to 2010)
- The Historical Journal Library: 80 % of all general periodicals published from 1810 to 1910 (copyright-based material to 1944)
- Industrial ephemera from 1810 to 1944

The digital collections comprise 8 million digitised pages, half of which are in the public domain. The collections have generated more than 10 million page views. Since the digital information is stored in the METS format, we can process each word or clipping individually and enrich the existing information.

How can we generate interest?
What do we stand to gain by participating in a crowdsourcing project that focuses on articles, advertisements and images? There are so many things vying for our attention.

Crowdsourcing requires motivation. One way to motivate the participants is to offer a small remuneration for every subtask. This method is popular among businesses.

We offer our collaborators a platform that enhances their user experience. The platform is easy to use and includes a personal page where you can store the clippings you've collected. Your clippings are also searchable via a public clippings page and can be shared in social media. Our service is intended for those who are already using the digital collections, but we hope to attract new users as the service is made available to schools, researchers and others.


Welcome to Digitalkoot

A free text search in the digital collections yields information on the city of Stockholm as a tourist attraction or on the large number of telephone devices in the city (the newspaper Kotka, 15 October 1896). Copenhagen in the summertime is the topic of an item in the 13 September 1896 issue of Wasa Nyheter. In Kristiania (Oslo), the artist H. Hansen set off on a skiing expedition to North America on 24 January 1896. He discovered that the Finnish Haapavesi brand of skis were the best he had ever used. As page 3 of the 23 April 1896 issue of Kotka shows, his travel plans changed, and he received funding to travel to the New Siberian Islands in search of the explorer Nansen.

When you find an article that interests you, log on to Digitalkoot. Make a clipping of the contents you want, whether it be an account of gold fever in Ivalo, Finland or in Melbourne, Australia, or descriptions of everyday life in Singapore and Stockholm, or a report of a Russian-Finnish consul who left his money in Paris (Finlands allmänna tidning 1863, below). Or material about your family, your home town or other topics of interest. You can use a computer or a tablet. You log in using your social media address.

Digitalkoot

Highlight the article. The only fields you need to fill in with metadata are
- the name of the article/clipping
- the genre of the article/clipping

If you wish, you can assign search terms in Finnish, Swedish or English using either the Finnish General Upper Ontology (YSO/ALLSO) or search terms of your own choosing. You can also add private or public comments to the clippings.

The title, date and page number of the publication are filled in automatically.

The clipping is automatically added to the public search page, where all the metadata serve as search elements.

Digitalkoot

If you have comments or additional search terms that you would like to add to an article, you can do so. Do you happen to know something about the said consul who left his money behind in Paris? Or do you know where Hansen went? You can submit this information if you wish. You can also add clippings from the public page to your personal page.

The users

Users' comments on the service were analysed earlier in the project and examined in depth at the beginning of 2013. The two-week survey was advertised on Facebook and its subject was the Historical Newspaper Library, the most frequently used of the digital collections. We received 231 responses, 20 of them from users who had not previously used the library.

The survey was aimed at users of the Historical Newspaper Library, and showed the following:

- The typical visitor uses our material frequently, 1 to 7 times per week. We have an active user group who can enrich our collections.
- Of the respondents, 22 had already shared our material on social media.
- Our users belong to a relatively higher age group and do not use social media as much as people generally do. Despite this, 160 respondents used several social media and only 75 did not use social media at all.

The results indicate the following:

- Users want to share what they do – they want to collaborate through social media or on the website.
- Users want a personal page with private comments.
- The platform must be user-friendly.
- Users must be able to log in to the service without social media. This will make crowdsourcing easier even if the material is copyrighted.

The survey provided us with valuable information. Our objectives proved correct, and the survey results helped us clarify them even further.

Majlis Bremer-Laamanen

THE Kuvatalkootproject is now Digitalkoot

During the project we were forced to change our plans for its implementation. We were unable to hire a suitable person, and were given permission by the financer (EU) to outsource the work. In January 2013 we signed an agreement with the companies Gofore and Evident. This proved to be a success. Using the Kanban system, we were in close contact with both firms. Since the concept was already in existence we focused on the technical aspects. We were lucky to have the services of a very competent and helpful person. Our staff and the contractors’ staff have been in daily contact through Skype, working side by side. Our objective was to build an interesting and user-friendly platform for crowdsourcing, one that is completely integrated in the web service and its underlying functions.

The first version was completed in June, 2013. Since this module is one of the first, considerable planning was required to implement “simple” and usable ideas. We also had to update the underlying interface and database to conform to current needs.

With the support of the steering committee, we extended the timeframe of the project to the end of April 2014 so we could continue our work and also give the digital collections’ website and crowdsourcing module a new visual image. We enlisted the services of the design agency Idean for this purpose. The project is now as of spring 2014 called DIGITALKOOT.

This crowdsourcing project has been rewarding and inspiring for us. It has also involved quite a lot of work. The digital collections’ user interface has been revamped to meet current needs, and we hope it will be to your liking. We know that more could be done—we have been forced to prioritise, again and again. In the future, we hope to further develop the service’s search options.

 

Majlis Bremer-Laamanen is the Director of the Centre for Preservation and Digitisation

 



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