The Data Foundry at the National Library of Scotland: a presentation by Dr Sarah Ames

Data Foundry National Library of Scotland Last Wednesday on 9th December the Digital Scholarship Librarian at National Library of ScotlandDr Sarah Ames – was a visiting speaker at the weekly (online) gathering of staff and PhD students of the Centre for Social Informatics. On this occasion we were also joined by some of our other colleagues from the wider School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University.

Sarah’s presentation centered on work underway at the National Library of Scotland to support computational uses of the Library collections. Sarah is responsible for the Library’s new Digital Scholarship Service and its open data-delivery platform: the Data Foundry.

There are five aims and objectives of this new service: These are to:

  1. Enable and support the use of computational research methods with the collections;
  2. Ensure that the collections are used to their full potential;
  3. Establish a library culture which understands and can support digital scholarship;
  4. Practise and promote transparency in our data creation processes;
  5. Anticipate the future of research.

These aims will be achieved through three strands of activity: making collections available in machine readable format; external engagement and collaborative projects; and internal engagement and training programmes.

Sarah discussed the changes to Library processes to make collections available as data, including producing different file formats and metadata packages. She also highlighted  some of the challenges – and opportunities – of this work. These include the conception of the Library’s collections as data, OCR quality and selection processes, and the vast scale and scope of digital scholarship.

Sarah also used the time during her presentation to highlight some of the Digital Scholarship Service’s recent projects and collaborations. These have included: the hosting of an Artist in Residence who has used machine learning methods with the collections; working with data visualisation students; and an annual Digital Scholarship Research Fellowship (the current call is open for applications until 14th February 2021). All of these, and more, are featured on the Data Foundry’s Projects page.

Following Sarah’s presentation Napier colleagues asked Sarah questions about her work. This led into a lively discussion across a range of themes including the relationship between this work at the National Library of Scotland and similar initiatives at the British Library, metadata, and Sarah’s work with LIBER (the employer of our most recent PhD graduate Dr Iris Buunk).

For further information about Sarah’s work, please see the paper that she recently co-authored with Stuart Lewis (Associate Director of Digital at the National Library of Scotland) and published in Big Data & Society: ‘Disrupting the library: digital scholarship and the National Library of Scotland‘.

Disrupting the library: Digital scholarship and Big Data at the National Library of Scotland

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