Asian and African studies blog

08 June 2015

Introducing LibCrowds: a crowdsourcing platform aimed at enhancing access to British Library collections

Today we launch LibCrowds, a platform dedicated to the hosting of experimental crowdsourcing projects aimed at enhancing access to British Library collections.

The home page of LibCrowds

Our first project series, Convert-a-Card, is dedicated to the retro-conversion of printed card catalogues into electronic records, in order to make them available to a worldwide audience via our ExploreBL catalogue, which already includes nearly 57 million records.

The initial focus of Convert-a-Card is the Asian and African collections, and the catalogues involved are from the Chinese and the Indonesian collections.

The Chinese collections at the British Library contain more than 100,000 printed books and 2,500 periodical titles, some dating back to the founding of the British Museum in 1753. The Indonesian card catalogue documents nearly 4,000 printed books published before 1982, ranging from rare missionary works printed in Bengkulu, Ambon and Batavia in the early 19th century, to first editions of some of the most important works of modern Indonesian literature.

A catalogue drawer in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room (photo ©Jon Ellis)


Example of a Chinese card catalogue, with Chinese characters and pinyin transliteration.

Records matched, located, transcribed or translated as part of Convert-a-Card will be uploaded to the British Library's Explore catalogue for anyone to search online. The platform has been developed in association with BL Labs, an initiative that invites researchers and developers experiment with the British Library’s physical and digital collections. All datasets generated via projects hosted on the platform, as well as the image sets used within projects, will be available for download via LibCrowds.

Click here for our video guide to Convert-a-Card.

Get started here!

For more information, visit the LibCrowds Community, or email



Sara Chiesura, Annabel Gallop, Alex Mendes, Nora Mc Gregor



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