Asian and African studies blog

12 August 2015

LibCrowds: How your contributions can help improve access to the collections of the British Library

It has been just over two months since the LibCrowds platform was launched. In that time, volunteers have made over 13,000 contributions and completed over 4000 tasks. The first batches of data are currently being sorted and provisional figures look promising, with approximately 50% of cards being successfully matched against an appropriate OCLC WorldCat record. What this means in practice is that in two months our volunteers have already helped to create somewhere in the region of 2000 new electronic catalogue records, which will soon be available via Explore. This number is likely to rise even further as the data is sorted and some of the more ambiguous matches are confirmed.

For those that have already participated, or those that might be about to, we thought you might like to know the end-to-end process involved in turning your contributions into electronic catalogue records.

The back-end process involved in turning your contributions into new online catalogue records.

The first stage is to ask three volunteers to attempt to match an image of a catalogue card against records retrieved from the WorldCat database. So far, a very high proportion of volunteers have successfully selected accurate records. However, by asking three people to complete the same task, and looking for cases where at least two volunteers have selected the same record, we can provide a level of risk mitigation and be confident that the records being retrieved are correct. In cases where volunteers choose different records more thorough checks will be needed to verify which (if any) are correct. It is also important to identify those cards that don’t match a current WorldCat record, so no contributions are wasted.

Once a project is complete, a quality control process is performed by British Library staff. This includes spot checks by the relevant curators, investigation of any volunteer comments, normalisation of shelf marks and various other automated checks against the WorldCat database. The end product of this process is a list of British Library shelf marks and associated OCLC control numbers.

This list provides the input to a batch process that creates copies of the identified WorldCat records, adds the associated British Library shelf mark and then ingests these new catalogue records into the British Library’s main catalogue database, making them available via Explore.

The LibCrowds statistics page provides a range of charts representing current contribution data.

Each contribution is important in helping to build the British Library’s searchable online database. The current focus is on improving access to our Chinese and Indonesian collections and other collections are already being considered. However, no specific language skills are required to take part as cards generally include Romanised transcriptions.

Contributions to Convert-a-Card projects can be made from any desktop or mobile device.

The platform is being active developed, with recent updates including improved mobile optimisation, improved forum integration and the implementation of some ideas suggested by our volunteers. So, alongside the significant contributions to be made by participating in a project, there are plenty of other things for you to discover and explore over at LibCrowds. We look forward to seeing you there!

To stay up-to-date with recent developments read the LibCrowds blog, follow LibCrowds on Twitter or subscribe to the LibCrowds Newsletter.

For further information visit the LibCrowds Community.

Alex Mendes, Asian and African Studies



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