Digital scholarship blog

Enabling innovative research with British Library digital collections

16 March 2020

A Season of Place – Journal Article Published!

This blog post is by Dr Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert, Digital Curator for Asian and African Collections, British Library. She's on Twitter as @BL_AdiKS.

Last year the Library’s Digital Scholarship Training Programme (DSTP), delivering training to BL staff, featured several training sessions dedicated to digital mapping, covering topics such as cataloguing geospatial data, geoparsing, georeferencing, working with online mapping tools, digital research using online maps, and public engagement through interactive platforms and crowdsourcing. We called it the ‘Season of Place’.

A year later, Gethin and I published a paper about it in the Journal of Map & Geography Libraries: Advances in Geospatial Information, Collections & Archives, in a special issue dedicated to Information Literacy Instruction. Our shiny new article is entitled “A Season of Place: Teaching Digital Mapping at the British Library”, and is available through this DOI: This is the abstract:

“One of the British Library Digital Scholarship team’s core purposes is to deliver training to Library staff. Running since 2012, the main aim of the Digital Scholarship Training Program (DSTP) is to create opportunities for staff to develop the necessary skills and knowledge to support emerging areas of scholarship. Recently, the Library has been experimenting with a new format to deliver its training that would allow flexibility and adaptability through modularity: a “season”. The Digital Scholarship team organized a series of training events billed as a “Season of Place”, which aimed to expose Library staff to the latest digital mapping concepts, methods and technologies, and provide them with the skills to apply cutting-edge research to their collection areas. The authors designed, coordinated and delivered this training season to fulfill broader Library objectives, choosing to mix and match the types of events and methods of delivery to fit the broad range of technologies that constitute digital mapping today. The paper also discusses the impact that these choices of methods and content has had on digital literacy and the uptake of digital mapping by presenting results of an initial evaluation obtained through observation and evaluation surveys.”

A Season of Place: Teaching Digital Mapping at the British Library- article screenshot

One of the things that we wrote about was the results of feedback survey sent to course participants three months after their training. Participants were asked questions about their levels of confidence in applying their learning within their work, relevance of the training to their work, frequency of applying knowledge or skills gained from the training days, and uptake of digital mapping tools following the training days. Survey results were published in the article mentioned above. However, in the meantime we’ve sent out a 1-year-later feedback survey, to see what people’s position was a year after undertaking our digital mapping training.

We had six responses to this 1-year survey. Respondents indicated that in most part digital mapping was not directly relevant to their areas of work, however if/when they would like to apply learning from the courses, they have some confidence in doing so (50% some confidence, 33.3% fairly confident, 16.7% confident). It was noted that areas of learning from the course applied to one’s work relate more to data clean-up and analysis rather than directly to maps, but that it was useful to know which software is available for when the need does arise in the future.

When it comes to specific tool usage, Google My Maps was the most popular tools that we’ve taught, followed by Recogito – this matches the levels of popularity indicated in our 3-month survey. Lastly, course attendees haven’t yet created, visualised or analysed geospatial data with the tools taught in the course (or others) – but did say that they’d learned a great deal, and that when the opportunity arises to start a relevant project – they’ll know where to start!

So, all in all, we’re happy that people have found our courses useful. The Library is now recruiting a Curator for Geospatial Cultural Heritage, contributing to the ‘Locating a National Collection’ project, a Foundational Collaborative project in the ‘Towards a National Collection: Opening UK Heritage to the World’ programme, funded by the AHRC. Do join us!

Apply here: – closing date is 22 March 2020.