Digital scholarship blog

Enabling innovative research with British Library digital collections

30 May 2024

Meet our new Universal Viewer product team

Digital Curator Mia Ridge with an update... Last year we posted about the British Library building a dedicated product team to work on the Universal Viewer (an item viewer that can display images, audio, video and even 3D versions of digitised and born-digital library collections), based on the IIIF standard for interoperable images and other media. We're now delighted to introduce the team. I asked them to write a brief note of introduction, mentioning what they've been working on or like about the UV and IIIF. They'll be at the IIIF conference in LA next week, so do say hi if you spot them. 

We'd also love to hear from people interested in improving the Universal Viewer's UX in line with current expectations - more below!

Meet the Universal Viewer Product Team

Erin Burnand, Product Owner: I am responsible for developing the product's vision, goal and strategy, and work with stakeholders to ensure we get the best possible product. I have over 20 years experience working in GLAMs (galleries, libraries, archives and museums), most recently working in the British Library's Collection Metadata Authority Control team.

I love the way IIIF presents so many opportunities to be creative with our collections, and how imaginative the community are - I am looking forward to exploring these ideas to engage with our audiences as British Library services begin to be restored.

Lanie Okorodudu, Senior Test Engineer: I joined the British Library in March this year and have been working on testing the functionality of IIIF and UV implementations, new features, bug fixes and updates to ensure they meet our high quality standards. I appreciate the robust and flexible framework packed with features that IIIF offers as these are necessary for efficient testing and validation of digital content delivery systems. 

James Misson: I am a Research Software Engineer with an academic background in the digital humanities and book history, currently working on improving developer documentation for the Universal Viewer to facilitate contributions from the community. I enjoy how generous and open the IIIF community is with sharing knowledge and expertise.

Saira Akhter, Research Software Engineer: I joined the Library as part of the Universal Viewer product team back in November. I’ve been working on enhancing the settings dialogue by adding new options and fixing bugs to improve compatibility with various file formats. I like that the UV code is configurable, which allows for flexibility and easy adaptation across different institutions. 

Composite photo of team members Erin, Lanie, James and Saira against different backgrounds
Erin, Lanie, James and Saira

Say Hi at the IIIF conference!

The team will be hosting a Universal Viewer 'live' community call at the 2024 IIIF conference in Los Angeles. Join them at the Kerckhoff Coffee House at 10 - 11.30am on Thursday June 6th where they'll update on recent team activities including work on the user experience of transcribed text (a collaboration with the Swedish National Archive) and improving documentation to make it easier for newcomers to UV to participate in the community. 

What are they working on?

In addition to their comments above, the team have spent some time working through practical questions with the UV Open Collective - the process for pull requests, testing, documentation, and developing and sharing our roadmap. 

We've also been talking to folks at Riksarkivet (the Swedish National Archives), as they're working on implementing a search function within transcriptions displayed on the viewer. If you're involved in the IIIF or UV community you might have seen our call for inspiration for 'UV IIIF transcription search design': Have you seen any notable versions of IIIF viewers that display and / or search transcribed (or translated, etc) text? Please add a screenshot and notes to a new slide on our working doc UV IIIF transcription search UX - and thank you to people who've already shared some links and ideas!

V&A visit

The V&A Museum's Digital Media team have been doing interesting things with IIIF for a number of years, so we organised a meetup between the British Library's UV team and V&A digital folk working with IIIF once our team was complete. In April we went over to the V&A to share our experiences and discuss potential ways to collaborate, like sharing documentation for getting started with the UV. Our thanks to Richard Palmer for hosting, Hussain Ali, Luca Carini and Meaghan Curry for sharing their work and ideas.

BL V&A UV visit
The British Library and V&A teams on the grass in the V&A's South Kensington courtyard

How can you help?

We - particularly Mia, Erin and Lanie - are keen to work on the viewer's usability (UX) and accessibility. What features are missing compared to other viewers? What tweaks can we make to the spatial grouping and labels for different functions to make them clearer and more consistent? You can get in touch via [email protected], or post on the IIIF or Universal Viewer Slacks (join the Universal Viewer Slack; join the IIIF Slack).