THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Sound and vision blog

03 April 2008

User Community Launch

In the first phase of Archival Sound Recordings, we focused mainly on digitising recordings and making them available through the website.  While this work continues, we are now expanding our focus into researching how these recordings can be used in Further and Higher Education.  To help us find out, we have established a new User Community: a diverse group of academics, teachers, researchers, students, librarians and archivists.

In March this year, we invited this group to the British Library to share their experiences of the service - and their ideas for its future - with the project team.

The group was first given a general overview of the site and its functions, along with previews of forthcoming collections by British Library Sound Archive curators.  The day moved on to a discussion of some of the proposed new functions of the site, all of them designed to enhance the way users interact with the site and each other.

The first such function discussed was the tagging of recordings, which would allow users to assign keywords to pieces they listen to.  These tags would be picked up thereafter by the site's Search facility.  Tags could be used by teachers to direct students to a cluster of related recordings from different collections.

More controversial was the suggestion that the site could allow users to add contextual comments to existing metadata - giving extra background information on the recordings, linking to related articles or books, and giving insights from personal research.  The User Community was keen to be able to supplement existing information with more detail, but cautious of allowing unauthenticated material to appears alongside recordings.

And this is exactly the kind of issue we have set up the User Community to debate.  Having established the site to serve the needs of Further and Higher Education, Archival Sound Recordings should be driven more and more by feedback from its users - teachers and learners alike.

If you would like to join the discussion on the development of the website, you can do so through the Online Community.  To find out more, please email asr@bl.uk

Comments

This sounds like a great idea! Was it difficult to get those people together, knowing how busy everyone is nowadays? Do you have regular exchange of ideas?
It is always a challenge, isn't it - how to help people use the collection, how to make it more accessible.
I'm very interested to know how far has the interaction with the users developed, and do you see a growth in collection use.

The interaction stretches to User Panel members acting as 'champions' for the ASR service in their own communities. They support the project through advice, dissemination and through the presentation of papers at conferences or by simulating activity within their own networks. You are right, this is a very challenging area of business but with dedication it is possible to truly engage with the people who the service is aimed at.

The rewards for making these efforts are extensive as ownership of the service starts to become shared in some way, though this sharing always has to be moderated to ensure benefits are for all the users of the service, not just an active few.

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