Library Data for research projects: from the Travelogues project point of view

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Challenges to be faced. By Martin Krickl, Data librarian at the Austrian National Library.

For this year‘s Digital Humanities Austria Conference in Salzburg (29.11. – 02.12.2018), I was invited to take part in a round table discussion on the topic of “library data for research projects”. Following the general theme: “empowering researchers”, participants reflected on the possibilities and limitation of cooperation between libraries and researchers, on the need for data curation, on data formats and on the challenges concerning personal and technical infrastructures. Still the most common scenario is that libraries only „deliver“ data or that researchers retrieve it from the library’s catalogues or APIs when provided and subsequently do data-cleaning, data enrichment and data analysis on their own.¹ Unfortunately this scenario tends to be unidirectional however and the cleaned, enriched and analyzed data seldom gets reimplemented into the library’s persistent catalogue systems when the project has ended. Although most libraries claim to not to be responsible for storage of research data, improvement in the quality of their own holdings’ metadata is in their interest as well.

The possibilities of cooperative data management often boil down to the question of who does it, using which infrastructure, or which software. Researchers do not have regular access to library management software such as as ALMA – just to name one being used at the Austrian National Library – and librarians on the other hand would not spend time on re-editing data published elsewhere such as in a project’s final report, for example.

In the “Travelogues” project we aim for new ways of cooperation by having a datalibrian (such as myself) embedded into the project and thus taking immediately part in every step – a concept not quite common yet in Austria or Germany.² In our project we try to find experimental solutions for manageable datasets which could then be a guideline for similar tasks. For the Austrian National Library, the project can also be understood as testing different scenarios of data curation on the basis of existent infrastructure and new infrastructures – namely within the LibraryLabs and Linked Open Data strategies – as well. The personal constellation of historians, computer scientists and a librarian cooperating in a project is clearly ready for the challenges ahead concerning library data for research projects.

Further considerations concerning the topic of “library data for research projects”, possible problems and solutions from the perspective of a librarian will be presented in upcoming publications.


1 - In our project’s context, “library data” means bibliographical metadata for a curated groundtruth of travelogues in the holdings of the Austrian National Library, administrative metadata concerning their digitalization and OCR-analysis, images and – in a further step – annotations by researchers within the project.

2 - For the concept of “embedded librarianship” in research projects see Jake Carlson, Ruth Kneale: Embedded librarianship in the research context: Navigating new waters. In: College and Research Libraries News 72.3 (2011), 167–170. Clare McCluskey: Being an embedded research librarian. In: Journal of Information Literacy 72.3 (2013), 4–14. The concept is generally used for more ‘outgoing’ educational services.