Sunday, 22 November 2015

What about Trove?

Lorcan Dempsey, who seems to divine library trends before they become so, recently synthesised a post about San Francisco start-ups. 

The backstory, about moving from London to San Francisco, highlighted how living in two very different places influenced the design of many 21st applications:
Bay Area problems
That is, living here after living in London, it’s easier to see physical retail as the inefficient end-point to a logistics system, and harder to see it as a curation, discovery and demand generation system. I sometimes wonder how much that difference shapes ecommerce in the Bay Area versus New York and London.
One can also look at Amazon in this light - like Sears Roebuck before it, Amazon lets anyone anywhere buy things that you could previously only get in a big city. But that is not at all the same as letting people shop the way you do in a big city. Buying is not shopping.[]
Buying is not shopping. Just as searching for a known item in a very large discovery service (buying) such as Trove is not the same as browsing for an item, which may appear in a results set serendipitously (shopping) but turns out to be a perfectly reasonable immediate answer to the question. The medium for that item might be a digitised newspaper or a link to a monograph, a journal, a piece of sheet music, a film, a map or an artwork. Trove does this effortlessly and well, crossing the boundary from traditional catalogues to pool information for a wide range of Australian sources.

This is the power of Trove, its design architecture reflects the need to approach research using one or other of those finding techniques. It expedites both, but with an extra fillip - collaboration. The National Library was and is able to work closely with its close cultural neighbours to experiment with and grow discovery services, curating an unparalleled  virtual collection of Australiana. Since 2009, this has expanded from libraries, archives, galleries and museums to include historical societies and local government collections.

The virtual collection is created by sharing item descriptions, not monopolising them, and Trove supports this bi-directionally. That is, when one agency shares the descriptions (metadata) with Trove another agency can copy those descriptions, through the Trove Application Programming Interface (API), to create new virtual 'shopping' experiences.

However if technical support is not on hand to manage the terabytes of metadata available via the API, there are multiple ways to experience collaborative digital collection building through Trove:

⦁    a simple technical method to become a content partner, and in return, receive a     persistent, unique label for every item identified  
⦁    transforming existing item descriptions to help distinguish items in search results, while emphasising which agency has contributed them  
⦁    supporting virtual repatriation to overcome territorial fuzziness, where cohesive collections have been split across geographically close boundaries
⦁    influencing digitisation choice, to feature previously unavailable items
⦁    alternative websites, working on behalf of collections managed elsewhere 
⦁    volunteer mobilisation, to fill in description gaps or improve the legibility of local community newspapers
⦁    experimental platforms, built on Trove content, which help us to understand our language, our 19th and 20th century values, and our environment.

 [Ref: 2015 Museums & Galleries Queensland conference].  
The impact for the general public and researchers is immeasurable. Trove points to items held all over Australia, when the searcher didn't even know that they needed them. And the searcher is referred to an agency, large or small, which they may not have been aware of before. The shopping experience is fulfilling for both searcher and agency.

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