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Sarah de Haas

Submitted Entry for 2013 Competition

Application Programming Interface for Creation retrieving digitised manuscript information for integration into 3rd party systems


It would be interesting to try to promote inter-institutional collaboration by allowing 3rd party systems - for example, other libraries or research institutions - to include material from digitised collections of the British Library alongside their own digital collections. Access could be improved by offering metadata accessible via an application interface. The BL already offers API access to its main catalogue; extending this to include digital collections seems a natural step forward.

Assessment Criteria

The research question / problem you are trying to answer

Please focus on the clarity and quality of the research question / problem posed:

How can the British Library contribute to the creation of a set of standards for digitisation of manuscript collections, both to allow increased access to its own collections and to promote greater collaboration between institutions around the world in the process of creating digital collections of their own.

Please explain the ways your idea will showcase British Library digital collections

Please ensure you include details of British Library digital collections you are showcasing (you may use several collections if you wish), a sample can be found at http://labs.bl.uk/Digital+Collections

The British Library should be leading the way not just in digitisation of its collections, but in formulating innovative ways to allow those collections to be accessed. An API would allow developers increased access to these collections.
Please detail the approach(es) / method(s) you are going to use to implement your idea, detailing clearly the research methods / techniques / processes involved*

Indicate and describe any research methods / processes / techniques and approaches you are going to use, e.g. text mining, visualisations, statistical analysis etc.

This project would need to follow a standard project plan for creating any type of software:

- A product requirements document
- A scoping period to establish which available languages and tools should be used for development
- Build
- Test
- Release

Please provide evidence of how you / your team have the skills, knowledge and expertise to successfully carry out the project by working with the Labs team

E.g. work you may have done, publications, a list with dates and links (if you have them)

I am currently the API specialist on my team at Google, meaning I work closely with the developers in establishing the requirements for the API of the product that I work on, and I also write the technical documentation and am the main point of contact for any user questions.

I also hold an MPhil from the University of Oxford in English Literature from 650 -1550. This degree course was quite heavy in manuscript studies and paleography, so I have a reasonably clear understanding of the requirements that scholars might have for accessing digital collections.

Please provide evidence of how you think your idea is achievable on a technical, curatorial and legal basis

Indicate the technical, curatorial and legal aspects of the idea (you may want to check with Labs team before submitting your idea first).

Technical - while this is somewhat dependent on how the current digital manuscript collections have been created, I would imagine that the data structure should allow for relatively straightforward querying.

Curatorial - The challenge here, I suspect, will lie in creating a data structure that is flexible enough to accommodate different types of manuscripts, while providing as much information as possible to users of the API and maintaining clear enough standardisation to be usable for programmers. Still, an xml template shouldn't be too difficult to come up with.

Legal - Although I am not totally familiar with all of the legal issues surrounding copyrights and the BL, the general approach here will be to work out an adequate permissioning system for data access. This is something I am quite familiar with doing, and there are several approaches that should work depending on the requirements.

Please provide a brief plan of how you will implement your project idea by working with the Labs team:

You will be given the opportunity to work on your winning project idea between July 6th - October 31st 2013

My goal for this project would be to create a Product Requirements Document and scope the project in the time given. This would require access to:

- Stakeholders in the BL digitised manuscripts team who can offer advice on requirements at an institutional level
- The current codebase and database used for storing the digitised collections and presenting them via a User Interface