British Library Labs: What it is, what’s been happening and how you can engage with it in the future


British Library Labs is a new project from the Digital Scholarship team at the British Library to engage scholars, explorers, trailblazers and software developers in coming up with innovative, transformative research questions and ideas which involve the use of the British Library's digital collections (digitised and born digital content) / data and possibly other similar digital collections and data elsewhere in some new way. There are exciting opportunities in research and development that are emerging in digital humanities research that would not have been possible if content and data were not made available in digital form which are some of the areas this project is trying to facilitate. This presentation and workshop will give participants the chance to actively participate, to reflect and apply the skills they have developed as part of 'Going Digital' and give them an opportunity to discuss and shape future work that British Library Labs will be doing in using and creating new tools, services and research methodologies especially in the context of digital humanities research.

The presentation will begin by setting the context, giving the background and plans to Labs, together with an examination and explanation of the processes that are involved in identifying digital collections and data for use with the initiative at the Library. Some of the Library's digital humanities content and data will be showcased and an update will be provided of the various engagement activities Labs has been involved with up to now, showing some examples of pioneering work researchers are doing at the moment in digital humanities and welcoming suggestions and feedback from the audience about new ways we should be doing things.

Then follows an analysis of the first Labs competition that has just been held (winners were announced on the 6 July 2013), identifying the kinds of interest from scholars in digital humanities it generated and a look at some of the final submissions that it received. There will also be a closer examination of the short listed entries and particularly the two winning entries, what made them stand out particularly and suggest what impact they may have in the future on Labs, digital scholarship, the British Library and wider.

There will be an opportunity to discuss and help shape the next competition Labs will be organising which is due to be launched on November 11, 2103. There will be an examination of the types of engagement, collaboration and technologies it is particularly interested in and should be in the future according to feedback from the audience.
The final part of the Labs session will be an exciting and fun interactive 'ideas lab' where participants will work in groups and try apply the skills they have learnt on 'Going Digital' by coming up with potential ideas / research questions that may use some of the British Library's digital humanities collections and data (as well as others), together with suggested research methodologies / techniques and tools.Time allowing, a summary of the ideas will be provided at the end.

Mahendra Mahey works in Digital Scholarship at the Library and is project manager of the British Library Labs project. James Baker is a Digital Curator who works in the same team. They will be running the session together.

For more information, please visit http://www.essex.ac.uk/ldev/events/going_digital.aspx