Today the Library of Congress has launched labs.loc.gov as a new online space designed to empower exploration and discovery in digital collections. Library of Congress Labs will host a changing selection of experiments, projects, events and resources designed to encourage creative use of the Library’s digital collections. To help demonstrate what exciting discoveries are possible, the new site will also feature a gallery of projects from innovators-in-residence and challenge winners, blog posts, and video presentations from leaders in the field.
Labs will enable users at every level of technical knowledge to engage with the Library’s digital collections. Visitors will have the opportunity to try experimental applications; crowdsourcing programs will allow the public to add their knowledge to the Library’s collections; and tutorials will provide a stepping stone for new computational discovery.
“We’re excited to see what happens when you bring together the largest collection of human knowledge ever assembled with the power of 21st century technology,” said Kate Zwaard, the chief of the Library’s National Digital Initiatives office, which manages the new website. “Every day, students, researchers, journalists, and artists are using code and computation to derive new knowledge from library collections. With Labs, we hope to create a community dedicated to using technology to expand what’s possible with the world’s creative and intellectual treasures.”
Currently featured on labs.loc.gov are the following:
- LC for Robots – a collection of machine-readable data sources and APIs for Library of Congress collections.
- Visual experiments with collections data
- A new open source crowdsourcing app called Beyond Words that features World War I-era newspapers
- Presentations, papers, videos, and other releases about what the National Digital Initiatives group is doing
- Upcoming and past events
LC for Robots: Library of Congress API
To maximize the potential for creative use of its digital collections, the Library has leveraged industry standards to create application programming interfaces (APIs) to various digital collections. These windows to the Library will make our collections and data more accessible to automated access, via scripting and software, and will empower developers to explore new ways to use the Library’s collections. Information about each API are available on a section of labs.loc.gov called LC for Robots dedicated to helping people explore the Library’s APIs and data sets.
Newly available is a JSON API for loc.gov, which is released as a work in progress that is subject to change as the Library of Congress learns more about the needs of its scholarly and technical user communities. The Library is releasing the API as a minimum viable product so that feedback from early adopters can help drive design and development for further enhancements.
The public can anticipate more opportunities to explore Library collections in the coming months. As Kate Zwaard explains, “We don’t think of labs as a product, we think of it as a promise. We’re excited about the projects that we’re launching with, but the purpose is to create a space that encourages creative work with the digital collections.” We invite you to make, discover, and tell us your experience on Twitter @LC_labs using the hashtag #BuiltwithLC and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See the Library of Congress press release about the launch.