As the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States, the Library of Congress has celebrated hundreds of birthdays and even more milestones than we can count.
In 1966, Library programmer Henriette Avram piloted the game-changing Machine-Readable Cataloging Record (MARC). 50 years later, computers had completely revolutionized librarianship and public access – coincidentally, 2016 also marked the first year the Library’s website, loc.gov, surpassed 100 million visits. The Library celebrated 200 years of serving Congress in 2000, commemorated the centennial of the Congressional Research Service in 2014, and just this month, recognized the 10th birthday of Congress.gov, which receives over 3 million unique visitors each month.
Here on The Signal we’re honoring a smaller, but equally exciting, Library anniversary – five years of LC Labs!
In September 2017, the Library established a group of innovation specialists to support creative uses of the digital collections. LC Labs works with colleagues around the institution to help throw open the Library’s treasure chest, connect more deeply with researchers and the public, and cultivate a culture of continuous learning. Over the past five years, we’ve done just that!
Through research, experimentation, and collaborations with other federal agencies and cultural heritage groups, some of the Library’s brightest ideas have become vivid reality. The original Library of Congress API has evolved into three distinct services and an array of machine-readable access methods. The early Beyond Words crowdsourcing pilot has grown into By the People, now a permanent Library program with thousands of dedicated volunteers. The efforts of the Library’s very first Innovator in Residence, data artist Jer Thorp, now sit in company with ideas from Brian Foo, Benjamin Lee, and Courtney McClellan. And numerous other investigations have explored machine learning, speech-to-text transcription, emulation environments, and other ways of using technology to help make the collections more available.
Our team is grateful for all the opportunities we’ve had to bring these challenges to the Library, learn with our colleagues, and support the Library in building toward an increasingly digital future.
We’re also especially thankful to you! Your support and insights over the years have kept us informed about related work and made sharing about our efforts even more enjoyable.
We’re celebrating our anniversary by looking back at some of our most illuminating research and collaborations since 2017. Below, we’ve selected just a few of our favorite blog posts to highlight the breadth and variety of ideas and experiments LC Labs has engaged in over the last five years.
Join us for a trip down memory lane!
- The Library of Congress launched labs.loc.gov to help share explorations and discoveries in the digital collections through experiments, projects, events, and resources. https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2017/09/library-launches-labs-loc-gov/
- LC Labs presented Beyond Words, a pilot crowdsourcing application created in collaboration with the Library’s Serial and Government Publications Division and Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO). https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2017/09/introducing-beyond-words/
- The Library’s first Innovator in Residence, data artist Jer Thorp, spent the first few months of his residency connecting with staff, visiting collections, and exploring creative uses of data available at the Library. https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2018/01/january-innovator-in-residence-update-experiments-with-jer-thorp/
- The Library presented its new Digital Strategy and a forthcoming crowdsourcing program. https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2018/10/new-strategy-new-crowd-new-team/
- Linked Data Applications Technical Specialist Matt Miller described the use of Wikidata as a hub for institutional identifiers to allow seamless access from dozens of sources using Wikidata IDs. https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2019/05/integrating-wikidata-at-the-library-of-congress/
- Dr. Elizabeth Lorang, Dr. Leen-Kiat Soh, and doctoral candidates Mike Pack and Yi Liu discussed the Library’s collaboration with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln team in a Summer of Machine Learning. https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2019/09/summer-of-machine-learning-collaboration-with-the-university-of-nebraska-lincoln/
- LC Labs collaborated to publish a Machine Learning + Libraries report on the possibilities and challenges of using artificial intelligence technologies in the world of libraries. https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2020/07/machine-learning-libraries-a-report-on-the-state-of-the-field/
- LC Labs and experts from the Library’s Manuscript Division investigated born digital access methods in the “Born Digital Access Now!” Staff Innovator effort. https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2020/12/thats-a-wrap-2020-staff-innovator-detail-comes-to-a-close/
- A collaboration with the Library’s 2020-2022 Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow revealed the use of derivative datasets in making large digital files more available to potential users. https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2021/11/gcd-derivative-dataset/
- LC Labs joined an international cohort of practitioners in the “Collective Wisdom” collaboration to research the state of crowdsourcing in cultural heritage and explore emerging technologies in the field. https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2021/08/collective-wisdom/
- Researchers from the Computing Cultural Heritage in the Cloud (CCHC) initiative shared their work exploring pathways for the Library to deliver its digital collections at scale using a cloud computing environment. https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2022/03/cchc-researchers-share-outcomes/
- LC Labs partnered with an expert from the Library’s Manuscript Division to explain the complexities and insights found in born digital collections. https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2022/05/how-to-cross-the-equator/
There are many more posts showcasing LC Labs’ work with Innovators in Residence as well as guides to digital scholarship, the loc.gov API, born digital archives, datasets, and the digital collections. We invite you explore them all, right here on The Signal!