Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Tech & Science

How the Library of Congress is using crowdsourcing technology

The preservation of the millions of books, recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps, and manuscripts in its collections is of the utmost importance to all Americans. and people around the globe. the LOC is not only as a repository of our growth as a nation, but it also serves as a repository for international collections from around the world.

Each and every day, some 12,000 items are added to the Library’s vast collections. The new items are added to the approximately 164 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves. Just imagine – The collections include more than 38 million books and other printed materials, 3.6 million recordings, 14 million photographs, 5.5 million maps, 8.1 million pieces of sheet music and 70 million manuscripts.

Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress in the Thomas Jefferson Building.

Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress in the Thomas Jefferson Building.
Carol M. Highsmith

And while the Library has changed and grown as the nation has grown, we are now in the 21st Century, a new age of digital access and learning – requiring institutions, along with corporations and other entities, to embrace digital transformation and all its technologies.

Leaping into the digital age
In 2016, to effectively position itself for the future and prepare for its new leadership, the Library of Congress developed an open, agile and flexible five-year strategy for the fiscal years 2016 through 2020.

The LOC first looked at its past to determine its best move into the future. At the turn of the nineteenth century, the Library of Congress was created to provide members of Congress with access to information in support of their law-making activities. It was Thomas Jefferson’s library collection, acquired by the Congress that became the cornerstone of the reconstituted Library after the War of 1812.

Photograph of the Library of Congress  collections in 1890. Until the opening of the Thomas Jefferso...

Photograph of the Library of Congress’ collections in 1890. Until the opening of the Thomas Jefferson Building in 1897, the Library was housed inside the Capitol Building, where space was limited. The photographer is unknown.

During the 20th Century, as the U.S. assumed the mantle of power in the industrial, military and diplomatic sector worldwide, the Library increased its acquisition of books and other materials created outside the United States and presented in hundreds of languages. This resulted in the Library developing more efficient methods for organizing the materials to allow for better access, particularly because of Lawmakers increased focus on international events.

Now, it’s the 21st Century, and with its new technologies, an era of interconnectivity, characterized by instantaneous communication and information-sharing has been ushered in on a global basis. The Library’s collections and services are now available to a rapidly increasing number of networked individuals across the country and throughout the world and this knowledge must be able to travel across a multiplicity of systems and sources, according to the LOC’s strategic plan.

The new IT strategy unfolds
One of the very first things done under the new strategy was to fill two high-level management positions: the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and the Chief Operating Officer (COO). The CIO took over responsibility for information technology, web services, and repository development, among other duties. Under the new COO, financial, fiduciary, and other key operational functions are brought together to achieve full accountability.

Librarian of Congress  Carla Hayden. Appointed in September  2015.

Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden. Appointed in September, 2015.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden became the first African American and the first woman to lead the Library of Congress on Sept. 14, 2016, and she has had the responsibility of making the Library of Congress’ information and material accessible to all, and she believes targeted digitization is one way to meet that goal.

She also believes having a citizen archivist program – similar to the one at the National Archives, is the way to achieve that goal. “There was a real concern about 20 years ago that libraries as physical entities were going out of business,” Hayden said during her Sept. 29 talk on libraries in the digital age at Georgetown University. “What we see now is that they are not going out of business, and they are viewed in this information ecosystem as the trusted place.”

Calling libraries a “trusted source of information,” Hayden went on to say, “Are we in the book business? No,” she said. “We are in the information business, [but] as the technology ecosystem has developed, we’re questioning that. … If we’re not in the information business, then it’s the people, empowerment and connecting.”

A variety of scanning equipment is utilized to properly perform digitization depending on the type o...

A variety of scanning equipment is utilized to properly perform digitization depending on the type of original material.

The LOC doubles down on digital with the launch of ‘labs’ site
The week before Hayden spoke at Georgetown University, the Library of Congress launched an experiment with information crowdsourcing through a new project from the just-launched, the library’s new home for digital experiments. According to the new site, it is “a new online space that will host a changing selection of experiments,” including projects by library challenge winners and “innovators-in-residence.”

“We already know the Library of Congress is the ultimate treasure chest, but with we are inviting explorers to help crack open digital discoveries and share the collections in new and innovative ways,” the Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in a statement.

This project from LC Labs is an experiment in crowdsourcing and community engagement. Our goals are ...

This project from LC Labs is an experiment in crowdsourcing and community engagement. Our goals are to gather more structured and usable metadata about the illustrations, comics, cartoons, and photographs in these newspapers; and to learn how to better connect to people who are interested in our collections.
Library of Congress

One featured project, called “Beyond Words,” asks the public to find cartoons and illustrations from the library’s collection of old American newspapers and digitally add a “caption” that will allow the images to become searchable.

To support future projects like this, the library has also released application programming interfaces (APIs) for a selection of its digital collections. “These windows to the Library will make the 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,” a press release states.

An API is basically a set of programming instructions and standards for accessing a Web-based software application or Web tool. Software companies will frequently release an API to the public so other software developers will be able to develop products that can be powered by the service.

“The Library is releasing the API [for] as a minimum viable product so that feedback from early adopters can help drive design and development for further enhancements.”

Avatar photo
Written By

We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

You may also like:

Tech & Science

Karim Beguir launched the artificial intelligence start-up InstaDeep in Tunisia in 2014 with just two computers and $2,000.


Forget it. Change the subject and move on.  


Max Verstappen rounded off a dominant weekend with victory in the first Chinese Grand Prix to extend his world championship lead.


It might be worth a judicial investigation to find out how all this legal brilliance happened.