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Library Lab Showcases Projects

November 12, 2013—The Harvard Library Lab, a program of the Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC), showed off the work of more than 20 projects created by staff, faculty and students, with support from the Arcadia Fund. The exhibition, held in the Gutman Conference Center, featured projects that make original contributions to the way libraries work. Members of the project teams were on hand to demonstrate and discuss their projects. Visitors also slipped in to the adjacent screening room for a “movie extravaganza,” a series of videos chronicling many of the 56 projects funded by the Library Lab since it was established in 2010.

Kim Dulin, associate director for collection development and digitization at the Law School Library, demonstrated the Library Analytics Toolkit. “It’s a tool for collection development,” Dulin said, helping librarians to discover “gaps in the collection” in specific subject areas. By providing visualizations of anonymous data about what is on the shelves and what’s getting checked out, Dulin explained, the toolkit can answer questions such as: “What are we buying? What is popular? What are faculty using?”

The Author Names Project, represented by Christine Eslao from Information and Technical Services, helps librarians and publishers determine the correct identity for an author. Catalogers maintain lists of author names that link all the different versions of the name to a single, authoritative record. The Author Names Project provides a way for librarians to get information directly from publishers before the book lands on a cataloger’s desk. “It’s about finding things the publisher already knew,” said Eslao. Catalogers structure and enrich the raw data for library use, but then also share it back to the publishers. “We give publishers a standardized form that can be customized and broken up into fields like the author’s date of birth and geographic location.”

Sue Kriegsman, program manager for the OSC, commented on the Library Lab program as a whole: “We’re going into our showcase year. Next year we’ll be looking over the projects from the last three years.” The Lab will not be funding new projects in the coming year, but look for some of these innovative approaches to be scaled up from small projects to the kind of system-wide tools staff use every day.