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Latest News: Library Launches labs.loc.gov

The Library of Congress today launched labs.loc.gov, a new online space that 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 the exciting discoveries that are possible, the new site will also feature a gallery of projects from data challenge winners and innovators-in-residence and blog posts and video presentations from leaders in the field.

“We already know the Library of Congress is the ultimate treasure chest, but with labs.loc.gov we are inviting explorers to help crack open digital discoveries and share the collections in new and innovative ways,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “Whether you’re tagging images from our digitized historic newspapers to help future visitors, or exploring the changing nature of democracy through the 25 million bibliographic records the Library recently made public, we are providing tools and inspiration that will lead to new uses and new ways of looking at the incredible materials here at the Library.”

The Library of Congress digital collections present immense potential for exploration. Labs will enable users at every level of technical knowledge to engage with these vast resources. Visitors can try experimental applications and crowdsourcing programs, and tutorials will provide a steppingstone for new computational discovery. Follow developments on Twitter at @LC_Labs.

“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.”

Some of the initial offerings are:

Crowdsourcing: Beyond Words

One of the first features on labs.loc.gov is Beyond Words, a website that invites the public to identify cartoons and photographs in historic newspapers and provide captions that will turn images into searchable data. This fun crowdsourcing program grows the data set of text available for researchers who use visualization, text analysis and other digital humanities methodologies to discover new knowledge from Chronicling America—the Library’s large collection of historic American newspapers. Beyond Words is available as a pilot project to help the Library of Congress learn more about what subsets of Library data researchers are interested in and to grow the Library’s capacity for crowdsourcing.

“What I like about crowdsourcing is it gives people a chance to discover hidden gems in the collection. You never know what you’ll find poking through old newspapers,” said Tong Wang, the IT specialist who created Beyond Words during a three-month pilot innovator-in-residence program.

Beyond Words will also generate public domain image galleries for scholarship and creative play. As this data set grows, educators, researchers and artists will be able to group image collections by time frame, such as identifying all historic cartoons appearing in World War I-era newspapers.

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 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. Information about each API is available on a section of labs.loc.gov (https://labs.loc.gov/labs/lc-for-robots/) dedicated to helping users 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 Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services, and other programs, or plan a visit at loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.

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