August 3, 2015

University of Iowa Libraries Begin to Digitize Decades of Fanzines

A selection of Hevelin fanzines

Every library has a sci-fi section, but not many can compete with the collection of speculative fiction that has been growing steadily at the University of Iowa (UI) in recent years. While the UI Libraries boast an impressive collection of works by notable authors in the genre, it’s not the focus of the UI’s universe-spanning sci-fi collections.

Wisdom of the Crowd | Digital Collections

IMAGINE THAT (Clockwise from l.): A historical menu from NYPL’s collections; an illustration of a sandgrouse from the Biodiversity Heritage Library’s Flickr stream; and a screen from Tiltfactor’s “Stupid Robot” tagging game

Even at large libraries that have staff dedicated to digitization projects, the additional effort needed to enable researchers to extract data from these collections—such as transcribing OCR-resistant text, or adding item-level tags to large collections of images—would be an untenable chore for a library to take on alone. So, in the past half decade, libraries have taken cues from long-running projects, using crowdsourcing as a way not only to outsource work that would be impossible for staff to attempt but also to engage volunteers.

Cooking Up a Crowdsourced Digitization Project that Scales

If the NYPL Labs’ crowdsourced menu transcription project only whetted your appetite, now the University of Iowa Libraries is taking it to the next level with a similar project for transcribing, among other things, recipes.