Friday May 7, 2010

Find and get with Trove

Twice as much colour

Rose Holley from the National Library of Australia spoke about Trove at the State Library’s reference seminar this week. Trove is a ‘discovery service’ that lets you search the combined collections of Australia’s libraries, museums and galleries. The search picks up more than just books – you’ll find also paintings, photographs, maps, newspapers, archived websites, diaries and letters, as well as music, sound and video.

Rose pointed out a great feature to make search results more usable. Typically if you did a catalogue search on a popular and long-standing work – say, Romeo and Juliet – you would get hundreds of search results. Trove does it better, identifying the work as a unique entity, and listing the versions or editions within the catalogue record. There are 165 listed for the book Romeo and Juliet.

Trove also adds related content to a search result – photos, newspaper references and Wikipedia articles, for instance. In many instances you can read an electronic version of the book at Google or another website, or even buy it via an online bookshop.

You can restrict your search to just items that can be accessed online. And if you register, and tell Trove which libraries you usually visit, you can restrict searches to items available at those locations.

Rose said that new features are being pushed out to Trove every two weeks, so the service is in a state of constant improvement.

But it’s not just the librarians in Canberra at work. The catalogue has been opened up to the people who use it, and they are adding hundreds of tags, comments and suggestions, daily. When you search the catalogue, you’re also searching these crowdsourced additions. If you want to know what type of content people are adding to Trove, see all comments made in the last month.

Rose said that the National Library’s strategic direction is to encourage participation in the work of the library and support the creation of knowledge by its users. People have always annotated, commented and written in books – web 2.0 enables that behaviour in a digital environment.

This technology and approach was first trialled with the Australian Newspapers digitisation project, which has been a great success. Now you can search instantly across newspapers from 1842 and see them in context on the page. (You can also improve the computer-generated text.) Rose began her talk with an article from the Sydney Morning Herald from 20 February 1907, headlined Women Librarians:

The average woman is not capable of administering a department properly, say the authorities. It is not likely that many women will become the heads of libraries; they are handicapped by various limitations; limitations perhaps of physical strength, perhaps of temperament. Still, there are only these limitations to prevent them from aspiring to the highest positions in the State, and no doubt one or two women will eventually hold such positions.

Here is Rose’s slide deck:

View more presentations from Rose Holley.

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