CILIP Cymru Wales For the Record

Capturing stories and moments in time

CILIP Cymru Wales represents CILIP, the UK’s library and information association, in Wales.

During the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown in the UK, we worked with CILIP Cymru Wales to develop a platform that enabled library workers to share their stories and experiences during this unique and challenging time.

Inspired by the ‘citizen journalist’ approach of the Mass Observation Project and its voluntary, qualitative social research on everyday life, For the Record was conceived by Dr Amy Staniforth (CILIP Cymru Wales Relationship Manager) and the CILIP Cymru Wales Committee to capture and record the stories, observations and experiences of library and information workers at this particular moment in time.

Archive and collections software doesn’t always offer the best experience for users to contribute their own stories so, in order to focus on enabling the contribution of different kinds of stories, we worked on a custom WordPress-based platform. This also allowed us to get a prototype up and running in a very short amount of time.

Screenshot of the For the Record website

Screenshot of the For the Record website

Reducing barriers to use

It was important to capture the relevant information from contributors without creating unnecessary barriers to use, so participants were encouraged to tell their stories in a way that best suited them, including the use of video, photos and text.

We wanted a contribution form that was gradual and conversational (and multilingual), providing a thoughtful experience that allowed users to track their progress and consider their responses.

We use a ‘One Thing Per Page’ approach to designing forms. This makes the form easier to use and lets users focus on each question in turn (as well as managing any errors and saving progress in a much clearer way).

We worked with contributors to the archive to continually improve the platform during the project and to ensure the contribution workflow incorporated feedback received.

Participatory archiving

Though we were utilising a non-specialised platform for this project, it was important to implement best practices such as standardised metadata, open licensing and other considerations that are vital to archiving projects.

The content of the archive will now be migrated to the People’s Collection Wales to create a permanent record of library and information sector workers’ experiences during the pandemic.