Five for friday – Neat ways to promote and share digital collections

Five or so links from around the web about new and interesting applications of technology

Online archives and digital collections have made library collections much more accessible of late, and the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the digitisation programs of many institutions. 

And, even better, more and more digital collections are being published and shared openly. 

These collections exist to be looked at, explored and used. But raising the awareness of open digital collections can be a challenge. 

Luckily, librarians are dab-hands at finding neat ways to share these treasures and communicate them to a wider audience.

There are many, many examples to choose from, but choose we must, and for this Five-for Friday post we’ll share some of the especially creative ways to promote digital collections that have caught our eye recently: 

1. Library Treasures – Podcasts & YouTube

Podcasts are great. You can listen anywhere (while walking the dog or on the daily commute) and, if it’s a library podcast, you’re guaranteed to learn something. 

The Library Treasures blog at Maynooth University Library’s Special Collections and Archives has been going since 2015, but it was the onset of the pandemic and the pausing of the physical service that led the team to consider the mediums of video and podcasts as ways to share objects in the collections. The spoken-word format allows for conversations with experts and a deeper exploration of treasures in the collection. Find out more on the excellent LibFocus blog.

2. The Turnbull Mixtape – curated music playlists 

The National Library of New Zealand have been sharing their Creative Commons mixtapes for ten years and they’re more popular than ever, so they must be doing something right. Library staff curate music with a creative commons licence that has been archived over the past year, into albums that can be shared online. 

The Turnbull Mixtape, as it’s known, has been through many iterations, moving from the blog to soundcloud which enabled curators to track engagement, and then to the Bandcamp platform, and asking listeners to select tracks for the mixtape by voting for their favourites. To celebrate the project’s 10 year anniversary, some nifty data-crunching has now revealed the most-played tracks from each of the past 10 years.  

3. GIF IT UP – Europeana’s remix competition

This initiative from Europeana encourages people to engage with digitised cultural heritage and learn about image licensing by using openly licenced digitised cultural materials to make GIFs, via their annual GIF IT UP competition. The GIFs are then shared on social media using #GIFITUP. The competition started in 2013 and, as the event sits happily in the virtual world, it was able to carry on seamlessly through pandemic lockdowns, attracting entrants from 31 countries in 2020. For 2021, the GIF-Making Academy offered a three-part email course, providing resources and tutorials for budding GIF-makers. 

Stay Home Toilet Paper Gif via GIPHY

4. Unleash your Data – Grants to promote an open research

Designed to create an open research culture, the Unleash your Data and Software competition from The University of Sheffield offers grants of up to £5k to projects that promote the sharing of research data and software in three categories: 

Projects that make currently unavailable data available through ORDA, projects that increase the profile of existing datasets, and projects that enhance the reusability of research software and code. Successful applications include a tool to increase the accessibility and usability of software for conducting behavioural experiments, and the dataset Living with Data containing people’s perceptions of data systems and processes. 

5. Library labs – Digital spaces for experimentation & exploration

Library Labs are emerging as a great source of experimentation and invention with digital collection. These are initiatives to encourage and empower experimentation with open digital collections. British Library Labs and LC Labs (Library of Congress), for example, have both done wondrous things with their open collections through competitions and residency programmes respectively.

NYPL Labs also has some great experiments via its ‘Public Domain Remixes’, including this Public domain visualisation experiment that allows users to sort the collection into genre, age, and by collection and even by colour, to help the public to visualise and understand the database.


So, that’s our Five for Friday.

As we mentioned, this really is just a tiny selection of the awesome ways that library staff are using to get their collections and services out to a wider audience. If you’ve seen any that you think deserves a mention, get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.