Library awarded grant to increase access to born-digital documents

Doe Library
The Doe Memorial Library (Photograph by Alejandro Serrano for the University Library)

A research grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services will give research libraries, such as the University Library at UC Berkeley, the ability to analyze digital collections in new ways. The Library, in partnership with eight other academic libraries across the country, will evaluate how best to provide users with computational access to special collections having constraints due to sensitivity or access restrictions.

As the volume of digital content has expanded exponentially over the past several years, researchers and educators have recognized the potential of big data techniques to analyze, access, and organize digital scholarly collections. This grant will allow research libraries to employ a tool called Data Capsule to give users computational access to restricted content.

Data Capsule was developed for study of content in HathiTrust Digital Library, where the tool is used for non-consumptive analytics. Non-consumptive analytics allows the computer to analyze the text, but doesn’t allow the user to read or disseminate copyrighted content. At Berkeley, this will enhance scholars’ research options through improved text extraction, textual analysis and information extraction, linguistic analysis, automated translation, image analysis, file manipulation, optical character recognition correction, and indexing and search capabilities.

“The UC Berkeley Library has numerous archives that would benefit from access within the Data Capsule service,” says Erik Mitchell, associate university librarian for digital initiatives and collaborative services. “Some of these collections are restricted by US copyright law and other restrictions. This type of research environment will be transformative for us.”

The two-year, $360,000 grant will be carried out under the encompassing framework of Participatory Design and involve funded partners at UC Berkeley, the University of Illinois, and the University of Virginia, plus engaged partners at Lafayette College, MIT, Rutgers University, Swarthmore College, and UCLA.