Crowdsourcing at the British Library: lessons learnt and future directions

The British Library has been experimenting with crowdsourcing since it launched the Georeferencer ( in 2012. It launched an updated platform for crowdsourcing in late 2017. Currently the platform supports two projects, In the Spotlight (, transcribing information from the Library's historic collection of theatre playbills) and Convert-a-Card (, converting printed card catalogues into digital records).

This presentation will provide a case study of the implementation of this crowdsourcing platform, considering how the design of behind-the-scenes processes such as metadata workflow, and visible outputs such as the user experience and conversations with participants, were informed by lessons learnt from past projects. The platform is integrated with new Library infrastructure that publishes images in IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework, and has pioneered the use of web annotations for crowdsourced data.

It will discuss how and why In the Spotlight was designed with a balance between productivity (the number of tasks completed) with enjoyment and opportunities for engagement (whether discussing interesting playbills on the forum or social media, or investigating aspects of theatre history) in mind. It will also look at the integration of crowdsourced data into the Library's catalogues, and how the project has changed in response to requests and feedback from participants.

The presentation will include a progress update on the project, and discuss how we applied best practices like usability testing and Europeana's Impact model ( It will finish with a preview of future plans for the platform, including the ability for library staff to build their own projects with digitised collections in compatible formats. Reducing the technical overhead for launching a pilot project could be immensely valuable - but how will we ensure that anyone starting a project understands that crowdsourcing is more about people than it is about technology?