The teams behind Trove - part 2

The teams behind Trove - part 2
There are many people whose work it is to build and maintain Trove. Here's what we do.
26 November 2014

In part two of our teams behind Trove series we introduce you to the people who bring you the digitised newspapers, and the people who design, build and maintain the technology behind Trove.

Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program (ANDP) and Australian Newspapers Plan (ANPlan)

Picture of National Library of Australia staff

The teams who bring you the digitised newspapers work in the National Library of Australia's Digitisation and Photography Branch, part of the Collections Management Division. The long-term objective of ANPlan and ANDP is to make freely available as many Australian newspapers published as possible, and make sure that they remain available forever, come what technology may.

ANPlan work with the state libraries to set the priorities for the digitisation, and they discuss broader issues relating to the preservation of newspapers and the future archiving challenges posed by today’s more fluid publishing world.

ANDP do everything from managing the digitisation workflows and contracts to quality control. The quality control process involves checking a sample of articles from each batch of digitised newspapers received from the scanning contractors. A batch will typically contain up to 15,000 articles and there will be 50 to 80 batches per week. As you can imagine, it would take the entire staff of the Library and more to check every article, so some risk management is necessary.

There is also a team member whose job it is to help community groups and historical societies fund newspaper digitisation.

Here's how they feel about their job. 

Konrad (QA staff member, ANDP) : 'Working on the QA team for TROVE was great, a real dream of a job. Every day was like stepping into a time machine and wandering around in the strange and familiar lands of the past. I particularly loved the weird stuff, the quack medicine advertising for products such as Bile Beans (beans with added laxatives, and what an enticing name), Ayer's Cherry Pectoral (cough medicine that was mostly morphine), Ayer's Hair Vigour (hair tonic that contained lead), Pink Pills for Pale People (whatever that was), Wolfe's Schnapps ('drink your alcohol'—the ads led you to believe that this was strictly medicinal), Gin Pills (advertised as being good for the kidneys, hmmm). I also particularly enjoyed the feverishly insane 'news' that was peddled by a paper such as The World’s News. What other newspaper in history could feature a cover image of a woman standing on the wing of a biplane in flight with a gun in one hand and a whip in the other fending off a wolf? Looking at that image I had to pinch myself.  I got paid to look at this sort of thing all of the time, that's amazing.'

Front page of The World News

http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page14774538

Leanne McKinnon (Senior Program Officer, ANDP): 'I love that each newspaper has its own character, formed from a combination of content, whether sober or scandalous, and publication idiosyncrasies. As newspaper digitisers we develop a fondness for many newspapers. With others, we breathe a sigh of relief when they finally make it to Trove and fervently hope we never cross their paths again!'

Lai Ping (QA staff member, ANDP) : 'Working in the QA team is fascinating.  It gives me a great opportunity to be part of the team that revives past events or stories back into the digital world for people to share and learn from. I believe it is important to all of us (especially our children) to understand how our society is shaped by past events and what we can do as a whole to build a better society for all of us in the future.'

Peter Collins (Manager, ANDP): 'It's the first public service job I've had that the public actually appreciates me doing. It's a great feeling to discover 'lost' newspaper titles hidden amongst others on microfilm. The sense of wonder at some of the really amazing newspaper articles and illustrations that we find while processing newspapers, say so many things about the development and change of the Australian character.'

Collection Access Branch (Information Technology Division)

Picture of National Library of Australia staff

Our IT team. We love them. We wish each of them were cloned. They think long and hard about how all the many bits of Trove fit together, and how they interact with other bits of the Library, how to make it all work as smoothly as possible. They imagine the way you might want to use Trove and they try to make that happen. They design the Trove interface. They write the code which makes all this lovely data available. They fix Trove when problems arise. They turn our dreams of sharing Australian stories into a reality.

What do they like about their work on Trove?

Ian (Developer): 'Working with a great bunch of people and working on a system that is well recognised and received in the community.'

Paul (Developer): 'I like software design and analysis, using up to date technologies and techniques to deliver high quality components that people find useful.'

Gerard (Business Analyst): 'I like the challenge and opportunity of making Trove even better; to make it easier for people to find and use the information they want. I'm always surprised by the new and interesting ways people use the service, and I love hearing about some of the gems they discover when hunting a trail in Trove. There's always something interesting to find on your travels through Trove - and that certainly makes testing new features all the more entertaining!'

Drawing of Trove design process

Kenji (User Experience and Interface Designer): 'I really enjoy playing a small part in helping users discover and connect with the wealth of material and items available through Trove.  It sounds simple enough, however there's just so many different ways our users approach discovery and use the items they find in this amazing service.  The real challenge is designing an overall experience which is meaningful, usable and makes people feel empowered when using Trove. The User Centred Design approach that we use at the NLA provides us with excellent opportunities to really understand what our often passionate users are trying to achieve and how Trove contributes to them achieving their tasks. Our shared understanding of Trove's users allows the multi-disciplinary teams within the NLA to collaborate to generate lots of different ideas, create prototypes and iteratively evaluate our designs with users to ensure that Trove continues to meet (and in some cases hopefully exceed) their needs.

There's also the personal satisfaction and pride working on such a valued service and it still blows me away that our users are so willing to give back to Trove and the wider community through the countless hours spent OCR text correcting  and further adding value to Trove items through the addition of their valuable comments, tags and organising items into lists.'

Now you've met the people who bring you Trove. Of course, Trove is more than just us. There are the museums, libraries, archives and historical societies who contribute their records to Trove. There are the collection areas in the National Library who were our foundation. Without their work and wonderful collections we would not exist. And there are Trove's users, who through lists, tags, comments, corrections and blogs all help to make Trove the service it is. We're very proud of it. We hope you are too.

Happy Trovember everyone.

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Comment: 
Great to read about the people behind the project that has made my genealogy research so much easier. Keep up the good work.
Comment: 
Keep up the great work. Thanks for the comments Kenji re text correctors - I do it for the benefit of all those genealogy researchers, and for the generation to come. The obituaries I edit particularly contain such vivid histories of the early pioneers, and such useful information on the familes.
Comment: 
Thanks for the feedback John and Deane. I've passed the comments on to our teams.
Comment: 
Previously worked in the old newspaper room at the State Library of NSW from 1981 to 1988. Loved the job carrying bound newspapers up flights of stairs from stack for readers (and exercise!).
Comment: 
Well done to all of you for your work. I found so many family names. Finding Birth notices with names was a real bonus. Thank you all. John Warren -well done you with all your text corrections.
Comment: 
Well done for all your great achievement and your team work!