Paper presented at the IFLA World Library and Information Congress, 17-23 August 2013, Singapore.
Building on 20 years of national cooperation under the Australian Newspapers Plan (ANPlan), the National Library of Australia has delivered digitised newspapers to the Australian public since 2007, and incorporated newspaper delivery into Trove (www.trove.nla.gov.au) in 2009. Trove has won a number of awards for its user engagement features, most notably the ability for users to correct the computer-generated text imperfectly generated by Optical Character Recognition software. By July 2013, use of Trove dwarfed use of the Library’s other online services, the Trove Newspapers zone dominated use of Trove, and Australians had corrected more than 100 million lines of text - the equivalent of 270 standard work years of crowd-sourced effort. With five years’ experience, this form of user engagement is a mature part of the Library’s service offering, and evaluation of its impacts and future is timely. The paper will summarise what we know about the motivations of those who engage in this activity, their patterns of engagement, how ‘deep’ the penetration of this form of engagement with the Library extends, and what current statistics suggest about where we are in the user engagement growth curve. The paper also considers the significant impact the success of crowd-sourcing has on the Library’s rationale for offering this service (are we offering the service to address a huge task, or to build and maintain a broader community of Library supporters?), the opportunities and risks in having dramatically increased the number of Australians passionately engaged with the Library, and the ways in which success is changing the Library’s thinking about service delivery and engagement with the public. For those considering or in the early days of offering a digitised newspaper service, the paper provides a view ‘from the trenches’ about the ways in which success can fundamentally reshape the questions libraries must ask themselves.