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Amplify case study: NSW public libraries pilot, 2018

Overview

After the State Library launched Amplify in 2016 for the transcription of it's oral history collections, there was keen interest from other institutions, especially public libraries around NSW, to use Amplify for the transcription of their own audio collections. 

After these ongoing enquiries and discussions with public libraries, in 2017 a proposal was approved by SLNSW's Public Library Consultative Committee to run a pilot project, called 'Amplify-as-a-Service', that would extend the Amplify platform to support the oral history collections of selected public libraries in NSW.

By extending the existing Amplify platform to an ‘as-a-service’ model, the State Library was in a unique position to support public libraries in providing access to and engagement with their local heritage audio material. Leveraging existing infrastructure rather than public libraries being required to recreate their own, meant the State Library could offer hosting, transcription and delivery of audio collections on behalf of public libraries for minimal cost. This would facilitate public libraries to provide access to their audio collections online, engage with their local communities in the correction of transcripts and meet accessibility requirements that all government institutions are legislated to adhere to. 

It was also an opportunity to encourage the use of innovative technologies, such as machine learning, within the public library landscape to help resolve ongoing operational challenges. Amplify-as-a-Service also provided the opportunity to bring currently disparate audio collections together from different institutions for the first time, creating an exciting new way to access state-wide cultural heritage through a central hub.

The pilot

In January 2018, expressions of interest were accepted from public libraries in NSW to participate in the pilot project. After receiving eighteen submissions, four partner libraries were selected through an assessment process. The selected partner libraries were:

  • Central West Libraries
  • Riverina Regional Library – Wagga Wagga branch
  • Ryde Library Service
  • Wollongong City Libraries

Representatives from each library formed a working group with the State Library project manager. The working group had fortnightly project meetings via video-conference, where they would collaborate on feature development and testing for Amplify, content management and strategy, and sharing ideas for community engagement and promotion strategies. 

Many new features had to be built in the Amplify platform to cater to the requirements of hosting collections from other institutions. The State Library embarked on a 4 month development project to build and test new features that had been identified and prioritised by the working group. Working group members had the opportunity to test and provide feedback on new features before they were finalised. 

Each of the pilot libraries were trained in how to use the Amplify platform and prepared digital audio material from their respective collections to make available for the relaunch. This included preparing metadata and digital images to pair with the audio files, and sometimes facing various challenges related to extracting data from library management systems (LMS). The working group supported each other through these challenges, many of which were shared, to ensure that each participating library were able to provide the best quality content as possible and learn any skills required to help better understand the capabilities of their library catalogues.

The relaunch

To promote the addition of the pilot libraries collections on Amplify, as well as to celebrate the success of the pilot project, Amplify was relaunched to the public at an event held at Orange City Library on October 26, 2018. All working group members from each library travelled to Orange to attend the event, accompanied by the State Library's Director of Public Libraries and Engagement.

Findings

The Amplify-as-a-Service pilot project was an extremely successful venture and an excellent demonstration of a positive and productive partnership between the State Library and public libraries in NSW.  Each of the four partner libraries were able to publish selected audio interviews from a variety of intriguing and important topic areas, collectively making available more than 200 individual items for the public to explore and help transcribe.

Since the pilot has ended, all participating libraries have continued to use Amplify for the transcription of their oral history collections, with some libraries continuing to add new audio material onto the platform. You can explore these collections at amplify.gov.au