About an year ago, we found that it is almost becoming difficult/worse to search the Kannada books on DLI (Digital Library Of India) and OUDL (Osmania University Digital Library).
- Index found in these digital libraries used latin letters for book names i.e. in Kanglish. It was not easy to type any book name and find them due to the transliteration rule used to come up with these names Ex:
Aitihaasika Kathaaval’i Erd’aneya Bhaaga.
- As the names were not found in Unicode/Native language more than 5000 books in these libraries were hidden from common people who would have loved to read them/use them for research, learning etc.
- Even if we found the the book, it was difficult to read the books as DLI needed a special plugin to view tif files on the browser. Luckily OUDL had books in PDF format.
These reasons were more than enough to encourage ourselves to do something around this. We started a small project to pull the metadata of these libraries and see if we can do something about the books.
We initiated a crowdsourcing project on our community portal http://samooha.sanchaya.net, pushed the metadata that Pavithra had collected from the DLI & OUDL websites and requested people to help us transcribe the book name, publisher name and author names to Kannada in Unicode. Following video demonstrates how crowd sourcing helped us get the metadata transformed into useful information quickly.
We had fun working on the above interface ourself as it was fun seeing the donut graphs turning blue while we downloaded many books which we found interesting or which we had missed to read all these days. It was a same experience for others who joined us from various countries to help us with this crowd sourcing activity. Thanks to Devaraj (Devu) who helped quickly put this module live.
Apart from getting the data, we also worked on getting it validated. More or less same set of people helped going through the books once again to see that we don’t have incorrect information for the metadata.
Now, it was time to let people search these books on Internet without much effort. Atleast they can find the Book names, authors and publishers in Kannada. We made this possible via http://pustaka.sanchaya.net
Above image is just a snapshot. 5000+ books being searched on this platform from 100+ categories.
We had admitted for a while that the work is done, but the queries followed our tweets and blog posts on the above projects. We discovered more issues. People desperately wanted to download some of these books, find some which had different author names, some books did not have the right information as printer name was used as publisher’s name and so on…
Apart from that we had more technical issues which we did over see while working on metadata and other things in early stage of this project. i.e availability of the digital library portals round the clock. DLI & OUDL used to fail serving the pages or files intermittently. OUDL library used to go offline after 5pm just like the government offices shutdown. Writing to concerned people never yielded any results.
I’m writing this whole story because we believe that the work of making these books accessible to all Kannadigas is NOT OVER. We need more work to be done. We thought we should have wiki pages for all these books. Request people to join us writing more about the books, about the authors and the printing presses, publishers. Fellow wikimedians also heard about our idea and helped us write a plan for the same. As a result, I ended up submitting our project plan to Wikimedia Foundation’s Individual Engagement Grant.
Please find the detailed IEG project plan here: Growing Kannada-language Wikimedia projects with a digital library
We have been lucky have been chosen to work on this project along with the other 13 participants who submitted excellent ideas. Read more about the other IEG projects here on Wikimedia Blog.
We are now gearing up to work on the project in full swing. This IEG requires us to teach new wikipedians/wanna be wikipedians to learn about Wiki Editing while working on making the Kannada Books from Digital libraries searchable/made available for learning/research etc.
It’s a challenge to make this happen as it again involves crowdsourcing activities in various stages. Involves understanding how we can control the mass editing on wikipedia while taking care of the edit quality and more.
Looking forward for lots of support and encouragement for us here.