LOC flickr woman

I started out being hesitant to go down the road that is making OPACs and other library related tools look more like Google, Amazon.com and the like, but the more I learn about what these new tools can achieve the more I’m growing to like them. One of the latest examples of these new initiatives is The Commons, the Library of Congress‘ (LOC) Flickr page. The collections’ subtitle perfectly summarizes this project, “Your opportunity to contribute to describing the world’s public photos collections.”

LOC has started out by making two collections available on Flickr, the first titled 1930s-40s in Color, and the second one is News in the 1910s. The idea behind this project is to make these collections available to much larger groups of people that those who can actually visit the LOC. Second the fact that users can add tags to these photos as they please means that they have more accessible than they had previously been. Library of Congress Subject Headings are very useful to people who know how to use them, but can be rather frustrating to those who don’t. For example LOC uses “cookery” while cataloging cookbooks. How many of us would have guesses this to begin with? Being this the case, having user provided tags in everyday language and spelling can help make material more accessible. The user provided tags on Flickr are doing just this for these two collections.

Both collections hold material for which that LOC has determined to have “no known copyright restrictions.” LOC defines this label in two ways; Material for which copyright has not been renewed, or material from the late 19th and 20th century for which there is no evidence of a copyright holder. (You can read more about LOCs copyright standards here.)

Image info here.