Final Year…

It doesn’t feel like Books and Borrowing has been running for two-and-a-half years, but this is nevertheless the case, and as we enter 2023, we’re now beginning the final year of the project in its current form.  We will have somewhat more time than we thought back in June 2020, as the AHRC has kindly agreed a no-cost extension to allow us to compensate for COVID delays: this will keep Kit and Maxine with us until the end of the year.  We’re now at the point where we have the vast majority of our data in the system, and we’re working towards a series of deadlines for completing (and in many cases releasing) the various elements of the project over the course of the year.

The first major thing we’re working towards is our collaboration with C18th Libraries Online on the Libraries, Lives and Legacies research festival in April.  We’re very happy with the response to our Call for Papers for the conference at Stirling on April 17th and 18th: we have an excellent line-up of papers and panels in our draft programme, about which we’ll be confirming further details over the coming weeks.  Katie and I are meeting with Mark Towsey on Thursday to firm up precise details of the Liverpool events on April 13th and 14th, but the plan is to be in a position where we can demonstrate the Books and Borrowing database at that point, moving towards a full launch of Version 1.0 during the second quarter of the year.  Working towards this, the team is now finishing off entering data from the registers that will be part of this initial release, and completing a series of normalisation and data refinement tasks (on my docket at the moment is cleaning up the format information; Katie and I will also be working over the next few weeks to add genre information to all the works in the system).  Brian is making great progress with the interface, and we’re looking forward to sharing more details about this over the coming months as we approach the launch.  We’re also looking forward to unveiling our digital exhibition, about which more in due course…

Now that we have the majority of our data available, we’re also in a position to begin writing up our findings.  Katie and I will be writing the Books and Borrowing book (which you may eventually be able to borrow, depending on how classy your library is) over the course of the year, and we have an in-person working day next week to move forward with the planning.  We’ll be working relatively slowly until after the conference, but are planning to ramp up over the summer with a view to getting as much as possible done before the autumn semester commences.  The extended project team (with Alex and Gerry) will be meeting next Monday to discuss the articles we’ll be writing during the year.

The second half of 2023 will be our chance to gather feedback on Version 1.0 of the database as we work towards Version 2.0, which we’ll release at the end of the project.  This is likely to add in some further functionality in the form of visualisation tools, as well as incorporating feedback from users and making available a substantial tranche of additional transcribed registers (including records from Aberdeen and Kirkwall, as well as further registers from the University of Edinburgh and the Faculty of Advocates).

There’s a lot still to do, but we’re also very happy with where we are at this point: the dataset is now rich and extensive, the user interface is coming together well, and we’re finding some really fascinating trends in the records in the system.  While it’s slightly intimidating to see the project end date rushing towards us, it’s also very exciting to know that this year is the year we’ll be able to share many of the fruits of our research.  Stay tuned…