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Aug 16 2013

NCSU Libraries Shares Open-Source Solution for Crowdsourcing Photography Collections

(Raleigh, N.C.)—The North Carolina State University Libraries is making available a free, open-source solution that allows libraries and other organizations to quickly build, moderate, administer, and display collections of photographs posted to Instagram.  A great way to capitalize on the enthusiasm of library supporters, to build special collections based around a topic or event, or to invite participation in evaluating a library program, lentil provides an easy-to-deploy software package to capture and put to use the power of today’s smartphone cameras and social media tools.

Hunt Instagram WebpageWhen the James B. Hunt Jr. Library opened in January 2013, the NCSU Libraries wanted a way for NC State students, researchers, and community members to share their reactions to the new building, a “library of the future” designed around collaborative spaces and visually inspiring work areas.  In a building created to spur collaboration, it was natural to let library users themselves tell the story of the new center of learning and research on campus.

My #HuntLibrary allowed visitors to show their pride in the Hunt Library by photographing their favorite spaces and activities in the building and then vote as a community on their favorites through “likes” and a “battle” feature.  In a great testament to the new library, over 2,500 photographs were submitted to the site.  Some were beautiful; some were playful—and every one was obviously fueled by an awe and joy about a space that has moved the community and helped set great expectations about education and research.  Created with responsive web design principles, the software allowed users to view the collection on screens ranging from four inches to the huge large-scale visualization walls that dominate the Hunt Library.

MyHuntLibrary ImagesIn addition to providing a great way to engage users in exploring the new space, My #HuntLibrary allowed the NCSU Libraries to crowdsource the documentation of the Hunt Library opening and dedication.  The collection of images will be preserved in the University Archives held by the NCSU Libraries Special Collection Research Center, giving students and others the honor of adding their work to the official history of NC State.

The core of the code for the My #HuntLibrary project is now available in the lentil package, giving users a simple, inexpensive way to create similar projects.  The lentil Rails Engine framework can:

  • harvest image files and metadata from Instagram
  • allow an administrator to moderate and add items into the collection
  • create an interactive, responsive browsing platform with multiple browsing alternatives
  • allow users to select their favorite images by “liking” photos or voting them higher in the image stream by comparing them in a “battle” vote tool
  • submit agreements to contributors to get their permission to reuse images for additional promotional or research purposes

Lentil-based applications can be quickly customized and deployed to any Rails-capable web server, including Heroku.

You can obtain the free lentil software at https://github.com/NCSU-Libraries/lentil. For more information, please contact Jason Casden (jason_casden@ncsu.edu), Lead Librarian, Digital Services Development, at the NCSU Libraries.