Collaborative Libraries

Zotero Co-creation Workshop - Building a Library Reading Room

An online and on-site workshop held with the Medialab Prado, Madrid, in September 2015. The workshop looked at how to use Zotero to build an online library. Firstly to demonstrate a librarian's work in curating collections and secondly for a cultural organisation to have the public attending its events share media and reading lists with the wider public.

Prototype Web library interface:

GitHub manual with information on creating your own library:

In the workshop we created a ‘reading room’ around a single topic to emulate one of the #bookcamping subject tours, for example ‘15M The Academy’

For the workshop we created an entry level tutorial on how to use Zotero, an open source bibliographic management software, that can accommodate any media, and allows for personal and collaborative research organisation and commentaries. It is worth noting that Zotero stands out as an exemplary software project in the Digital Humanities, which for the most part is littered by very poor quality software development research. In the workshop we built an online library, a reading room and populated it with media.

We wanted to go beyond the Zotero interface which is bound up in standard desktop and CMS software interface design. Instead, we wanted to make custom Web interfaces. To do this we had to get to grips with understanding how Zotero can be used as a database and interfaced via its API to create Web library. We created an example prototype website and went through a survey of the ‘State of Zotero’ showing how others are hacking the software.

As well as being a way to replicate some functions of a library in an online context we also wanted to introduce the ‘big idea’ we have for Zotero’s use 'P2P knowledge creation'. Personally, or as groups keeping a catalog of the media and notes in our daily lives is out of control, with an endless stream of cloud services offering to help you 'get better organised'. Zotero’s forte is interoperability, setting it apart from other solutions which tend the other way towards 'lock-in' and 'siloing'. Zotero has collaborative and group working build in at its foundations, for example you can add a book title and a colleague can add notes. We believe Zotero is a valuable tool for sharing expertise, allowing people to take on different roles to act as 'collective librarians'. In the Medialab Prado context the question was how to make a web interface where the attendees of hundreds of workshops held every year at the organisations bustling venue could make library collections on-the-fly and share these 'play lists', as we like to call them, with their communities of interest. For an organisation the P2P knowledge creation is about turning its workings inside-out and how this record keeping can help reveal the ideas they are working with. We'll look to continue the Zotero work through a series of rapid-prototyping, hack-event, exploring Zotero as an option to make the much needed ‘Next Step’ in P2P collective knowledge work.

NB: If you would like to host a workshop for a next round of prototyping please get in touch!

The workshop was coordinated by Loraine Furter and Simon Worthington, with Loraine building the API. Thanks to our supporting partners Medialab Prado, bookcamping and xm:lab.

An activity within the framework of the InVISIBLE and VISIBLE Cities 2015 Open Call of the European Project Connecting Cities.