Claremont Colleges Library

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This article looks at the varying definitions and usage of the term ‘crowdsourcing,’ including those that insist the term may only be applied to online activities. An argument is made that, semantics aside, the activities known as crowdsourcing, collaboration, and/or citizen science, were in use long before the current online medium was invented and should be recognized not for the terminology employed but for the mutual benefits reaped. The article addresses the strengths of such activities, including user engagement, the accomplishment of tasks otherwise not possible because of budget cuts, and diversity of viewpoint. In addition, the possible weaknesses of recruitment, perceived loss of power by professionals, and oversight of this method of project management are reviewed and suggestions for mitigation are proposed. Finally, instances of historic and contemporary ventures in British librarianship including the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, the Mass Observation Movement, Oxford University’s Ancient Lives project, FamilySearch genealogical/ archives work, the British Museum and iGLAM collaboration with Wikipedia, and the Sounds of the U.K. are profiled. Arguments for the relative merits of each profile are highlighted, including benefits to society as a whole, the specific institution, its users, and the future of cultural heritage organizations throughout the United Kingdom.


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© 2014 De Gruyter