K & IM Electronic Awards 2017

Amanda Duffy, Chair Awards Panel

To begin with I would like to thank all the members of the judging panel for their hard work and commitment.   Not only did they spend a full day making decisions on the print, electronic and Walford nominations, they had previously had to look at the 17 websites nominated – a no mean task! Amazingly all but one of these electronic sites were free.

The National Library of Scotland has one of the ten largest map collections in the world with over 2 million maps, atlases, gazetteers and digital map databases. To everyone’s immense benefit the library is digitising the collection; so far there are available more than 160,000 high resolution, zoomable images.

As you might expect, the coverage for Scotland is considerable. There are maps covering the whole of Scotland from 1560 to 1928, Ordnance Survey maps from 1843 to 1960 at all scales, including over 17,000 25 inches to the mile sheets up to 1945, and large-scale maps of Scottish towns 1847-1885. However, the coverage isn’t just Scotland; England and Wales have a strong showing. The collection of 25-inch Ordnance Survey maps for England and Wales from 1841 to 1952 has just been completed, the 1 inch Seventh Series (1952-6) is there and there are the 5 feet to the mile maps of London 1893-96.

Beyond the United Kingdom there are 130 Ordnance Survey trench maps from World War 1, the Times Survey Atlas of the World 1920 edition – the list could go on and on.   I haven’t mentioned coastal charts, military maps, Scottish Post Office maps and estate plans to name a few.

The whole collection can be searched by place name, as well as mapmaker. Georeferenced maps allow the original map to be overlaid on a modern map. You can zoom in on particular parts of a map and the image remains clear and precise. All of this is free and very user-friendly. Printouts, digital images and photocopies are available at very modest charges.

The collection available on the site is continually growing (as the list of recent additions illustrates), so there are more gems to come.   Without doubt a most impressive and authoritative website. The National Library of Scotland: Map Images http://maps.nls.uk/ is the Winner in the 2017 Knowledge and Information Management Information Electronic Resources Awards.

We go across the Atlantic for the next website.

The Global Terrorism Database is an open-source searchable database of information on terrorist events around the world and is maintained at the University of Maryland. The site includes systematic data on terrorist incidents that have occurred anywhere in the world from 1970 to 2016. Over 170,000 terrorist attacks are described – bombings, assassinations and kidnappings – all kinds of attacks, not necessarily those that cause loss of life. The definition for inclusion is ‘threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain political, economic, religious or social gain through fear, coercion or intimidation’.

There is a sophisticated but easily useable advanced search available which allows a search by date, city, perpetrator group, fatalities, attack type, weapons or target – in fact up to 45 variables for each event. For each incident, information is available on the date and location of the incident, the weapons used and nature of the target, the number of casualties, and when available, the group or individual responsible. Over 4 million news articles are cited. I searched on ‘Jo Cox’ by name and the entry came up quickly giving a 4-line description of what happened and then further details on what, how and who plus a list of incident sources, in this case the BBC, The Turkish Daily and Reuters.

This is a truly international database and the major publicly available dataset covering the field. It is impressive for its detail, authority, neutrality and objectivity.   The Global Terrorism Database https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/ is Highly Commended in the 2017 Knowledge and Information Management Information Electronic Resources Awards.

Looking back through the archive of nominations, for many years there was usually a ‘bird book’ sent in, and occasionally one came within the top three titles.   Recently we haven’t had any such nominations, but this year we did receive nominations for two bird websites. They show how far we have come from our older, more traditional sources and how attractive and accessible information can now be made.   We looked closely at both of them and decided to Commend both in the awards.

I never had much joy trying to identify a strange, new bird in my garden but I think with the RSPB Bird Identifier I will have better luck. This is a very search-friendly site; you indicate what you know and based on each piece of information you give, the number of results is whittled down and thumbnail illustrations appear to help you.

The search options are extremely practical.   Instead of asking if the bird is 4 inches or 8 inches long, you are given 5 choices to say whether it is, for example, smaller than a robin or between a black bird and pigeon.   After this sections cover place (5 choices), colour (11 options that can be combined), beak and behaviour.   Once you get to an individual bird there are a couple of illustrations, a description, a distribution map, audio clips and a superb video.

This is a very straightforward site that, although it has a limited interest, is so well arranged and presented that the RSPB Bird Identifier https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/bird-identifier/ is Commended in the 2017 Knowledge and Information Management Information Electronic Resources Awards.

Back across the Pond again for our other bird site.

The Guide to American Birds is part of the National Audubon Society website, and describes over 1,000 species of birds in North America. Birds can be browsed by species or searched by name or species. Entries provide information on conservation status, scientific classification and habitat. There is an extensive photo gallery for each bird (the bald eagle has 13 different pictures). The sound collection illustrates the songs and calls; here there 10 examples alone for the American Robin.   Very detailed maps show the range of each bird for over all of North America.   There is a Bird Guide App for iPhone and Android, and information can be shared on Facebook, Twitter and email. Not a site that will very heavily used over here, but a site that shows what a website can and should offer, and once again it is free.

The Guide to American Birds www.audubon.org/bird-guide is also Commended in the 2017 Knowledge and Information Management Information Electronic Resources Awards.


K & IM Refer 33 (3,) Winter 2017


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