I always knew that OA and digitisation were “good things”, but today I’m excited about mining them for myself! My biggest hobby just now is knitting, and I just realised that vintage knitting patterns are being added to digital libraries out there. Like this one from the National Library of Australia’s TROVE collection.
(An aside: I realised this because there’s a fabulous social website for knitters called Ravelry where I can find patterns, yarn suggestions and often details of other knitters’ projects using those patterns, not to mention all the groups and other features, and I stumbled across details of this pattern on Ravelry, over my morning tea!)
Here is a list of digital library users from the recently launched (31 March 2014) German Digital Library (DDB): “Scientists, armchair historians, genealogy researchers, journalists, students, school pupils, teachers – the DDB is aimed at all interested parties.”
Perhaps they can also add “knitters and hobbyists” amongst those interested parties. I had a quick search there for “stricken” which means “to knit” in German, and came up with 153 results including a book on the rules of knitting which has patterns in it too. There are no photos of finished objects, but then it was published in 1846! It’s also not quite so useable as the Australian Women’s Weekly example because there is no nice, typed version of the text, only the image files which I found not that easy to read. But if I had a serious interest in historic knitting patterns, these collections would indeed be a treasure trove.
Many of those 153 results were images, of people knitting or of knitting equipment. I was curious to see how the knitters of yore held their work and whether their yarn was in their left hand (continental style) or right hand (British style), but either the paintings were not detailed enough or the resolution of the images was not good enough, so if I was studying such a thing, then the digital library would alert me to places that I would maybe want to visit in person: a story that must be familiar to libraries with digitised collections.
The marvellous thing about a digital library is how easily accessible and searchable it is, and that opens it up to use from all sorts of different users, some of whom the librarians would perhaps never have thought of!