The French Digital Library project has developed well in 2022. First, it acquired a new name: previously it was called the French Multimedia Database; now it is called the French Digital Library (FDL), the latter being more evocative and less technical than the former.
In the autumn and winter 2021, our aim was to produce a prototype and start the curation process. We have now nearly completed this initial phase: our programmer, Tim McCurrach, designed the initial prototype build, allowing us to start testing and updating it in the academic year 2022–23. The prototype, hosted by the University of St Andrews, can be found here. Here is a screenshot of what the initial design looks like:
In parallel, we also started the curation process. Using the Small Grant’s funding provided by UCML, as well as grants from the Entrepreneurship Centre and the Centre for Educational Enhancement and Development at the University of St Andrews, we were able to hire two postgraduate interns, Emma Bairstow and Katherine Stratton – two colleagues currently working on their doctoral dissertation in French. In the course of their summer internships, they have put together several layouts to be added to the prototype and raised several interesting questions to help us move the project forward (number of optimum resources per layout; trigger warnings vs content warning tags; disclaimers; etc.). Dr Crean and I have also
met with colleagues who are specialists in Applied Research (StAAR), Technology Transfer (TTC), Ethics, Research technology, and Digital Accessibility to make sure we grasped some of the challenges but also the innovations the building of the platform poses. Dr Crean completed the FastStart Changemaker programme offered by the Entrepreneurship Centre at St Andrews to support the project as a Social Enterprise.
The FDL is now transitioning from its initial prototype phase to its development and testing phase. We are seeking follow-on funding of two kinds. First, we are seeking a maintenance grant to help us sustain and flesh out the prototype through internships in Computer Sciences (to update the prototype) and in Modern Languages (to continue the curation process). This stage requires small amounts of funding which are being sought from the Franco-Scottish Society and the Higher Education Research and Innovation Department of the French embassy. We are also working closely with the Franco-Scottish Society and Senior Education Officers from Education Scotland to put us in touch with Fife and Edinburgh schools to improve the prototype with both students and educators in mind as users. Looking beyond this phase, we are working on the longer term: we are currently designing cost projections for the next three to five years and intend to apply to larger grants in 2022-23: for example, the Impact and Innovation Fund from the University of St Andrews and the R&D Scheme from the InGAME initiative.
The support of the University Council of Modern Languages was vital in getting through the first stages of the FDL and ensuring the prototype was up and running. Its commitment to accessibility, sustainability, and innovation in the learning and teaching of Modern Languages is undeniable. Dr Crean and I are extremely grateful for the opportunities and trust given to us by the Council and its Committee.
Pauline Souleau, University of St Andrews
Aisling Crean, University of St Andrews