Work in the POLONA interface: record, tag, collect!

One can always take a notebook and a pencil to a reading room, and use anything handy as a bookmark. On account of the fact that more and more objects – both atypical and hardly accessible – are being moved into digital space, already in the previous version of POLONA we have decided to provide the readers with basic tools for annotating the resources and creating bookmarks. In the new version of the website launched in October 2017 – POLONA /2million – we have developed and expanded all the features these tools have to offer.

The digitised objects in POLONA are displayed using the OpenSeadragon customised viewer with numerous functionalities, including presentation of high quality image files provided with useful features such as annotations and a smooth zoom. Malakh, the programming code developed as a result of modifications incorporated for the purpose of POLONA, is accessible on GitHub.

POLONA viewer allows logged-in users to create notes while working with digital objects. The note feature is a versatile tool allowing the user to save instant thoughts and ideas, as well as systematically organize information about the contents being referred to. This feature may be particularly useful for those objects which cannot be searched in full-text mode: annotations could be used for documents with non-standard typography, iconographic collections, maps and manuscripts.

It may also be a means to establish a navigation structure suited for individual needs and purposes, for example in a large manuscript or an antique print.

Notes in POLONA may refer to a point on the scan, allowing for precise indication of a city’s location on a map of the region or a specific element of a drawing. In the case of fragments and text excerpts or other larger planes, a note may refer to any area in the scan.

The basic functions of POLONA interface allow the user to focus on the subject of research, and afterwards the findings saved in the form of notes may be conveniently exported to a TXT file for further analysis. This function is particularly useful to comment or transcribe selected fragments of a larger text within the interface. The notes may be then downloaded and processed further using e.g. text editor.

Newer printed documents usually feature text layer (OCR) which can be activated directly on the scan. The content in the focus may be conveniently copied to a clipboard and pasted even as a note for future reference as required.

The number of notes is unlimited; whether for work or for future reference, usually the more the better. In the panel where all user’s notes are displayed, a search function may be used to review their contents and access all relevant comments using a chosen keyword. Moreover, each note may be tagged for easier access to the comments and content of objects, yet tags need to be assigned yet during the text analysis. The note content is saved automatically, and the tags entered below are confirmed with Enter key.

All tags added by the user allow the system to create facet filters. They are displayed in the left-hand panel in all-notes view (available after selecting the appropriate item in the main menu). Selecting one tag as a filter provides access to all objects with a common feature: it is a convenient method for building links between different materials and places in the viewed documents. With a great number of notes – it may be also used as a tool for discovering the relations previously unrecognised!

POLONA/2 million system provides the users with yet another possibility of collating the resources into groups to establish customised collections. Each object may be added into a devised set: both from the search results level and after the object has been opened.

Collections can be very large, and their content can be searched and filtered using facets generated based on object’s metadata – using the same mechanism which appears on the search results.

Such collections are custom-built and serve primarily the users who created them according to their individual needs. But the self-made collection can also be shared – with friends, fellow-students or colleagues. To share the collection, one needs to send the collection’s URL to a chosen addressee thus allowing the recipient to view its contents.

POLONA is being constantly developed and improved as we want the tools it provides to be useful for leisure, hobby, research work, teaching, or searching the resources by creative professionals. What other tools would be useful or facilitate your work? Please share your opinion with Polona Development Lab at prp@bn.org.pl.


This publication was prepared within the framework of the Competence Centre of the National Library with regard to the digitisation of library resources, co-funded by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage.