Atlanta, GA – July 1, 2020 – LYRASIS, a non-profit member organization serving the global landscape of academic and public libraries, scholarly research, archives, museums, and galleries, is pleased to announce the 2020 recipients of the LYRASIS Catalyst Fund. The Catalyst Fund is an award program that provides support for new ideas and innovative projects from the LYRASIS membership. It is administered by the LYRASIS Leaders Circle to expand opportunities to explore, test, refine and collaborate on innovations with potential for community-wide impact. The LYRASIS Leaders Circle selects the projects that will be funded. This year, five projects and one idea will be funded for the benefit of the community at large. 

Capital for the Catalyst Fund comes from the $1.2 million research, development and innovation budget approved by the LYRASIS Board of Trustees. The program is managed within the new LYRASIS Research and Innovation division headed by Erin Tripp. Through the Catalyst Fund, now in its fourth year, LYRASIS has directly invested more than $500,000 into its members to support and promote scalable innovation. 

The following is the list of the 2020 Catalyst Fund recipients:

  • University of Utah, “Toolkit to Assess OCR’ed Historical Text in the Era of Big Data.” While cultural heritage institutions have been using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to extract full text from scanned page images, the quality of extracted text is low for historical texts. In this era of big data, such historical texts will be left behind, both in search rankings and their use through computational tools. We propose developing a set of guidelines, and tools that will assist organizations in improving their existing OCRed collections. $30,100. 
  • University of Mississippi, “Caption This: Creating Efficiency in Audiovisual Accessibility Using Artificial Intelligence.” This project will focus on the creation of a successful workflow to use open source code to efficiently produce captions for the native streaming audio and video files in our institutional repository, thereby making A/V materials accessible to all users, in accordance with the University’s accessibility standards. $28,198. 
  • University of Connecticut, “Unlocking the Past: Handwritten Text Recognition for 19th Century Manuscripts.” To develop a foundation for a large-scale, open source software for handwriting recognition for historical documents. $24,277. 
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “Preprint Accessibility: Is Early Access to Research Access for All?” To investigate the accessibility of preprint server platforms and files in order to identify accessibility issues and suggest possible remedies. $6,037. 
  • New Jersey State Library, “Increasing Staff Confidence to Implement User Experience and Design Principles in Website Creation.” This project will develop a robust online version of its User Experience (UX) Boot Camp and make it available at no cost to attendees. The course is designed to equip participants with the skills to create vibrant and appealing websites that serve the needs of the public. While the Boot Camp is marketed to public librarians, the curriculum is largely applicable to all members of the LYRASIS community who have any responsibility for a public-facing website. $18,250. 

In addition to these projects, the LYRASIS Leadership team has chosen to fund the idea submitted by Yeshiva University“The Alternatives Project: Tackling Humanities Textbook Costs by Leveraging Library Resources.” This will be planned, coordinated, and implemented by LYRASIS in partnership with Yeshiva. 

Robert Miller, CEO of LYRASIS, says of this year’s Catalyst Fund recipients: “We are especially excited about this year’s Catalyst Fund recipients because they reflect our ongoing commitment to fueling innovation and new solutions in our community, even during a time of crisis. We believe these sorts of opportunities are more important now than ever, as we work to ensure that our library, archive, museum and research partners are supported and able to move forward during this challenging time. Even more encouraging is the emphasis on accessibility, which was a strategic and research priority for LYRASIS, as determined by our Leader’s Circle during our Member Summit in October, 2019. We are thrilled to be able to kickstart these projects which we believe can lead to important solutions for our members and the communities they serve.” 

Since its inception, the Catalyst Fund has funded 22 projects and implemented two ideas. The Catalyst Fund application opens every January. LYRASIS welcomes inquiries about the process year round. If interested, contact Leigh Grinstead.