Interactive Transcripts have Arrived!
This week Duke Digital Collections added our first set of interactive transcripts to one of our newest digital collections: the Silent Vigil (1968) and Allen Building Takeover (1969) collection of audio recordings. This marks an exciting milestone in the accessibility efforts Duke University Libraries has been engaged in for the past 2.5 years. Last October, my colleague Sean wrote about our new accessibility features and the technology powering them, and today I’m going to tell you a little more about why we started these efforts as well as share some examples.
Providing access to captions and transcripts is not new for digital collections. We have been able to provide access to pdf transcripts and caption both in digital collections and finding aids for years. See items from the Behind the Veil and Memory Project digital collections for examples.
In recent years however, we stepped our efforts in creating captions and transcripts. Our work began in response to a 2015 lawsuit brought against Harvard and MIT by the National Association of the Deaf. The lawsuit triggered many discussions in the library, and the Advisory Council for Digital Collections eventually decided that we would proactively create captions or transcripts for all new A/V digital collections assuming it is feasible and reasonable to do so. The feasible and reasonable part of our policy is key. The Radio Haiti collection for example is composed of thousands of recordings primarily in Haitian Creole and French. The costs to transcribe that volume of material in non-English languages make it unreasonable (and not feasible) to transcribe. In addition to our work in the library, Duke has established campus wide web accessibility guidelines that includes captioning and transcription. Therefore our work in digital collections is only one aspect of campus wide accessibility efforts.
To create transcripts and captions, we have partnered with several vendors since 2015, and we have seen the costs for these services drop dramatically. Our primary vendor right now is Rev, who also works with Duke’s Academic Media Services department. Rev guarantees 99% accurate captions or transcripts for $1/minute.
Early on, Duke Digital Collections decided to center our captioning efforts around the WebVTT format, which is a time-coded text based file and a W3C standard. We use it for both audio and video captions when possible, but we can also accommodate legacy transcript formats like pdfs. Transcripts and captions can be easily replaced with new versions if and when edits need to be made.
Examples from the Silent Vigil (1968) and Allen Building Takeover (1969) Audio Recordings
When WebVTT captions are present, they load in the interface as an interactive transcript. This transcript can be used for navigation purposes; click the text and the file moves to that portion of the recording.
In addition to providing access to transcripts on the screen, we offer downloadable versions of the WebVTT transcript as a text file, a pdf or in the original webVTT format.
An advantage of the WebVTT format is that it includes “v” tags, which can be used to note changes in speakers and one can even add names to the transcript. This can require additional manual work if the names of the speakers is not obvious to the vendor, but we are excited to have this opportunity.
As Sean described in his blog post, we can also provide access to legacy pdf documents. They cannot be rendered into an interactive version, but they are still accessible for download.
On a related note, we also have a new feature that links time codes listed in the description metadata field of an item to the corresponding portion of the audio or video file. This enables librarians to describe specific segments of audio and/or video items. The Radio Haiti digital collection is the first to utilize this feature, but the feature will be a huge benefit to the H. Lee Waters and Chapel Recordings digital collections as well as many others.
As mentioned at the top of this post, the Duke Vigil and Allen Building Takeover collection includes our first batch of interactive transcripts. We plan to launch more this Spring, so stay tuned!!