Three questions put to …

… Felix Saurbier, Deputy Head of the Non-Textual Material Lab at TIB, about TIB Labs

The TIB Labs were launched a few weeks ago. Find out more about this new platform in this interview with Felix Saurbier, the project manager responsible for implementing the Labs.

The TIB Labs went online as a virtual lab area at the end of 2017 at What is so special about this platform, and what does TIB use it for?

The special thing about the TIB Labs is that we can run and operate experimental digital services, prototypes and beta versions that are not yet in normal operation. As such, the TIB Labs close the gap between projects that are still at the development stage at the library and the regular provision of digital services.

Felix Saurbier // Photo: A. Horstmann

To begin with, they enable TIB to gain an insight into current development projects. Emerging services and new tools can be tried out in the TIB Labs at an early stage of the process, and tested under real conditions. In addition, the platform provides us with the structures required to experiment and to gain experience with new technologies, helping TIB to continuously optimise and expand its service portfolio.

What is the library testing and presenting in the TIB Labs at the moment?

The TIB Labs kicked off at the end of 2017 with its first two prototypes: the reusable blended learning course “Lost in Antarctica” and an experimental “Linked Data Fragments Server” for online queries on the metadata sets of TIB’s AV-Portal. The TIB Labs now already have nine services and tools from all TIB programme areas and departments. These include not only real in-house developments, but also individual adaptations and enhancements of existing software solutions.

As an example, TIB operates its own platform for the provision of Open Educational Resources, or OER for short, under “SlideWiki”. This platform is currently being developed under a project funded by the EU. The project focuses in particular on the collaborative creation, editing and flexible reuse of the hosted material.

Go to TIB Labs
The TIB Labs show experimental digital services, prototypes and beta versions. // photo: TIB

In addition, “Skosmos” ( is a web-based tool that enables controlled vocabularies and thesauri from various domains to be published and searched. TIB’s Open Science Lab (LINK) takes the lead in this project.

Another exciting prototype, and the latest addition to the Labs, is the “TIB Data Manager” ( This application, based on the data catalogue software CKAN (Comprehensive Knowledge Archive Network), is a data management system for heterogeneous data collections featuring preview functions for different types of research data. For example, CAD data stored in the system can be visualised using integrated viewer components. The NOA service – a search engine for reusable scientific figures ( – being developed within a project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), enables users to search for visual material from quality-assured Open Access journals.

By operating the TIB Labs, the library not only provides insight into its own research activities and projects, but also tests innovative technologies and services in collaboration with customers. What is the idea behind these activities?

The idea behind the TIB Labs is the so-called “Library Labs”. The idea itself is not new, and other major libraries such as the National Library of the Netherlands and ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics have already established their own digital “labs” to operate new, experimental services. The main reason for these labs is that libraries, in light of the digital transformation, are facing completely new challenges – but can also seize the opportunities arising from these developments: the increasing importance of research data and scientific software, the transformation towards Open Access and Open Science, and new digital ways of producing scientific work. Against this backdrop, libraries conduct their own research and development projects, and establish innovative information infrastructures and services for research and tea As such, they play a major role in promoting the transition to digital, open and sustainable science.

“Library Labs” can help support this transition process by opening up new spaces for experiments, stimulating innovation processes along the way. At the same time, they also promote the openness and transparency of their own research and development work, facilitating exchange and collaboration with stakeholders from science and research. And, last but not least, “Library Labs” enable users to be involved in the development of new services and infrastructures at an early stage of the process. In this way, TIB can try out new technologies together with its users, and identify new needs as soon as they arise. As such, “Library Labs” particularly serve as incubators for new library services and infrastructures.

Go to TIB Labs (verlinken auf: