Digital Archives and Otter.ai

A short time ago, there had been an issue with our digital archives. Typically, we strive for them to be equipped in all areas with high-resolution images (especially for older items), metadata, and proper transcription for all of our videos. However, the act of creating a full transcript from scratch can be rather time consuming, as the recorder would have to watch the entire video and then type out word for word whatever was being audibly presented. With this method it would take a recorder a week, often many more, to get through a single video. Obviously, this was not the most efficient process.


This leads us to two very important question: What is transcription? Why is it so important?

Transcription is the process by which audio is converted into text (or some other written format). It is created to bring ease to communication by making material easier to understand. There are several reasons in which this could be helpful. For one, it can bridge linguistic gaps. Transcriptions, in the form of subtitles, allow us to enjoy and comprehend media sourced from other countries. Transcription can also detract from any audible distractions that might occur during a presentation. The usual long pauses, filler words, stumbles or stutters – all gone!

The most valuable purpose for transcription is accessibility. Communication, especially effective communication, is a staple in our social media dominated world. However, some people are differently abled and as such, they may require information to be presented to them in a way that they can absorb it.

To condense and ease the transcription process, the library took it upon itself to look into different services. Eventually, we decided to go with Otter.ai. Using this service has drastically transformed the way we transcribe audio and video.

Otter.ai is a software that develops speech to text transcription and translation
applications using artificial intelligence and machine learning. It is very easy to use! You can generate a transcript in two ways, by either recording a voice memo or importing an audio/video file. Once the file has been analyzed, a transcript will be provided to the user. Although, the length of the transcription process does depend on file size. So, if you import a larger file, be prepared to wait! But the transcription that you are provided with is of good quality. The only alterations needed would be that of formatting and error checking. Though Otter.ai is relatively clean, it is not infallible. This, however, can be contributed to poor audio quality rather than the software itself.

Overall, Otter.ai has been an incredible addition to the archives. If you are ever in need of a quick and inexpensive transcription service, we highly recommend that you check them out!

Originally posted in the Freeman/Lozier Library’s quarterly newsletter, More Than BooksV. 25 No. 2, Spring 2022.

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