Library Journal "Digital Libraries" Columns 1997-2007, Roy Tennant
Please note: these columns are an archive of my Library Journal column from 1997-2007. They have not been altered in content, so please keep in mind some of this content will be out of date.
Enriching the Catalog
After decades of costly and time-consuming effort, nearly all libraries have completed the retrospective conversion of their card catalogs to electronic form. However, our bibliographic systems still are really not much more than card catalogs on wheels. Enriched content that Amazon.com takes for granted--such as digitized tables of contents, cover art, reviews, summaries, and excerpts--are still rare in library catalogs. Commercial companies such as Baker & Taylor and Syndetic Solutions offer enriched content for recent materials, but it is usually not available for older books. Thankfully, that is about to change. In January 2004 a group of about 20 --led by Robert Kieft of Haverford College, Susan Perry of the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), and the Mellon Foundation--met at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in San Diego. The group considered what it would take to develop an organizational and technical infrastructure for creating and sharing enriched information about library holdings. They were enthusiastic about the prospects, perhaps because many of them had already been thinking about--or actively working on--this problem. Reports from the field Representatives of the Library of Congress Bibliographic Enrichment Advisory Team (BEAT) described gathering together online tables of contents and other information into a system that many libraries use as the source for such material. BEAT has existed for ten years and now regularly receives enriching information about new titles from publishers. The California Digital Library (CDL) described a proposal made in the late 1990s at the University of California (UC)-Berkeley to digitize book tables of contents (the Pathfinder Enrichment Project). This is now being implemented, in a very revised form, for books sent to offsite storage (see the TOC record in the Link List). CDL is also hiring a director of shared collections for the university. A librarian formerly with Amazon.com shared information about their experiences. For example, Amazon found that the quality of information supplied by publishers (using the ONIX standard) is often uneven. OCLC described its work to re-create WorldCat to accommodate enriching information more easily. Through a survey of members, OCLC discovered that 20 percent of its academic library members would contribute data to OCLC for enriching records. The Research Libraries Group (RLG) reviewed its work on the Redlightgreen.com system, which seeks to make library systems more usable for college and university students. Including content such as tables of contents and reviews would be a good addition. The University of Illinois is partnering with Cornell and the CIC (13 Midwestern research libraries) to think about new models for increasing intellectual access to physical materials, especially those in storage. Their perspective echoed that of others, who see the problem of brief bibliographic descriptions to be particularly acute for items in storage. Where we're at Given the pent-up demand for enriched records, and the lack of any strategies for encoding and sharing them in standard ways, the participants have hit the ground running. One team was formed to work on organizational and political issues, while another is dealing with technical problems. The technical group met again at the Digital Library Federation (DLF) Spring Forum, with representatives from LC, OCLC, RLG, and the CDL in attendance. One outcome was a commitment to experiment with using MODS, METS, and ONIX to encapsulate enriched information and OAI-PMH to share these records. The group also sponsored a "birds of a feather" open meeting attended by 34 DLF participants who wanted to both hear about the project and offer advice. Planners will meet at the ALA annual conference in Orlando and hope to have the outlines of a demonstration project by year's end. A web site is also available (see Catalog Enrichment Initiative). For more information, see "Collaborative Project To Enhance Library Catalog Browsing" or contact Robert Kieft (firstname.lastname@example.org). Both groups and individuals have talked about enriching our catalogs in recent years (e.g., see Dan Hazen's article). But with new standards emerging and expectations about information online increasing, all indicators point to this as the right time to act. __________________________________________________________________ LINK LIST Catalog Enrichment Initiative www.loc.gov/standards/catenrich Collaborative Project To Enhance Library Catalog Browsing www.clir.org/pubs/issues /issues38.html#collab Hazen, Dan. "Making Collections Work," C&RL News, February 1998, p. 97ff. LC BEAT www.loc.gov/catdir/beat METS www.loc.gov/standards/mets MODS www.loc.gov/standards/mods ONIX www.editeur.org/onix.html UC-Berkeley Example TOC Record metsviewer.lib.berkeley.edu /nrlftoc/mets/100743205D-B3514358.xml UC-Berkeley Pathfinder Enrichment Project Sunsite.Berkeley.edu/PEP