Archive for February, 2013

“Cataloging Unchained”

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 by Roy

Lorcan Dempsey (VP of Research at OCLC) has long said that we need to “make our data work harder.” And for years that is exactly what OCLC Research has been doing. So when I was asked to speak on data mining at the OCLC European, Middle East, and African Regional Council Meeting in Strasbourg, France, I knew I would have a lot to talk about. Too much, in fact.

Instead of trying to cover everything we’ve been doing in a whirlwind of slides that no one would remember, I decided to use WorldCat Identities as a “poster child” for the kinds of data mining activities we have been doing recently here at OCLC Research. Then, I described another, related project — the Virtual International Authority File. To bring it all home I mentioned how we’re considering how we might be able to marry these two resources into one “super” identities service.

Consider what it would mean to take an aggregation of library-curated authority records and enhance it with algorithmically-derived data from WorldCat as well as links to other resources about creators such as Wikipedia. This would provide a rich resource of information about creators, all sitting behind authoritative and maintained identifiers that could be used in emerging new bibliographic structures such as is being created by the Library of Congress’ Bibliographic Framework Transition Initiative. The mind reels with the possibilities.

But before I could jump into all this I needed a way to quickly explain why we are doing things like this — and how we are doing them. I decided I needed to make a video. So last week that is exactly what I did, with help from colleagues in Dublin. The result was less than three-and-a-half minutes long, and yet it amply set the stage for what was to come after. Plus, it can have a life of its own.

Take a look yourself, at “Cataloging Unchained”, and let me know what you think in the comments.

Another pulse taken: Special collections in the UK and Ireland

Monday, February 18th, 2013 by Jackie

Hurrah! After about 18 months of enjoyable collaboration with new colleagues from RLUK (Research Libraries UK, the ARL equivalent over there across the Atlantic), our rather hefty report was co-published by OCLC Research and RLUK last week. The project was launched on the heels of our predecessor project that studied research libraries in the US and Canada, which was published as Taking Our Pulse in 2010. The projects were similar in two basic respects: both populations comprised a disparate array of special collections research libraries across multiple nations, and data gathering for the UK/Ireland was based on a variant of the US/Canada survey instrument.

A lot of similarities in the data exist as well. The top six “most challenging issues” were the same for both populations (though not in the same order): outreach and user services, space and facilities, born-digital materials, digitization, cataloguing and metadata, and preservation (“collection care” in the UK/Ireland). In general, the use of all types of material by all types of users increased over the preceding decade. Collecting and management of born-digital archival materials remains in its infancy in both sectors. Use of minimal-level processing techniques is used (at least sometimes) by strong majorities of both populations. For staff education and training, born digital was the most frequently cited area of need. Collaborative collection development is relatively common but is invariably informal and within a localized area.

On the other hand, we saw some big differences. External funds (e.g., gifts or endowments) for acquisition of materials are far larger in the US/Canada. Interlibrary loan of original rare or unique materials, which has become increasingly common in the US, is rarely practiced in the UK. A significantly higher percentage of archival finding aids are online in the UK and Ireland–perhaps due to the strong national hubs that exist.

RLUK was very interested in seeing how their data would compare with that of ARL libraries, which was a key reason for keeping the two instruments in synch, so we took a close look at similarities and differences in a nine-page section toward the end of the report.

There’s no way I could have done this project on my own. The expertise and perspective brought by my UK co-authors was essential, and their esprit de corps made the entire process a delight. The effort was coordinated by David Prosser and Mike Mertens, the RLUK executives, whose collegiality and make-it-happen attitude were equally essential.

Not yet available for your mobile devices, but easy enough to haul around in your dropbox!


Special Collections in the Collective Collection

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013 by Jennifer

Last month I facilitated a forum at the New-York Historical Society about Putting ‘Special’ in the ‘Collective Collection.’ We think it might be the first ever meeting about the centrality of distinctive and unique materials in discourse about the contemporary research ecosystem of shared print agreements, digital materials (both free and licensed), print collections, regional consortia, and resource sharing.

The meeting was standing room only, with a substantial waiting list. This group of thoughtful representatives from OCLC Research Library Partnership institutions set out to reconsider entrenched ideas about the irrelevance, or even the danger, of the collective collection to special collections.

What is the collective collection? In the recent mega-regions report, Constance and Brian defined the “collective collection” to be the combined holdings of a group of institutions, excluding duplicate holdings.

In our thought experiment, we mentally set aside the widespread overlapping collections, like those runs of STEM journals, subscriptions to Evans Online, or Google Books and the Hathi Trust. What’s left is a virtual collection of scarce publications – all in situ – that are held across the institutions in the group.

What remains is the rare stuff, “thy true heritage.” It is the widely-held material that allows us to focus on collecting (collectively) in the margins. The collective collection is not complete without special collections.

What does this strategy mean for researchers? It means that I can look every one of them in the eye and tell them that I can get them everything they need, regardless of where those materials “live”. And I can provide my rare books and special collections to all of my researchers, no matter where they do their work.

What are the implications for library administrators? The distinctiveness of your library’s materials – in concert with your colleagues’ special collections – is the hallmark of the collective collection.

Putting “Special” in the “Collective Collection” from OCLC Research

Share your ideas, in comments below, or in email to me.