As part of the OCLC Research Discussion Series on Next Generation Metadata, this blog post reports back from the Spanish language round table discussion held on March 8, 2021. (A Spanish translation is available here).
Librarians – mostly metadata specialists – and representatives from heritage, research, and government institutions, as well as from service and software providers, joined the session from various regions in Spain. With so many prominent stakeholders from the field around the table, the conversation was engaged and dynamic and offered an opportunity for much interaction on a topic that was considered very important and timely by the group.
The mapping exercise
As in all the other round table discussions, participants started with taking stock of next generation metadata projects in their region or initiatives elsewhere. The resulting map was chock-full of sticky notes with names of projects, services, standards, identifier hubs, and more. The left-upper quadrant listed several local and regional authority files.
An example of the latter is the cooperative catalog of name authorities from Cataluña (CÀNTIC). The right-upper quadrant was filled with Research Information Management (RIM) related portals, systems, and projects. One example is GREC, the CRIS (Current Research System Information) developed by the University of Barcelona, currently used in various institutions and research organizations. Another is brújulaUAL, the researcher profile service of the University of Almería, which collects all identifiers, publications, citation metrics, and h-index of their scholars. The cultural heritage related projects filled the left-lower quadrant and overflowed to the lower-right quadrant. Most of them referred to digitization and aggregation efforts, such as: Galiciana, the digital library of Galicia; Biblioteca Virtual de Prensa Histórica, the Virtual Library of Historical Newspapers; and Hispana, the national aggregator and portal for Spain’s digitized heritage.
Leveraging the local authority file to manage researcher identities
The map sparked off a lively discussion. Starting with the upper-left quadrant, several participants explained their efforts to bring their local authority file to the next level. One university librarian mentioned plans to publish the name authorities of their researchers as a Linked Open Data (LOD) set, with links to the corresponding names from the authority file of the Biblioteca Nacional de España (BNE). This was one example among many. All the major academic libraries in Spain are currently focusing on leveraging their local authority file: enriching it with identifiers (ORCID, BNE-ids, VIAF, etc.), publishing it as LOD, and also feeding external systems – such as the university’s Research Portal or the ORCID-database, with authority and bibliographic data. In doing so, they are encountering some practical difficulties – for example, is a given scholar still active or retired? – illustrating the need to integrate systems across campus, in this example’s particular case, with the university’s Human Resources system. The group made two important observations about this current trend:
1) academic libraries are focusing on their own authority file and bibliographic data – which is a good starting point for managing researcher identities, but they are paying very little attention to CRIS-projects – which are parallel systems recording similar data;
2) academic libraries do the same thing, for the same purpose, but they act locally and so their approaches and implementations tend to differ, leading to a range of idiosyncratic solutions across the country.
Privileging digitization above the production of next generation metadata
The group was surprised to find so many heritage collection projects (lower half of the map) and so few RIM-projects (upper-right quadrant). One participant offered the explanation that this might be due to “the way libraries are organized” in Spain, where much more attention is given to the digitization of heritage collections. Others agreed and were of the opinion that the Spanish Government funding policy is privileging the digitization of paper above the production of next generation metadata. This has determined the landscape of library projects in the country. In terms of metadata, quite a few cultural heritage projects are building ontologies (also added to the map), but – as one of the participants put it – these are often complex. There are many untapped opportunities to use existing resources and tools such as Wikidata and/or Wikibase – which could also help improve multilingual access to collections online. However, the group also noted that the technology to move from linked data projects to production at scale was not yet mature.
Creating opportunity for more concerted effort
One of the participants remarked:
“There are lots of projects to keep track of. How many of them are institutional? We have little guidance for where we are going. There are few collaborative projects, and hardly any multilingual efforts.”
This was the signal for the participants to focus on the desirability to move their next generation metadata efforts forward in a more concerted way. The research portals were seen as an important application area where collaboration was needed. In this context, the group mentioned Dialnet, a large Spanish-Latin American library cooperative aggregating the metadata of the scholarly collections of its members, including full-texts and doctoral theses. It allows the retrieval and enrichment of bibliographic (publications) and bibliometric (citations, coauthors) data. The service is of particular importance to Spain because of the many Spanish and Social Sciences and Humanities publications and authors it contains, compared to SCOPUS, for example. Some of the participants suggested this service could serve as an important linking pin for library data and RIM-data in Spain.
Another important initiative is the development of cataloging rules by the RDA working group of the REBIUN (the Network of Spanish University Libraries) for producing authority files. The rules allow and recommend the addition of many relevant PIDs to the authority files (ORCID, ISNI, VIAF, BNE-ids, Dialnet-ids, Web of Science ResearcherID, SCOPUS-ids, Wikidata, etc.) and indicate the best way to do this. The plan is to build a union catalog of all the authority files covering all scientific authors at Spanish universities and publish it as an open dataset. Someone observed that the thinking behind this initiative was inspired by Karen Smith-Yoshimura’s report on The transition to the next generation metadata, which was nice to hear.
To sum up, the group definitively saw possibilities to interconnect their local initiatives and to create more synergies. They hoped to learn more about OCLC’s Shared Entity Management Infrastructure and expressed the wish to see OCLC help them organize more discussions like this one, to continue the analysis of the next generation metadata projects landscape and the conversation on collaboration in Spain.
About the OCLC Research Discussion Series on Next Generation Metadata
- “Transitioning to the Next Generation of Metadata”
- “Transforming Metadata into Linked Data to Improve Digital Collection Discoverability: A CONTENTdm Pilot Project”.
The round table discussions were held in different European languages and participants were able share their own experiences, get a better understanding of the topic area, and gain confidence in planning ahead.
The Opening Plenary Session opened the forum for discussion and exploration and introduced the theme and its topics. Summaries of all eight round table discussions are published on the OCLC Research blog, Hanging Together. This post is the fourth one, preceded by the posts reporting on the first English session, the Italian session, the second English session, the French session and the German session.
The Closing Plenary Session on April 13 will synthesize the different round table discussions. Registration is still open for this webinar: please join us!
Titia van der Werf is a Senior Program Officer in OCLC Research based in OCLC’s Leiden office. Titia coordinates and extends OCLC Research work throughout Europe and has special responsibilities for interactions with OCLC Research Library Partners in Europe. She represents OCLC in European and international library and cultural heritage venues.