Warwick workshop prioritises resource discovery

March 29, 2012

In January 2012, JISC and SCONUL convened a workshop for Library Directors and Senior Managers to review the evolving requirements for institutional Library Management Systems (LMS), referenced as Domain 3 in the 2009 SCONUL report to HEFCE.  Entitled ‘The Squeezed Middle’, the workshop focused on the key service developments impacting the LMS footprint, given evolving approaches in Resource Discovery (Domain 2) and shared service developments in the management of subscription resources (Domain 1).

After considering a business modeling framework presented by Lorcan Dempsey and a number of future scenarios set in the year 2020, the workshop reviewed a catalogue of over 60 potential library service and institutional knowledge management objectives. The group evaluated them in terms of desirability, feasibility and their potential to act as drivers of mission critical change.

It was striking that the Discovery agenda represented a very high proportion of the items ranked as high priority looking to 2020. It was also noted that above campus initiatives (such as shared cataloguing and records improvement) and services (such as resource discovery aggregations) can act as catalysts for reviewing workflows (both user and librarian) and reappraising library team skills.

The highest ranked Discovery related targets were as follows:

  • 31 – Provide 1-stop search across all asset types
  • 32 – Publish open linked catalogue metadata
  • 33 – Expose the collection to other search mechanisms
  • 34 – Emphasise exposure of special collections
  • 35 – Integrate LMS & VLE resources, including reading lists
  • 43 – Curate local learning resources, including OERs
  • 44 – Drive the value of reading lists

Medium priority Discovery related targets were:

  • 36 – Provide recommender and associated ‘social’ services
  • 45 – Curate institutional research data
  • 46 – Expose the institutional repository
  • 47 – Expose the university archives

The headline priorities included

  • Provide 1-stop search across the range of Teaching, Learning and Research asset types that are authored and collected within institutions
  • Integrate reading lists effectively with the discovery of and access to library, VLE and repository resources
  • Establish sustainable curation, workflow management and exposure for all digital scholarly assets – including local learning resources, OERs and research data
  • Not on the original list, delegates added the potential for a persistent personal interface to assets, typically through bookmarking; the metaphor of a personal e-shelf was regarded as attractive.

Other challenges such as re-thinking the user access points for resource discovery or collaboration on adoption of widely used authorities and vocabularies were regarded as less critical, though not unimportant. The abandonment of the traditional LMS OPAC received a low vote on the basis that this will be an outcome of success in these broader ambitions. Whilst enhancing the discoverability of university museum assets received a low average vote, it was highly scored by those institutions with their own museum collection.

So Discovery featured highly for library management both as an end in itself and as a catalyst for changing processes and practice, relationships and responsibilities. However, we must also reflect on whether this professional and user-centred aspiration relates to a destination at which we will one day arrive or perhaps may be better viewed as an essential element in the continuous evolution of the academy.

w/c 12 Mar 2012 – Discovery News Roundup

March 16, 2012

Here’s my round up of news from the world of Discovery and beyond over the past couple of weeks. As with my previous posts, many of the items were gleaned from the #ukdiscovery twitter hashtag which you can dip into whenever you like by opening up this FiveFilters ‘newspaper’ pdf.

First of all, some news from the Discovery initiative – There is an opportunity to attend the free Licensing Clinic that the Discovery project is running on Wednesday 9th May in Birmingham. This practical roundtable event is aimed at managers and decision makers in libraries, archives and museums and there will be the following experts on hand to help guide you through your institution’s particular open metadata licensing challenges: Francis Davey (Barrister), Naomi Korn (Copyright Consultant), Paul Miller (Cloud of Data). Please note that places at this event are strictly limited to 15 delegates so you’re advised to book sooner rather than later and you can do that by signing up via the Eventbrite registration page.

In recent weeks I’ve seen a few articles relating to the need for skills development in the area of ‘data wrangling’/’data management’:

Those articles left me wondering whether there are specific skills needed for dealing with and managing open metadata which we should be identifying and highlighting? On a related note, I saw a short conversation regarding Linked Data on Twitter that I think a lot of people will relate to and which could be equally applied to any of the areas touched on by the Discovery initiative – To summarise, the main point of the conversation was that [people] have no trouble understanding what terms such as Linked Data mean while they are being explained to them but that knowledge is hard to retain and quickly loses definition when you walk away and/or try to explain it to anyone else.

Resources such as the Open Metadata Handbook are undoubtedly a useful touchstone people can keep returning to when they need a refresher but what else needs to be in place to ensure that knowledge about open metadata is discovered, shared and becomes embedded within staff skillsets?

One of the aims of the Discovery initiative is to raise awareness of open metadata and if you’d like to help us do that then you can either:

Some other links of interest from the wider world of data:

Lastly, I’ve started exploring how I can use Delicious to share other items of interest that I pick up during my travels across the webosphere – To that end I’ve started using Packrati.us to auto-bookmark my Twitter favourites and shared hyperlinks in Delicious and have also created a #UKDiscovery ‘stack’ where I’ve started sharing any of my bookmarks that seem particularly pertinent to the Discovery initiative.

Open Data – The Missing Link?

March 12, 2012

Ken Chad positions Discovery in the context of global and national thinking

In March 2011 the first issue of Google’s Think Quarterly[1] online magazine was dedicated to data. Nigel Shadbolt of the University of Southampton writes that one of the key responses to the 21st century demand for information is open data. The data.gov.uk website and the influence of Shadbolt alongside Sir Tim Berners-Lee has positioned UK government as one of the leaders in open data[2].

However, despite the increased recognition of Shadbolt’s argument that “open data provides a platform on which innovation and value can flourish”, more needs to be done. This is certainly the case with libraries, museums and archives. Discovery Chair, Prof. David Baker, emhasises that by opening up more data for reuse “we can better serve UK educators and researchers to excel in their work by increasing access to, and visibility of, relevant content”.

If we are to achieve the ambition of the Discovery initiative for a sustainable ‘metadata ecology’, two broad issues need to be addressed. The first is around making a clear business case. Key figures like Shadbolt and Berners-Lee have done much to clarify and advocate the broader business case especially for government data. However more remains to be done to help heads of libraries, museums and archives articulate the particular business case for their organisations – as Discovery is undertaking to do.

Secondly, a commitment to licensing open metadata will be vital. It is encouraging that this is central to a number of current projects in libraries, museums and archives with the British Library[3] amongst those leading the way. At the same time Discovery is providing case studies and tools such as the Open Bibliographic Data Guide to support managers, practitioners and developers.


  1. ^ http://thinkquarterly.co.uk/
  2. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/jan/21/timbernerslee-government-data
  3. ^ http://www.bl.uk/bibliographic/datafree.html

w/c 27 Feb 2012 – Discovery News Roundup

March 4, 2012

Here’s my round up of news from the world of Discovery and beyond over the past few weeks. As with previous posts, many of the items were gleaned from the #ukdiscovery twitter hashtag which you can dip into whenever you like by opening up this FiveFilters ‘newspaper’ pdf [update: URL fixed].

Last week the Discovery team published Issue 6 of the Discovery Newsletter which included the following articles among others:

  • an article on how the Copac Collections Management Tool project is aiming to help collections managers.
  • an introduction to ‘Will’s World’ – one of the JISC-funded large-scale exemplar projects.
  • an invitation for supply chain organisations such as system vendors and publishers to engage with the Discovery initiative.

If you’d like to receive future newsletters by email you simply need to drop us a line at rdtf-discovery@sero.co.uk and you’ll be added to the distribution list.

It was interesting to read Harvard’s announcement of the changes they will be undergoing in order to unify their 73 (!) libraries. Much of the announcement concentrated on structural changes but this sentence caught my eye and it seems to suggest that some game changing LIS developments could be in the offing: “The changes will position the Library to lead in scholarly communication and open access, to design next generation search and discovery services, and to accelerate digitization and digital preservation.

Of course Harvard’s Library Lab team are already involved in designing next generation search and discovery services as part of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) Beta Sprint initiative – the scale of the data they’re dealing with is pretty impressive but it was the live demo of their “pre-alpha” ShelfLife/LibraryCloud system that took my breath away and got me thinking about new possibilities for discovery interfaces.

When I first read this short blogpost from the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky I initially dismissed it as not quite newsworthy enough to include in this digest … but I kept thinking about the story after I had clicked away from it.  It seems to me that the ‘Oral History Metadata Synchronizer’ (OHMS) tool that they’ve developed with their digital library division has huge potential for improving the visibility of audio collections and connecting them to other relevant resources. The story of how the Nunn Center have used OHMS to preserve and share interviews with survivors of the Haiti earthquake is a moving reminder that metadata is (at the risk of getting poetic and misty eyed) more than sterile information, and the discovery it enables is human as much as it is digital.

Staying on the subject of audio collections, the Music Library Association is currently working on a final version of their Music Discovery Requirements document and they are currently inviting thoughts and suggestions. This presentation by Nara Newcomer provides useful background on the aim of the Music Discovery Requirements document.

The Discovery programme is particularly focused on the business case for adopting open metadata so it was interesting to read this white paper from Nielsen which reports on the effect of supplying (or not supplying) metadata within the book industry. One of the key conclusions reads: “Overall we see clear indications that supplying a set of full enhanced metadata for product records helps to maximise sales, and that this relationship between enhanced metadata and sales is even stronger for the online retail sector.” Of course UK university libraries are not in the business of book retail and this report could simply serve to make publishers more commercially protective over the metadata they create but all the same it is good to have some high profile research published in this area. It’s a pity that they don’t separate out enhanced metadata from the provision of a cover images in their analysis – from research I’ve been involved in previously I suspect there might be some interesting findings that remain hidden by the approach they’ve taken.

Europeana have published data for 2.4 million items under an open metadata licence as part of its Linked Open Data pilot. The data is provided by eight national libraries and a number of cultural heritage organisations (including some from the UK) and there’s also a convincing animation on the ‘what and why’ of linked data which, pleasingly, keeps the end user at the forefront of the discussion. Europeana also launched the ‘European Library Standards Handbook’ which is their guide for libraries who are providing content to data aggregators – it includes a legal overview as well as a technical guide. If you are interested in linked open data then you might want to follow the University of Bristol’s ‘Bricolage’ project which is JISC-funded and will be publishing catalogue metadata from their Penguin Archive and Geology Museum collections.

Earlier this week I found myself having one of those ‘am I the only person not at this event?’ moments as my Twitterstream gradually filled up with all manner of interesting and diverting tweets from the OCLC EMEA Regional Council Annual Meeting.  Owen Stephens captured some of the knowledge that was shared around the topic of APIs in his blogposts written on the day. One of the sessions that seemed to be particularly well received was Alison Cullingford’s presentation on recent survey findings from the RLUK Unique and Distinct Collections project so it will be interesting to read the report when it is published. The meeting also brought news that an open data commons licence is being considered for WorldCat:

WorldCat: open data commons licence is being considered and will be discussed with OCLC membership through Global Council #EMEARC

— Simon Bains (@simonjbains) February 29, 2012

I will not pretend to be an expert but these guides that the Archives Hub have added to their website look very useful for anyone who is interested in accessing Archives Hub data using SRU and OAI-PMH interfaces.

I’ll finish up by sharing some interesting news in the wider world of open data and metadata:

  • The JISC Managing Research Data Programme is doing some heavy lifting in terms of building a registry of metadata standards  (for UK university research datasets) – I’m sure they would be pleased to hear from you if you have any insights you’d like to share with them.
  • The Government’s call for input to their consultation on “open standards for software interoperability, data and document formats” is ongoing and it doesn’t close until 3 May so there’s plenty of time left to think about what the direct and indirect supply chain ripples might be.
  • In my last news digest I mentioned that ‘big data’ suddenly seemed to be everywhere – This week Nick Edouard’s reflective post over on the BuzzData blog struck a chord with me, particularly his point that “Open-data initiatives are good for many reasons, not least because they can radically improve internal data-sharing.” Often the discussion around open data tends towards a leap of faith/altruistic model but keeping focused on the ‘what’s in it for us?’ question seems a surer way of securing the internal resources needed to release data in the first place.

In closing, a couple of blogposts I’ve read recently have got me thinking about the importance of identifying a vision that other people can quickly understand and get behind:

I think that the Discovery vision packs a similar punch but perhaps it could be more emotive?: “[Our vision] is about making resources more discoverable both by people and machines.” Is that a vision which speaks to you? Have you found the words to succinctly describe your institution’s vision for resource discovery? Please do share your thoughts in the comments below.