What could the NBK do for us? – the NBK CDG Tools project

We are one of the NBK Community Data Group project groups, and our task is to consider the tools that the NBK might be able to offer contributing libraries to help improve the quality of our metadata. Our work is closely linked to that of the other 3 projects described in previous blog posts, looking at Support and Guidance, Metadata mapping and Systems in the context of the NBK. Together, our reports will inform how the NBK team can build a useful set of support documentation and tools that will encourage and enable all UK HE libraries to engage with the NBK as contributors of records, and as consumers of the services that will be offered from the rich database of library metadata that the NBK promises to be.

If your library is already contributing records to the RLUK database and COPAC, you may be familiar with the reports that are received back from Jisc after each updated file is processed. In the interests of making our metadata even more perfect(!), in an ideal world we would love to work through these reports every week or month, finding and fixing the coding errors and anomalies that the record ingest has identified. Because that’s what metadata folk like to do best. Sadly, the days of large library cataloguing or technical services teams are, for most HE libraries, long gone and we no longer have the resources to devote to such tasks. With fewer metadata staff, our priority now is ensuring that newly added titles are accurately described and easily discovered, and we rarely have the time to revisit legacy metadata and fix all those little errors and inconsistencies that have crept in, by accident or by design, over the years since we switched from card catalogues to automated systems.

But what if the NBK could help us with this? Could Jisc offer something back to contributing libraries that would help us to improve our local records, without too much manual effort for the library? Might we get better metadata back from the NBK, and if so, how would this be best delivered? These are the questions that our project is addressing. Tools allowing local metadata to be enhanced from the rich NBK database would be of huge benefit to all of us in improving the overall standard of metadata in UK HE libraries, and would be a big selling point to encourage libraries to join the NBK.

We began by considering local use cases and examples of “known issues” with our own catalogue records, which uncovered some common themes – local historical idiosyncracies in cataloguing practice, batches of records with coding errors, brief records from early automation projects. These formed the basis of our thinking about how the NBK might help in such scenarios: overwriting a brief record with a full record; overwriting selected MARC fields to fix specific problems; providing back the “master record” from the NBK for records submitted in our regular update files; uploading delimited data (lists of ISBN/author/title) to identify matching master records from the NBK. From here we considered the technical and resourcing implications that would help or hinder libraries when taking advantage of these services, and compiled our questions for the NBK community survey.

From the responses to the NBK questionnaire we aim to build a picture of the staff resources and technical expertise available within libraries, the issues that libraries have with their legacy records, and the functionality of the library systems with which they are working, to inform a set of recommendations to the NBK developers. Working together with Shirley Cousins of the Jisc NBK team, we will identify and propose some realistic, deliverable core tools and services that the NBK’s “contributor dashboard” could offer to libraries. The proposed tools will need to be technically accessible to as wide a group of participants as possible, so that low levels of local staff resource or technical knowledge won’t be a barrier to take-up. Ideally, the tools will be able to be automated, to minimise the amount of manual intervention required and allow even libraries with small metadata teams to take advantage of the tools for their metadata clean-up projects.

We are currently analysing the survey responses and planning our report back to the Jisc NBK team, and we hope that our recommendations will form the basis for some fantastically useful metadata improvement tools that will bring us all a few steps closer to the perfect bibliographic metadata that we dream of!

Who are the members of the NBK Tools group?

Fran Abbs, Metadata Manager, University of Sheffield Library

Eileen Crawley, Acquisitions and Bibliographic Services Manager, SOAS

Louise Grainger, Collections Information Analyst (Collections & Research), Wellcome Library

Martin Kelleher, Metadata Manager, University of Liverpool

Alasdair MacDonald, Metadata Co-ordinator, University of Edinburgh

Toby Reynolds, Metadata Co-ordinator, Durham University

Siân Thomas, Head of Systems and Standards, National Library of Wales