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

Systems and the NBK

We are one of the JISC community data groups, and our work ties in with Nick Barratt’s recent blog post regarding the metadata mapping project and review of metadata practice in the UK. Our group’s focus is to explore the technical aspects of data import and export relating to 2 key areas and how this may help libraries contribute to the National Bibliographic Knowledgebase (NBK).

The first area we are keen to learn more about is the types of catalogue records libraries are currently working with and the potential variance in quality provided by different suppliers vs. the staff time and resource to possibly improve these for our user community. We are interested in understanding the possible implications of this variance for the NBK, particularly when libraries use it to support collections management activities such as weeding or identifying collection strengths. Our initial discussions as a group raised questions which have now been incorporated into the NBK questionnaire, and we are sure that this data will be useful in shaping best practice and the development of the knowledgebase.

The second area we are focusing on is how Library Management System suppliers could provide documentation or other forms of guidance on the functionality of their systems when their customers are exporting large data sets to the NBK, thereby removing a potential barrier for non-contributing libraries. We are hoping to identify any challenges libraries may be facing and feed this back to the NBK group and LMS suppliers, which in turn may support the provision of guidelines / best practice / publishing profiles /NBK tool kits for libraries wishing to be involved.

It’s all about identifying potential problems or challenges and engaging the community and suppliers in addressing these, so that the NBK can fulfil its rich potential.
As part of this, we’re also interested in how the community can help itself, and what types of support mechanisms can enable a vibrant user community.

The NBK questionnaire will go some way to providing the data to support our work, but it would also be great to hear from the wider community about what steps we can take to make this work.  Because our group is interested in library staff’s experiences with key processes, we would like to undertake some short informal interviews to gather more detailed qualitative data to capture this, so if you would be interested in being in interviewed, please do get in touch!

Gareth Owen, Programme Manager, WHELF

Helen Faulds, Collections Manager, University of St Andrews

Suzy Cheeke, Collections Librarian, University of Bristol

Elly Cope, Manager, Access & Acquisitions, Leeds University

Ed Kirkland, Data Services Manager, University of Warwick

Aniska Kumra, Assistant Librarian – Resources Management

David Miller-Crook, Library Systems Manager, University of Southampton

Andrew Paton, Metadata Management Team Leader, University of Manchester

Wendy Taylor, Metadata Officer, University of Salford

Sarah Thompson, Head of Collections, University of York





NBK metadata mapping project

We are one of the four NBK data community groups highlighted in Lee Blyth’s April post.  Our group is charged with reviewing current metadata practice in the UK, developing  a framework of data standards, and mapping different levels of metadata against specific functionality – from basic ‘discoverability’ to collaborative ‘share and compare’ activities at local, regional and national level.  It’s already been a really worthwhile and valuable exercise in itself, bringing together managers from different institutions to share ideas – and enthusiasm! A big thank you to all involved.


There are several parts to our project. We’ll be looking at the algorithms associated with NBK that are used to match items, as well as conducting a brief desktop review of existing literature around metadata standards. This should help us understand how different levels of metadata have been used to support practical activity across the sector, and what practical problems this has thrown up from previous work (building on the White Rose collection overlap report).


We’ll also focus on what people are using their metadata for, in particular collection management and evaluation; discovery; and metadata enhancements. Using these previous activities as a benchmark, we hope to compile a sense of how particular metadata thresholds can be used as a guide for future cataloguing work, as well as practical collection management activity. We’ve submitted a series of questions as part of the wider survey Lee refers to, and we’d really like you to answer these candidly so we can obtain a ‘state of the nation’ snapshot about how decisions on metadata thresholds for cataloguing are made, how frequently we share records via online platforms, or whether reports on contributed records are reviewed and acted upon. The wider survey touches a number of key metadata issues affecting us all, and it is important that we all complete it as comprehensively as possible, involving other colleagues as required – the survey provides some guidance with this.  All this information will be invaluable when assessing how NBK will evolve, and how we can realise and release the value of the metadata we all create, use and share. 


Finally, and although largely outside the scope of the current community data group projects, our group also felt it was important to understand historic cataloguing practice across the sector. The way that decisions have been taken in the past, and knowledge of the present situation, might influence a more collaborative, open and transparent approach to future projects involving the wider library community.


Nick Barratt, Director, Senate House Library

Paul Cunnea, Acquisition & Description Manager, National Library of Scotland

Jane Daniels, Bibliographical Librarian, Cardiff Metropolitan University

Clare Hudson, Assistant Librarian Cataloguing and Metadata, London School of Economics and Political Science

Vanessa Lacey, Head of English Cataloguing, Cambridge University

Thomas Meehan, Head of Cataloguing and Metadata, University College London

David Morgan, Metadata, Discovery & Analytics Coordinator, Royal Holloway University of London

Amy Staniforth, Metadata team leader (Information Services), Aberystwyth University


National Bibliographic Knowledgebase Community Data Groups

Jisc have convened four community data groups to look at issues and possible interventions that might be made to enhance the quality and efficiency of library bibliographic and holdings data (https://libraryservices.jiscinvolve.org/wp/2017/12/nbk-group). These groups are running from now until the end of July 2018, and will be reporting their finding and progress to the community through blog posts here.

Our First Challenge… NBK Support and Guidance: Past, Present and Future!
Our group was challenged with identifying the support and guidance materials needed by contributors to the NBK.

Through initial discussion around the data being contributed, we formed a shared theme of data past, data present and data future:

  • Data past – Poorly catalogued records from the past that may be difficult to improve or deduplicate against the same items from other institutions.
  • Data present – Records that we are working with now, many of which may be imported via automated procedures, from different suppliers and with varying levels of quality.
  • Data future – Ways in which the NBK might allow us to improve previously catalogued records in batch, or how contributed records with missing or incomplete fields could be identified and workflows provided to improve the data.

Further to the above, during discussion with people in specialist roles at both existing and potential contributor institutions, it became clear that there are many different support levels required, spanning some very specific skill sets:

  • The technical data import and export functions from LMS systems.
  • Expertise in cataloguing and metadata management.
  • Collection development and management activities.
  • Management and leadership roles wanting to understand the benefits offered by the NBK and how they align with the strategic goals of the Library.

We aim to enable these different teams to work together, combining individual skills and workflows to realise these benefits.

We took the past, present, future theme and also applied this to the contributing institutions:

  • Libraries that have previously contributed data to Copac, so have staff in the required roles who understand the benefits of contribution to NBK and likely have staff with the correct skills and knowledge to work with the NBK.
  • Libraries that have not previously contributed to Copac, but have now contributed to or are in the process of contributing to the NBK.
  • Libraries that as yet have not contributed to either Copac or the NBK.

Our support and guidance project will ensure that existing support materials and contributing workflows are identified and mapped to appropriate use cases, that current support needs of the community are analysed and a representative user group established, and we will provide a proposal for a long term online support space and ‘innovation zone’ to help support the NBK user community.

How can you help?

  • We are working with three other groups, who are addressing different data challenges in relation to the NBK to co-create a survey for the NBK community. This survey will be available from early May and will be shared with contacts at your institutions. Please take the time to complete the survey and pass to appropriate colleagues for their completion too. The more engagement we receive, the better informed our work will be.
  • Do you have skills and experience of working with NBK or Copac? We are looking for some potential ‘experts’ who may be willing to provide support to other institutions at some point in the future. Have you got experience of contributing NBK records from a specific LMS or even multiple systems? Would you be willing to help create some guidance materials? Get in touch – lee.blyth@northumbria.ac.uk
  • Keep an eye on our blog posts and leave us your comments. We would like as much feedback as possible and would love to hear your thoughts on what type of support and guidance is required now and in the future. Please share these posts with your colleagues and encourage them to read and comment too.

Who are the members of the NBK Support and Guidance group?
Lee Blyth, Discovery & Access Librarian, Northumbria University
Annette Moore, Content Delivery Manager, University of Sussex
Emma Shaw, Collection Development Librarian, University of Roehampton
Kay Munro, College Librarian, University of Glasgow
Ruth Elder, Collections Management Specialist, University of York