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Hidden Collections

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  • 1. Hidden Collections Mike Mertens, Deputy Director, RLUK RLUK Conference, Newcastle, 16 November, 2012
  • 2. Can you guess the title…? “I went out of that gallery and into another and still larger one,which at the first glance reminded me of a military chapel hung withtattered flags. The brown and charred rags that hung from thesides of it, I presently recognized as the decaying vestiges of books.They had long since dropped to pieces, and every semblance ofprint had left them. But here and there were warped boards andcracked metallic clasps that told the tale well enough. Had I been aliterary man I might, perhaps, have moralized upon the futility of allambition. But as it was, the thing that struck me with keenest forcewas the enormous waste of labour to which this sombrewilderness of rotting paper testified.”
  • 3. Themes •  Context, aims and impulse of Report •  What it covered •  Stand-out figures findings •  Why retro again? (but what might have changed how to keep Lorcan Dempsey happy) •  Where to start? •  National Research Collection – new boundaries?
  • 4. Context #1 •  1997 Making the most of our libraries - 548 libraries responded, 50 million records awaiting retroconversion, calls for a national programme with 5 year target, through Library Information Commission (merges into Re:source, later MLA) •  1999 Full Disclosure, national programme,10 years to complete 80% of the work, nominates MLA. •  1999-2002 RSLP, £30 million for projects including retro 48 HEIs, 68% of these used funds for retro work
  • 5. Context #2 •  The beginnings of the Discovery Programme •  Community model of assessment not consultancy in austere times – idea from The London Library •  Creating public good as part of charitable aims •  Exploring new models of cross-sector engagement for RLUK •  Precursor to present Unique and Distinctive Collections strand •  Demise of MLA (which had been given task of overseeing national retrospective cataloguing strategy).
  • 6. Aims •  Get evidence for further support funding for retrospective cataloguing in the UK, across library sectors. •  Update and augment the evidence gathered in the 2007 RIN survey. “Uncovering Hidden Resources” (95 libraries, 50% collections still hidden). •  To make such snapshot reports redundant – sought views of librarians on establishing a National Register of retrospective cataloguing needs. •  Establishing potential demand for openly licensed RLUK open data
  • 7. Impulse •  Dunia García-Ontiveros, The London Library. •  Assessment that its own retroconversion project would take 20 years, cover 400,000 volumes (i.e. about 40% of its collections awaiting cataloguing). •  What had been achieved (and what was left to do) just over a decade after Full Disclosure report called for a national strategy to ensure the retrospective cataloguing of collections across all our libraries?
  • 8. What the survey covered #1 •  The responder (job title) •  Their institution (including library sector). •  Details of their collections (size, subject, formats, dates, visibility). •  Retrospective conversion/cataloguing needs (size, subject, formats, dates, visibility). •  Record enhancement needs (size, subject, formats, dates, visibility).
  • 9. What the survey covered #2 •  Status, methods and funding of projects past, present and planned to carry out the work mentioned. •  Further comments and suggestions, including views on the online register. •  Extra questions from Copac and RLUK (for e.g., demand for services based on holdings data: Collection analysis, Prioritizing digitisation, preservation activity)
  • 10. Stand-out figures findings #1 •  77 responses were made to the survey (representing 75 separate institutions), including from 38 academic, seven public and 32 specialist libraries (including museums and subscription libraries, and the National Library of Scotland). •  Only 12 RLUK libraries gave figures (approximately one third of membership)
  • 11. Stand-out figures findings #2 •  Over 13 m volumes uncatalogued in libraries that responded, 18.5% of total number of volumes held. •  Over 4 million more (in a smaller number of libraries) have unsatisfactory catalogue records. •  Museums, public libraries independent libraries have a higher proportion of invisible collections •  HE libraries have better coverage of printed collections but hidden archival ones often very large
  • 12. Stand-out figures findings #3 •  Modern material is being added to the backlogs. The presence of 21st century materials in backlogs suggests some libraries are unable to keep up even with current acquisitions. •  Foreign language material and formats which require particular skills and expertise (maps, music, archives) are heavily represented. •  There are serious problems in collating and comparing metrics for materials other than printed books.
  • 13. Stand-out figures findings #4 •  Most special collections as such held in date range 19-20th Centuries •  Most hidden collections are in the same date range •  53 (69%) respondents stated that special collections in their libraries were in want of retrospective cataloguing. •  Numbers of specific formats: 1.1 million maps (1 st place), 182,000 photographs (In 4th place).
  • 14. Why retro again…? “The material culture of print was an exceptionallyimportant part of the history and culture of the 20thcentury…We are already losing much material thatilluminates the 20th century because of the fragility ofour understanding and appreciation of the materialculture of print in the 20th century – provenance,advertising, ephemera, use and re-use of materials –this evidence is being lost as we dispose of copies andrely on digital archives to provide access.” Richard Ovenden: Pixels, pointers, and pieces: the future ofcollections, RRLM collections workshop, 2012.
  • 15. •  Why a community-based, self- edited registry of hidden collections? •  A new lease of life for Collection Level Descriptions?
  • 16. “Collection description metadata and searchable onlinedatabases of collection information were developed inresponse to several factors. Large-scale digitisation(principally of texts and images) was often not matched byresources to catalogue the newly created items, surveysrevealed that quantities of materials (often older and rareritems) in traditional collections still had no records in onlinepublic access catalogues and there was an increasing need toimprove the effectiveness of resource discovery techniquesfor digital materials across archive, library and museumcollections. Describing materials at collection level provided anew route for discovery.” Ann Chapman, Turning Off Tap Into Bath, Ariadne, January, 2011
  • 17. But some are not happy… •  Lorcan ‫@‏‬lorcanD 12.11.12 ‘groan .... Create a national register of hiddencollections http://www.rluk.ac.uk/files/RLUK%20Hidden%20Collections.pdf … #rluk….’ ‘@RLUK_Mike Given this report, RIN attention ininterim, and now this one - what has changed? Whathasnt?... An obvious question: why didnt stuff movealong since?’
  • 18. The problem with (traditional) CLDs? “Individual libraries rarely use formal or standardcollection-level description methods, and often do notrecognise the coherence of various collectionattributes. As a result, collection-level metadata tendsto be scattered, missing, and generally incoherentwithin a library; there are notable exceptions, usuallywhere a library has an extensive set of special ornamed collections.” Gordon Dunsire, Use Case Collection-Level Description, 10 February 2011, http://www.w3.org/2005/Incubator/lld/wiki/Use_Case_Collection-Level_Description
  • 19. Full Disclosure like it’s 1999… •  Ch-ch-changes: •  Linked Data •  Digital Humanities •  Crowdsourcing •  Georeferencing
  • 20. What a registry could do #1 •  Standardize CLDs •  Provide the foundation for improved metrics •  Allow diachronically comparable data •  Help prioritize coordinated cataloguing, digitization and preservation effort above the institution. •  A CLD in the age of potential crowdsourcing is a sign you want to have in neon.
  • 21. What a registry could do #2 •  Encourage more linkages between HE researchers and non-HE collection holders •  Give a better overview visibility of a truly national collection in waiting across sectors •  Help to target further #UKDiscovery work around describing new augmenting extant aggregations •  Assist in collections integrity and security
  • 22. Where to start? Not collection mapping so much as map collections
  • 23. Thanks principally to •  Dunia Garcia-Ontiveros •  Alison Cullingford •  Melanie Cheung •  Lisa Jeskins •  Ann Chapman
  • 24. Thank you! @RLUK_Mike (Literary conundrum: H.G. Wells, The Time Machine)

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