May 2010 Archives
Late last week, OCLC hosted Laura Dawson, publishing industry consultant, on a visit to Dublin, Ohio. While she was here, Laura kicked off a series of publisher-focused webinars with her talk "Metadata Is the Message." OCLC staff members Bruce Miller and Renee Register also participated in the program, providing an introduction and joining Ms. Dawson during the Q&A.
Speaking to a webinar audience of publishers and book industry organizations, IT specialists, and librarians, Ms. Dawson emphasized the growing value of metadata for marketing. She made the point that "metadata is your marketing," explaining that as more purchasing is done online, a searcher's first and possibly only encounter with a publication is through its metadata. Underinvesting in metadata can not only impede or prevent an item's discovery and sale--it can also negatively impact the perceived quality of the resource and its publisher. Ms. Dawson suggested that successful discovery and sales rest particularly on accurate titles and author names, BISAC codes and keywords, and "descriptive descriptions" -an interesting set of priorities to compare to recent library community studies of what makes good metadata.*
Ms. Dawson's described e-commerce, often ONIX-based "metadata trails"--which proceed from basic metadata produced by the publisher, to a metadata aggregator (e.g., Bowker, Ingram, Baker & Taylor), thence to online retail giants such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and finally to Google and other popular sites.
It's a useful thought exercise to compare publishers' metadata trails to libraries'. In the U.S., with the exception of the Library of Congress' CIP program, the library community's metadata trail has traditionally begun with the creation of metadata based on a cataloging expert's examination of a publication in hand. The metadata is produced according to library-specific, generally MARC-based practices. This library-specific metadata is then shared via a national library or bibliographic utility (like OCLC), then re-aggregated for end-user discovery in a variety of local, group, or global catalogs (like WorldCat.org). The final step is (increasingly) syndication to other sites, including search engines.
It is intersting to consider whether for both publishers and libraries, maximum discoverability is achieved where the publisher and library metadata trails end--with search engines. This possibility is consistent with the findings of Discoverability, a 2009 University of Minnesota Libraries study, whose examination of the origins of search requests for library resources led them to conclude "users are successfully discovering relevant resources through non-library environments (e.g., general web searches, e-commerce sites, and social networking applications). We need to ensure that items in our collections and licensed resources are discoverable in non-library environments." (p. 3).
Readers may be aware of a variety of recent efforts to assess the feasibility of systematizing the library and publisher communities' metadata trails to create metadata cost savings and improve discoverability of both library and publisher materials. In a post last week, we reported on one such effort by Carol Jean Godby , an OCLC research scientist working with a team on mapping ONIX to MARC.
--Karen Calhoun and John Chapman
* A partial list of studies from the library metadata community come readily to mind: Data Driven Evidence for Core MARC Records (see p. 12-15); Online Catalogs: What Users and Librarians Want; and Implications of MARC Tag Usage on Library Metadata Practices.