The title for this post is inspired by this image, taken en route back from (wet) Birmingham to (dry) Aberdeen following the event outlined below.
David Kay invited me to talk today at a Metadata Licensing Clinic organised by Discovery. The event was attended by just the variety of folks that one needs to get into a room to talk about these things: librarians from multiple sectors (not just HE), publishers, those with legal expertise and those who (passionately) advocate the release and possible use of the data. I was asked to talk about this area from the perspective of the University Librarian (my own responsibilities are broad and encompass “portable heritage” at the University of Aberdeen including library, rare book, archive, museum, art, repository, digital images). As I said – confessed – today, “we are an ancient university with some ancient data…”. Whilst my instinctive response to “make your metadata open” is “yes, of course we want to – and I think we do make it available, sort of”, I’d nonetheless not thought in detail about the subject until prompted to do so by David. In order to get my head round the subject I took a long hard look at the type of metadata that we have, who creates it, and where it is held. I made a first pass at pulling all of this together in a grid which, if nothing else, demonstrated that this is a complex area. I’ve put my slides online. They represent raw first thoughts. Some emerging themes from this particular exercise were, for me:
- Multiple creators and other agencies
- Multiple types of metadata – including the duplicated, licensed, enriched, structured, unstructured etc
- The shift from local creation for bibliographic data for printed materials to licensed import (either through “shelf ready” acquisition or through straight licensing of metadata as part of electronic purchasing or licensing of library resources) and the impact on the rate of creation of new bibliographic data in many library catalogues
- The observation that the BL has opened up its bibliographic data and the recognition that Aberdeen’s might not, at the publication level, add much to that large mass of data already available to the world
- That nonetheless my own institution holds significant unique materials and that these should perhaps be the focus of any release
- That we already can or do make our unique data available via some significant aggregators including, RLUK (COPAC), NRA, Archives Hub, SCRAN, EUROPEANA
- That whilst I have recently had some approaches from students and academics wishing to explore using our data for projects, this has not yet become a flood of requests (whereas those wishing us to digitise and make available digitised images of unique items in our collections is certainly reaching “high tide” proportions)
- That there are multiple ecosystems out there for the creation, enrichment and re-purposing of bibliographic metadata (and I’m going to set to to try to visualise these – I have some strong images in my head).
- That the licensing opportunities and constraints are not well understood but that there are some useful tools out there which can help as well as some useful exemplars by way of those who have already taken the decision to open up their data
- That I’m left wondering where Open Metadata sits in our priorities, especially if it comes as an additional task rather than as something which would wrap together multiple “not quite open” releases (see above).
I look forward to further discussions on the topic. What the day has opened up is the possibility that Open Metadata can sit beside releases that come as part of subscribed services (services which deliver additional benefits to the subscribing community).