This coming Monday (February 4th 2019) we are intending to make two new NBK pilot interfaces available. Discover will give users free access to search and discover holdings of library catalogues that have been contributed to the NBK; this will initially have limited data coverage and will offer an early view of the new interface. Cataloguing will allow eligible (logged in) users to search for and download MARC catalogue records. These two functions will be soft-launched as the first Jisc products to emerge as part of a remodeled offer that we will be referring to as ‘Library Hub‘ – which will, in due course, provide a portal to the various Jisc services that support the library community in the UK (see the previous blog post by Siobhán Burke for more details). More information about how to access the new services will be announced at launch early next week.
Where have we got to?
In terms of overall progress, the availability of the Jisc Library Hub Discover and Cataloguing interfaces will effectively signal the start of the countdown to the retirement of Copac and SUNCAT at the end of July this year. For those in the community that have grown accustomed to those services reliably being available whenever libraries and their users need them, there may be some trepidation about talk of ‘retirement’, particularly in an era when it has become commonplace to hear about ambitious IT projects foundering under the pressure of real world implementation. We hope, therefore, it is reassuring to see these pilot services being launched (and then further developed) well in advance of them taking over from their venerable predecessors.
In terms of what users can expect at this stage from the data that is currently in the system: Discover will be going live with a limited number of library catalogues, with the remainder to follow shortly; we will be gathering feedback as we continue to release further functionality and load more contributors’ catalogues. Cataloguing will contain data that can be used for shared cataloguing and will include the majority of the catalogues we have received, the rest will be loaded as soon as possible. At launch, Cataloguing allows for download of a subset of MARC fields; thus, you may find that you are not downloading the full version of the record. We have endeavoured to ensure that all of the core bibliographic fields have been included, to provide you with useful and useable MARC records.
We’re excited to say that we have now received data from over 100 institutions across the spectrum of academic, specialist, and research libraries and this places us comfortably into territory that is comparable with the numbers contributing to Copac/SUNCAT. This is hugely significant. Those services built up that number of contributors over two decades and it is clear that the NBK has managed to replicate that position in just two years because it is understood by large parts of the community to be the logical next-generation successor to both of those trusted pieces of national data infrastructure.
Once the Discover and Cataloguing interfaces are launched, the Library Hub team will also be turning their attention to the development of the Library Hub Compare tool which will supersede the Copac Collections Management Tool and the SUNCAT Serials Comparison service by the time of full service launch in July 2019.
Given that the NBK looks like it has the support and momentum to achieve its goal of aggregating library data at greater scale than has been possible before, this may be a good moment to remind ourselves what the NBK programme is aiming to achieve and why it’s going to be worth the effort and worth taking the time to build it in a sustainable and scaleable way.
Better visibility of library data
We want to work with all academic libraries in the UK to ensure that their collections are as visible as possible for a range of purposes. Whether the use case is for high-end research, for undergraduate study, to showcase institutional resources, to demonstrate collection strengths, for inter-library loan, to increase use of special collections … whatever the reason, every type of library will benefit from sharing their data with the NBK. If we have your data, as well as making it available through Jisc Library Hub interfaces, we can ensure that it is in a format that makes it easy for web-scale search engines such as Google to harvest it and make it discoverable to users who aren’t starting their searches using library tools. We will also work with our service delivery partner OCLC to make the data available via WorldCat.
Jisc Library Hub as catalyst for improving data quality and efficiency
If the community supports the concept of the Jisc Library Hub becoming a central ‘clearing house’ for the aggregation of library data, there is enormous potential for decreasing duplicate practices across the sector and to improve the quality of data that circulates around the data ecosystem/marketplace. As well as talking to libraries, we have also been in discussion with key suppliers of bibliographic data and there would appear to be appetite on both sides to use the Library Hub initiative to take a fresh look at the most efficient way that libraries can acquire high quality catalogue records whilst ensuring that the creators of those records are fairly and sustainably recompensed for their work. With a central view across the data, not only are the Library Hub team in a good position to negotiate with suppliers on behalf of the community, they can also work with individual or groups of libraries to deliver enhanced data back to them.
e-Book, e-Journal and Open Access Data
In addition to aggregating library catalogue data, the Library Hub will increasingly look to aggregate (or link to) other useful sources of data. We are already working with partners such as HathiTrust and the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) to include their data into the system. We are in discussion with OCLC to see to what extent they can share data about eBooks that they create on behalf of publishers. As part of the ongoing negotiations referred to above, we may also be in a position to work with university purchasing consortia to insert clauses into national procurement frameworks that specify levels of quality and conditions around the reuse of data that is supplied alongside e-Book materials. This is aligned with the recommendations from a recent report that we commissioned from Ken Chad Consulting Ltd. – Ken Chad Report Summary. [Clicking on the link will download a Powerpoint slide deck – 192kb]
Trustworthiness and currency of data
The quality and comprehensiveness of data is a core requirement of Library Hub services but another critical factor is the currency of data. In future we want to work with the community to ensure that wherever possible we are harvesting their data using an automatic workflow on a weekly basis so that the Library Hub becomes the most trusted resource possible in terms of the accuracy of current holdings data. Ideally, we want to go further than that and also work with libraries to access their circulation data which then provides opportunities to dig into intriguing analytics around the usage of resources. Looking at sector-wide patterns (in conjunction with data from other Jisc services such as JUSP and KB+) and feeding that data back to libraries could help inform acquisition policy and collection development strategies. Linking resource usage to student achievement is a very ambitious goal but would provide valuable business intelligence for institutions.
Collection management and data-driven decision-making
If the community supports Jisc Library Hub to become the trusted and comprehensive source of data for the sector that it aspires to be, it will essentially be building itself a new level of collection management capability that will enable libraries to make important and far reaching decisions about their collections. By having a clear, current and comprehensive view of library holdings (and e-Journal and e-Book collections), they will be able to make confident data-driven decisions about resources, especially where low-use collections appear to be providing excessive redundancy in the context of regional or national availability; or where digital surrogates or versions provide more effective provision than their print equivalents.
And finally ….
The Library Hub team at Jisc (working closely with OCLC colleagues) have been incredibly busy over this last phase, maintaining a high standard of current Copac service delivery as well as working towards this exciting milestone in the NBK work programme. The services we are launching on Monday are the next step along the way. We’ve still got a long way to go but if we stay focused on the opportunities and the benefits that we can deliver by all working together, it may be possible by the end of 2020 to deliver the kind of transformation that was imagined by the National Monograph Strategy way back in 2013.