Off the Shelf Metadata: Challenges, Experience and Quality Control

Richard Birley, BCU

The Mercian Metadata Group host a second of their popular eForum discussion events focussing on shelf-ready and EDI metadata issues.

In order to try and challenge the isolation forced upon us all during the Covid-19 lockdown, the Mercian Metadata Group (MMG) held its second eForum event on 19 August 2020. The topic that day focussed in on shelf-ready and EDI (environmental data initiative) metadata, which had been areas requested at the group’s planning meeting back in January, after being identified as a shared ‘problem’ area. Metadata specialists from all parts of the library service receive data of varying quality from suppliers. Consequently, this creates a number of questions which the MMG had identified would benefit from a collective discussion and sharing of experience.

Participants and organisers alike were especially fortunate in the events timing, as the NAG (National Acquisitions Group) had recently published a report, The NAG Quality of Shelf-Ready Metadata Survey (Booth, 2020), directly relevant to the topic. As such, the event hosts utilised this report as a guide in organising their thoughts and formulating the key questions of the day for participants to tackle.

Utilising an asynchronous chat, rather than real-time video discussions, over a four-hour period, participants drawn from across the Mercian Collaboration had the opportunity to ponder, discuss and respond to five key areas of concern. These topics were:

  • The NAG report
  • Use of shelf ready records and supplier experiences
  • Shelf-ready record quality and metadata management
  • Quality control, normalisation and correction of records
  • Local workflows, systems and current practices

The meeting format permitted a thoughtful, lively and informative online discussion. What became clear through the discussions was how while there is a shared trans-institutional experience for those working in this field, solutions and practice vary, often contingent on what resources are available. The key conclusion arrived suggested the particular importance for metadata practitioners to continue to influence suppliers in their own practices, through arrangements like the Joint Consortia Framework Agreement. In this way, it would be possible to improve overall data quality in ways which better serve academic library needs and practices.

Interested readers can view all of the contributions to this eForum, as well as the earlier one on legacy metadata. The MMG Committee would very much welcome your comments, thoughts and suggestions on these, as well as suggestions for future eForum topics too. Finally, the organisers wish to thank everyone who took the time to participate, and we look forward to welcoming you to future gatherings: online or in the flesh!