Creating catalogues: bibliographic records in a networked world

Added by Sarah on 31 March 2009

This report is an overview of the entire process of bibliographic record production for printed and electronic books, and for scholarly journals and journal articles.

The Web 2.0 environment provides the opportunity for innovative use of freely available datasets and, not least in the UK, there is increasing interest from government in making information created by public sector organisations more widely available for re-use, in order to generate greater economic benefit, social gain and improvements to public services.

Our report looks at the production of these data from publisher through a range of intermediaries to the end users. Whilst there are pressures to make these data more freely available, each player in the process has its own motivations and business models in creating, adding to, using or re-using bibliographic data, all of which need to be considered.

We find that there would be considerable benefits if libraries, along with other organisations in the supply chain, were to operate more at the network level but that there are significant barriers in the way of making significant moves in that direction.

The fast changing pace of this environment is creating a complex landscape for the creation and use of the traditional bibliographical data:

  • In January 2008, the Library of Congress Working Group on the future of bibliographic control issued their On the record report which indicated that cataloguing activity must be shared more broadly and equitably among all libraries and followed this with the announcement of its investigation into the creation and distribution of bibliographic data in US and Canadian libraries. An official response to the report was produced by Deanne B Markham in June 2008.
  • This year also, LibLime announced an open source web based cataloguing tool called and proposes that the records catalogued using it will go into ‘The World’s largest database of freely licensed library records’.
  • However, an OCLC announcement of its new policy for re-use of bibliographic records and the subsequent withdrawal of this policy (during 2008-2009) is an example of the complexity of the current situation regarding the management and best use of catalogue data.
  • JISC are also interested in this environment and are running a project on the Sharing and re-use of library catalogue records: guidance on legal issues in the web environment (July-November 2009).
  • SwetsWise are developing a new ebooks Service that will include information on which books are available in e-format, from which vendors, purchasing models, licence conditions and prices etc. The service is due to go into beta testing in early December and will be made available in early in Feb 2010. The details available so for about the SwetsWise eBooks programme is discussed in our blog post.

Our report cannot claim attempt to solve all the problems in the way of making bibliographic data more freely available for re-use and innovation, or of eliminating wasteful duplication of effort. Our objective is to clarify the key issues and to stimulate debate on possible ways forward. It provides a number of key recommendations and the RIN will work with the academic library community and other key stakeholders in the supply chain to raise awareness and understanding of the issues raised, of the benefits to be achieved by moving to new models, and of how we might overcome the barriers to achieving them.

Hard copies of this report and briefing are available, email

Executive follow up meeting

To take this work forward, RIN held two executive meetings to explore how the barriers to a shared catalogue might be reduced and moves towards this goal initiated. The meeting involved key stakeholders, including commercial vendors, aggregators, JISC and other national services, as well as academic and research libraries.

A brief report on these meetings is now available below.

If you are interested in the issues raised by this work, email or tel 0191 222 8655.

UK Metadata services, Future directions: RIN OCLC Meeting:

The meeting was organised at the request of Karen Calhoun, (OCLC) to consider developments in the area of cataloguing and metadata in the UK since the publication of the RIN Creating Catalogues report. A range of views were represented by members of the original Creating Catalogues Expert Panel and from the members of the Executive Follow up meetings. Ken Chad provided an environmental overview, and short presentations were given on the British Library’s Linked data initiative, the RDTF Vision, RLUK’s plans in this area and on COPAC developments plus the thoughts of an active UK cataloguer.

Notes of the meeting including a brief overview of the discussions plus links to the presentations and papers from the meeting are available below.

© Research Information Network 2005–2009