big metadata sets that anyone can have


image from The card catalogue: a practical manual for public and private libraries via Open Library

When people ask me what skills will be useful for the 21st Century Librarian one of the things I frequently mention is being able to work with giant datasets. This is true for many professions such as journalism but the past few years, even the past few months have really shown some exciting opportunities for people who work with libraries, and peopla who love metadata. Harvard’s release of 12 million bibliographic records was only the most recent giant dataset made available. Interested data manipulators also have metadata from the University of Mighigan, Cambridge University, the British Library, some records from the Library of Congress, University of North Carolina, Toronto Public Library and more smaller libraries and archives can be found via the Internet Archive. Exciting times to be sure.

a good article from Ariadne

One of the old school resources that I still check out often is Ariadne a regularly published web periodical that keeps me abreast of what’s going on in UK and other European libraries. The article in this issue called What Is a URI and Why Does It Matter? is an excellent introduction to why we care about URIs and URLs. Lots of nerdy metadata talk and worth a read. [via]

on metadata and the printed word

last checked out in 1963

I went to the Belmont Public Library this weekend because it’s my boyfriend’s local library and he is, as you might suspect, a heavy library user. The library is in an old building that is clearly reaching the end of its usefulness as a 21st century library, but they seem to do the best they can. They are part of the Minuteman Library Network which means they have access to a lot of consortium-level technology which can really help out when you’re working in an institutional-green building with furniture from the late seventies. I had a good time there in any case and I took some pictures including the one above.

What first got me about this book was that it hadn’t been taken out since 1963. Well, that’s not quite correct. We know it was checked out in 1963 and was possibly checked out after [whatever date the OPAC took over] a date I don’t know. What occurred to me later as I looked at this picture is how much else we know about this book simply by looking at this card.

  • the date the book was acquired by the library
  • the title of the book
  • the last name of the author of the book
  • The patron number of the person who checked the book out last
  • the call number of the book
  • the library the book is from
  • the lending period of the book
  • the date the book was last checked out (before the OPAC)
  • the fact that the library card pocket was union made

That’s a lot of data. I can also, using that data, find the full text of this book both at the Internet Archive (a little messed up, for some reason) and as PDFs (with images) at the Google Books project which is searchable. In fact, there appear to be three versions of this book on Google Books (1, 2, 3) only one of which includes page two which has a photo of the author. Nothing much else to add, just finding this whole exploration process interesting.