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UC Davis library to lead transformation of cataloging

October 29, 2013

Photo: MacKenzie Smith posing in front of a framed poster.

MacKenzie Smith, university librarian at UC Davis, is the lead investigator for a project to explore how to break through roadblocks to modernizing library operations.

The University of California, Davis, will lead the way for research libraries to transform how they catalog their collections to improve how online researchers can find and use them, thanks to a half-million dollar grant.

The University Library of UC Davis was awarded a $493,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and is one of only 41 libraries in the country this year to receive the institute’s National Leadership Grant, a program that supports projects to improve professional practice beyond the institution receiving the grant.

The two-year project — seeking to modernize what is, for libraries, as complex as air traffic control systems — will create a roadmap for libraries for strategic planning and investments in new software, standards and expertise.

“Libraries have valuable information that is locked away in antiquated databases and inaccessible from the online places where students and researchers look for them,” said MacKenzie Smith, the university librarian at UC Davis and lead investigator. “Our project will explore how to break through roadblocks to modernizing library operations so that our data can reach its audience where they live online.”

UC Davis will work with other national and international institutions involved in library software, standards and practices to provide a route that, like GPS directions, can be recalculated or continuously updated as new data models, standards, workflows and practices evolve. The partner organizations include the Library of Congress, the OCLC global library network, the National Information Standards Organization, Kuali OLE and development partner Zepheira Inc., based in Dublin, Ohio.

Sally McCallum is chief of the Network Development and MARC Standards Office at the Library of Congress. “The Library of Congress is actively engaged in developing next generation standards for library data … and we are very pleased to collaborate with UC Davis on this project,” she said. “It has the potential to make a real difference in how libraries approach bibliographic control.”

Academic research libraries hold a vast wealth of cultural and scholarly material that underpins research in every discipline. In the past, library catalogs were the only way to explore those rich collections, Smith said, but today they are increasingly unsuited to the way researchers find and evaluate scholarly resources on the Web.

While new standards and technologies offer to leverage the benefits and efficiencies of the Web, the very nature of libraries — with interconnected institutions, specialized vendors, interdependent functions and constrained budgets — creates a complex ecosystem difficult and even resistant to change.

“Until libraries can modernize their data and how their clients interact with it,’ she said, “library collections will be increasingly hidden from the people who need them most.”

This project will investigate the future of research library operations, particularly the production of metadata — or data on data — and deployment on the Web. It will examine the current landscape for library data standards and technologies.

Smith said the project would investigate the entire library operation from initial acquisition or licensing, through cataloging, processing, and digitization, and on to indexing and visualization of the data for search and resource discovery on the Web.

“This project will enable ready access to the multitudes of resources available from the library today,” Smith said.

About the University Library

The UC Davis University Library, part of the University of California system of 10 libraries and the California Digital Library, is actively engaged in solving the challenges of the library in the 21st century. The new project is one of several innovations under way to transform the research library, including developing new models for scholarly communication and publishing, dealing with research data as part of the scholarly record, and preserving digital collections long into the future. The University Library, which includes four libraries, has more than 4 million volumes and 64,000 active current serials.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 15,000 museums. Through its grant making, research and publications, the Institute empowers museums and libraries nationwide to provide leadership and services to enhance learning in families and communities, sustain cultural heritage, build twenty-first-century skills, and increase civic participation.

About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

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