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Planning a Collection Description


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Section 3:

CLDs in practice

CLDs in practice: Introduction

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Planning a collection description programme

  • Identifying the collections to be described
    It is important to start by identifying and listing the collections that need to be described. In some cases a collection only requires a single collection level description record. In other cases, a collection may comprise a number of sub-collections each requiring it's own collection level description. Collection level descriptions may also be required for catalogues relating to the collection(s).

    Identifying the collections also enables relationships to be mapped, showing collection / sub-collection groupings. If the total number of collections to be described is very large, it may be more practical to list collection groupings rather than individual collections.

  • Identify data to be included
    Consider the different uses that will be made of the collection descriptions. Are they solely a tool for users or will they support collection management? List all the different types of data you want to record and group them appropriately - i.e. all the administrative data together.

  • Different users, different displays
    Consider the number of interfaces that will be required for your database of collection level descriptions. A different interface may be appropriate for different users. For instance, there might be one interface for the general public using only simple search strategies, one for researchers using more advanced strategies and one for administration purposes. The same set of elements can feed into all three interfaces, which might each have a different look. It is possible to designate some elements to be only visible from, say, the administration interface.

    It may also be appropriate to include in the description an indication of specific educational levels or particular skills that are required to use items in a collection. Listing Braille in Physical Characteristics would indicate to a potential user that some skill in reading Braille is required to use that collection. Listing Estonian as the Language of items in the collection shows that some proficiency in that language is required to be able to use the collection. Similarly, Collection Strength can indicate that this is a 'research collection on radio astronomy' and therefore of little use to the general enquirer. If appropriate data cannot be held in such fields, it can be included in the Notes field - but any such note should be phrased in an objective way.

  • Choosing a schema
    Look at the schemas (sets of elements) available and see how they match your requirements. Best practice is to use a standard schema to create records that will be re-usable. If the RSLP schema itself lacks data elements, then an existing implementation may have sufficient and appropriate modification. If there is data that is not accommodated, then modification of an existing schema may be required but this should be kept to a minimum.

    Once you have made your decisions, record the schema you are using. List all the elements you are using and define the data you are placing in each element. Identify and record which elements are visible on different user interfaces. Identify and record which elements can be edited and who will have editing permission. Identify and record which elements should be searchable. Your schema can then be used to create a database using a suitable platform.

  • Standards
    There is no formally recognised schema for collection level description records. At present the RSLP collection description schema is emerging as a 'de facto' standard and is being used as the core set of elements for a number of implementations. It is not as yet formally recognised by any standards body but submitting the schema for recognition is being explored.

    Within collection description records it is also best practice to use existing standards for data in some elements. For example, using Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) in the Concept element, or ISO language codes in the Languages element.

  • Re-usability
    Collection description records represent an investment in time and skill. They may be created for specific databases (e.g. Cecilia database for music collections, Reveal database for resources for visually impaired people) or to support projects and initiatives. It is possible that a collection may be of relevance in more than one area - for example it might be appropriate for Reveal records about collections of Braille music and Talking Scores to also appear in the Cecilia database. It is therefore important that records should be created and held in ways that support their potential re-use.

  • Testing:
    Having defined your schema and created a database, it is important to test both data entry and search processes. To do this you will need to create a set of test descriptions, which as far as possible represent the range of different collections you will be describing.

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Content by: Shirley Keane of UKOLN.
Page last revised on: 12-Aug-2003
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