UKOLN Collection Description Focus

News Bulletin - March/April 2002

Pete Johnston & Bridget Robinson -

CD Focus website -

CD Focus discussion list -


The third CD Focus workshop "Raising standards for collection description:subjects and strength in clds" was held on 21st March in the Wolfson Suite, Edinburgh University Library. The event was fully booked with 44 delegates and 10 speakers. The aim of the workshop was to look at how thesauri and subject descriptors are being used to describe collections, and whether the approaches taken are providing users with consistent collection level description and discovery.

The day opened with a welcome from the RSLP Programme Director Ronald Milne, who is based at Edinburgh University Library. The presentations started with Dennis Nicholson and Gordon Dunsire. They set the scene for the day with an in-depth look at collection strength and standards, with specific reference to the work of the HILT(High-Level Thesaurus) project ( ) and SCONE (Scottish Collections Network Extensions ).

The remaining presentations were diverse in nature ranging from the architectural drawings of the Drawn Evidence project ( ) to the theatre programmes and music scores that form part of the Performing Arts Data Service ( ) and the million heritage items from museums, galleries, archives & media contained in SCRAN (Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network )

All the projects are at very different stages in terms of the creation of collection-level descriptions, but all are conscious of the importance of describing their collections in a standardised way in order to facilitate resource discovery.

Jane Ryder from the Scottish Museums Council (SCM) presented a broader picture when she talked about the National Audit of Collections that has been carried out by the SMC (

The report covers 178 institutions and is attempting to audit everything in Scottish museums that is in the public domain. This project too is grappling with the concept of a collection and how to allocate meaningful attributes e.g. size, type and significance. Collections are designated as being of international/national or regional importance. Peer review is seen as an important component of this process. This approach linked in with comments, made earlier in the day by Gordon Dunsire about the importance of using "professional judgement". This angle is in direct contrast to the emphasis of the CURL/RSLP Mapping project which is looking at the usefulness of iCas software as a tool for providing cross institutional analysis of library holdings to compare overlap and uniqueness ( ).

The breakout groups in the afternoon concentrated on 3 themes:

  1. Terminologies, Collection Strength and User needs
  2. Subject Strengths: A Practitioners Focus
  3. Subject Terminologies/Thesauri in cross-domain collection level description

The Power Point slides from the presentations are available at: The feedback from the discussion groups is still being collated and will be made available in the near future.

CD Forum

With the three Workshops now successfully completed the CD Focus team will be translating the outcomes into three position papers to be posted to the collection-description discussion list during May. The purpose of the papers is to promote discussion and debate on some of the main issues highlighted.

Briefing Day

The second CD Focus Briefing Day will be held on 14th May 2002 at the British Library. Full details of the Programme and booking form are available at: The aim of the day is to provide an overview of how collection level description is contributing to information services, and how the lessons learnt from past and current work can help influence and inform future projects and programmes. There will be ample time for questions and discussion. The event is aimed at information managers who are developing and directing policy, and anyone with an interest in employing collection-level description as a component of their information services.


A summary report on the CD Focus/CIMI collection description survey is now available at:

Pete Johnston will be attending a CIMI Members Meeting in April to discuss how CIMI plans to follow up the survey.


Ariadne Issue 31 March-April 2002 has three articles related to Collection Level Description work. The first is an interesting article about the AIM25 project written by Robert Baxter, Frances Blomeley and Rachel Kemsley. The second by Ronald Milne - "The 'Distributed National Collection' Access, and Cross-sectoral Collaboration: the Research Support Libraries Programme - provides an overview of the RSLP Programme". The third, by the CD Focus team - "Collection Level Description - an outline the work of the Collection Description Focus to date". (

Pete Johnston will be giving a presentation on "Collection-level description and interoperability" to the Society of Archivists EAD/Data Exchange group in May.

Bridget Robinson will be attending the RSLP Open Day on 14th June at the Business Design Centre in Islington

The Focus continues to provide support to the NOF-digitise projects through UKOLN's Technical Advisory Service.

May news bulletin

The next news bulletin will include a report on the forthcoming Briefing Day.
All contributions should be sent to: by 17th May 2002