News Bulletin

September-October 2003


Bridget Robinson & Ann Chapman -

CD Focus website -

CD Focus discussion list -

Welcome to the autumn CD Focus New bulletin.

We are pleased to include a contribution from Professor Peter Brophy (LIMC Ltd) about his Evaluation of the CD Focus and a contribution from Ann Chapman, featuring the newly launched Reveal website. The final section of the newsletter looks at the ongoing work of the Focus and plans for future events and workshops.

Reviewing the Collection Description Focus - Peter Brophy

In spring this year I was asked to undertake a formal evaluation of the Collection Description Focus, as background to decisions on continued funding. This proved to be a most interesting exercise, not least because it gave me an opportunity to meet so many professionals from across the library, archives and museums communities - or should that be 'community'? - who had an interest in exposing their collections to wider audiences. Of course there were some who questioned the need for collection level description, but by and large there was consensus that if we are to be capable of providing services based on multiple, heterogeneous sources then we must have systematic ways to discover which collections are most suitable to the task in hand. This is not to lose sight of the parallel need for high-level descriptions to assist in collection management. There is also the intriguing potential of collection description to facilitate the creation of virtual collections consisting of objects that reside in many different locations. In all of these areas there was appreciation for the work that the CD Focus at UKOLN has been doing.

The overall conclusion of my investigation was thus positive; in that I concluded that the CD Focus team had done a good job during its first two years in disseminating information about collection descriptions and in helping projects apply the RSLP schema. I therefore recommended that funding should be continued and I am pleased to note that this has happened.

Inevitably there were also areas where I felt the priorities might profitably be varied. Thus I suggested that there was a need to make renewed efforts to engage with the professional communities in the broadest sense, and not just with those who were interested in the topic - or being encouraged to show interest by their funders! I also suggested that we should try and encourage projects that were developing their own collection descriptions to experiment with using them to develop new services to their users, rather than seeing it as a rather mechanical exercise. A particularly important issue was that CD Focus should attempt to provide advice on terminology and vocabularies - in other words the data that actually populates each instance of the schema's application - since many users commented that this was the advice they needed most. While this is a very complex area, and one that is the subject of intensive research among the information retrieval community, it remains one of the most common queries among those seeking to apply collection descriptions to their work. Just how do you describe the subject or other features of a collection systematically, especially where collections cover a broad subject domain? To respond to this question will be a major challenge for CD Focus in the coming year.

It is important that as it continues to help the community to address this important topic, CD Focus should be fully supported by its communities and its funding bodies. There is much work to do in this area, but UKOLN is providing an excellent lead which we all need to support.

Reveal is launched

Ann Chapman has worked on the Reveal Project since1999, initially drawing up the overall strategy and then as Bibliographic Data Consultant for both the Union Catalogue and the Collections Register. Below she describes the newly launched resource.

The Reveal web site, launched on 16 September 2003, brings together information about services and resources for visually impaired people from organisations across the United Kingdom through two complementary databases.

The Catalogue of Resources, which is a union catalogue of item level descriptions, enables users to find books in Braille and Moon, audio books and digital talking books, tactile diagrams and other accessible format materials. The Catalogue of Resources is held on a Geac Advance system, using the Reveal bibliographic standard, which was developed from the MARC 21 Bibliographic standard by UKOLN. The database is Z39.50 compatible and can therefore be searched by other web-based services using Z39.50 clients.

The Suppliers Register, which holds collection level descriptions, enables users to find out who produces, loans or sells accessible materials, and find information about the different accessible materials. The Suppliers Register uses the Reveal collection description schema, which was developed by UKOLN through modification of the RSLP collection description schema.

A review of the RSLP Schema fields showed that some fields were not required, some fields required more user-friendly labels and some data required the creation of additional fields. These additional fields were for Reveal administration purposes and not for public view. The Reveal CLD schema also specified which fields were mandatory, which were for public display and which were for administration display. Consistent use of vocabulary in some fields is controlled through the selection of terms in drop down boxes.

For the data entry interface an authentication system was built into the database to allow organisations to log in and edit their own entries when entry details change. There is extensive use of rollover labels for guidance and a set of help pages was also drawn up. Samsara Research worked on the software for the database.

A further development will be to link the Catalogue of Resources and the Suppliers Register. Having found an item record showing, for example, that copies are held by the National Library for the Blind (NLB), it will be possible to move via hyperlink to the NLB entry in the Suppliers Register to find out how to contact them and any conditions of eligibility, as well as showing the range of their collection.

Note: Collection Description Focus Case Study 1 features the Reveal Collections Register (it was re-named Suppliers Register after printing).

Reveal development has been funded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Resource, the council of museums, libraries and archives, the British Library Co-operation and Partnership Programme, the Lloyds TSB Foundation, the Ellerman Foundation, the National Library for the Blind and the Royal National Institution of the Blind and received additional support from Share the Vision and UKOLN.

Online Tutorial and Training

Work on the Online Tutorial continues with the inclusion of additional material and examples, as well as the creation of a number of new sections Specific tasks have included the addition of the "Sharing CLDs" section and the insertion of more domain specific examples to the DIY section, which now includes collection descriptions from museums, galleries and libraries. The CLDs refer to both physical and digital collections. Some archival CLDs will be added shortly. We have created a new "Schema" section that includes the RSLP Schema and mappings/comparisons between Enrich UK, Backstage and Reveal. A mapping between RSLP and the revised Cornucopia Schema will also be added soon. In response to comments made by Peter Brophy in the Evaluation Report, a new section on "Terminology" has been created. The Tutorial will be used as the backbone for a series of Training Courses to be scheduled for 2004.

mda conference

The CD Focus Team delivered a Pre-Conference Workshop on 9th September 2003. The workshop was aimed specifically at the Museum Sector. It started with a general introduction to Collections and Collection-Level Description, and then looked at the RSLP Schema using the Tutorial and the special Museum related examples that the Tutorial now contains. The Workshop also included a tour of museum-related projects and initiatives that are using collection-level description, e.g. Crossroads, Cecilia, Rascal, Backstage, SCONE and the new Cornucopia database.

For the afternoon session, CD Focus joined with Brian Kelly from QA Focus and looked at the importance of standards in metadata.

The presentations are available at

A date for your diary

The CD Focus Team will be holding a Showcase Event at the British Library on 1st June 2004. The event will provide an opportunity to see demonstrations of a variety of collection description services as well as offering an update on collection-level description work in general.

November/December News Bulletin

Copy for the next news bulletin should be sent to by 28th November 2003.

Content by: Bridget Robinson of UKOLN.
Page last revised on: 06-Jul-2004
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