3rd RSLP Collection Description Concertation Day
The Charity Centre, London, 23 October 2000
The 3rd RSLP Collection Description Concertation Day was held
at the Charity Centre, London, on 23 October 2000.
Ronald Milne (Programme Director, RSLP) opened the day by
emphasising the importance of collection descriptions as research
tools for the academic community. He stressed the need for
consistency and an adherence to recognised standards if such tools
were to be helpful and commended the UKOLN RSLP Collection
Description project for taking this into account.
Andy Powell (UKOLN) summarised the development of the
RSLP Collection Description model, schema and tool to date. A
number of key points emerged from his presentation.
- One of the aims of the project has been to avoid duplication of
effort among RSLP projects involved in collection description.
Almost inevitably, given the timescale, this has not been fully
achieved; some RSLP projects have developed their own collection
description models, schemes and formats.
- The project has aimed to look beyond the immediate requirements
of RSLP projects and provide an adaptable model that can respond to
the rapidly changing information environment, where the traditional
boundaries between library, archive and museum collections are
being broken down by the Internet.
- The schema does not aim to replace existing descriptive
formats, such as ISAD(G) or MARC; instead it is a simple tool for
high-level descriptions, "a Dublin Core for collection
- The schema uses RDF (Resource Description Framework), the
W3C-recommended format for metadata on the Web.
- The implementation of RDF since its endorsement by the W3C has
been slower than expected.
- RDF was selected as the preferred format for the schema because
it can provide semantic interoperability between applications. RDF
is encoded using XML.
- Development of Dublin Core has taken place – and is still
taking place – in parallel to the development of the schema,
with the result that the encoding syntax in XML has needed to be
updated during the project.
- A controlled vocabulary has been developed by UKOLN to describe
collection types. No RSLP-wide agreement has been reached on a
controlled vocabulary to describe the subject content of a
- The tool is a selective implementation of the schema.
- A facility enabling projects to save and subsequently re-edit
collection descriptions using the tool is to be introduced in the
next few weeks.
- The relation between the tool and EAD is an area still
requiring development; a full conversion programme is beyond the
scope of the current project.
- The prototype search service, enabling cross-searching of RSLP
projects' collection descriptions, is still being developed.
It is envisaged that RSLP projects will create their own collection
descriptions, using the tool, store them on their own Web servers
and inform UKOLN of their location. UKOLN will then import the
collection descriptions and mount them for searching on a central
Lesley Forbes (Mapping Asia, Oxford) reported on the
progress of Mapping Asia. She emphasised in particular the
- There are no standards in place for collection level
descriptions (as opposed to item level descriptions) of library
collections; the project has therefore had to develop these itself.
The whole issue of describing parts of collections and the
associated technical difficulties in ensuring effective searching
and retrieval is a new area for libraries to explore. Wherever
relevant standards are in place (e.g. LCSH for subject
description), these are being used by Mapping Asia.
- For each institution whose collections are covered by Mapping
Asia a parent record has been created on the project database; each
individual collection has its own child record, attached to the
- Mapping Asia will use EAD, in an XML format. The technical
requirements of the project have been far more complex than had
been anticipated at the bidding stage.
- Full and meaningful resource discovery will require
cross-searching of collections not only within and between
individual RSLP projects but also beyond the confines of the RSLP
programme. This in turn will require co-operation, agreement and
co-ordination at the highest level.
Gregory Walker (COCOREES, Oxford) and Lesley Pitman
(COCOREES, SSEES/UCL) reported on the progress of COCOREES.
They emphasised in particular the following points:
- COCOREES is using a ROADS-based Web interface, with data
imported from the project's MS Access database. The project
is not currently able to generate RDF.
- COCOREES will be seeking to use the data gained by its project
questionnaire to compare the relative research values of different
- A consistent and transparent methodology for collection
description is essential if such comparisons are to be valid.
- Two project databases are being created: one contains
collection descriptions, the other a union list of periodicals in
the COCOREES subject areas. Cross-searching will be possible
between the two databases.
Luis Carrasqueiro (BUFVC Researchers' Guide Online)
gave a short presentation on the work of the RGO project, the aim
of which is to create a digital version of the BUFVC's
Researchers' guide to television, radio and related
documentary collections. The project is using Filemaker Pro
software and the guide, to be published on the Web, will
incorporate RDF. He gave a brief demonstration of the prototype Web
Gordon Dunsire (SCONE, Napier) reported on the progress
of SCONE. He emphasised in particular the following points:
- SCONE is not a subject-based project; it covers all research
collections held in Scotland, regardless of their subject, size or
format. The project uses the CAIRNS Z39.50 clump infrastructure and
will enable "dynamic clumping"; the user will be able to create his
own clump, using criteria such as the geographic proximity of
holding libraries, the format (e.g. electronic) of collections,
- SCONE is using SQL, which is not only incorporated in free or
cheap off-the-shelf tools, (e.g. MS Access, Sybase) but is also
capable of enabling complex search strategies.
- SCONE is using Cold Fusion, a free tool (supported by
Netskills) which can be used to make SQL Web-compliant. The user
will search using an HTML form. The search will then be processed
by Cold Fusion and the results will be returned to the user and
displayed via HTML.
- The use of Cold Fusion will make it possible for libraries to
edit and update descriptions of their own collections online.
- RSLP projects must not under-estimate the sheer number of
collection descriptions to be compiled by projects.
The day ended with an open discussion, chaired by Ronald
Milne. A number of key issues emerged.
It was reported that:
- RSLP may consider investing in further work on the development
of a conversion programme between the UKOLN Collection Description
schema and EAD. It was agreed that further work in this area was
- OCLC have released a Conspectus software package (WLN), which
libraries can run against their OPACs to generate an online
Conspectus evaluation of their holdings. It was pointed out that
the resulting Conspectus could take no account of collections not
yet catalogued online.
- The HILT RSLP/JISC project is currently exploring the
development of a high level thesaurus.
It was recommended that:
- RSLP set up a Collection Description Group. Ronald Milne agreed
to contact Lorcan Dempsey at the DNER with a view to taking this
- Sample collection descriptions be mounted on the UKOLN Website,
to provide guidance to RSLP projects.
- RSLP projects creating collection descriptions of collections
that are not yet catalogued at the item level make use of the data
gathered on these collections by their surveys to recommend
national priorities for retrospective cataloguing. RSLP might wish
to take these findings into account.
- UKOLN should liaise with LASER's PRIDE project.
Special Collections Librarian (King's College London) and
HOST Project Manager
Last modified: 10-Nov-2000