November 30th, 2011

Conversion of Music and Map Catalogues at the Bodleian Libraries


As the Bodleian is now developing a series of projects that aim to create an integrated research resource, based on its special collections, of unparalleled scope and depth through a combination of a major buildings renewal programme, a continuing process of innovation in research support activities, and the large scale conversion of both catalogues and the collections themselves into digital form, the time is right to tackle the hidden collections within its holdings.

This proposal focuses on unleashing the research potential of the hidden collections that its legacy holdings of  some 536,400 card catalogue records describe. The conversion of these catalogues will be done through a cost-effective means of scanning, rekeying and editing into XML, which will allow the data created through the project to be searchable by both humans and machines. The data will be able to be manipulated through linking and will be searchable in combination with other datasets, even those created to different standards.

The benefits of this 24-month project can be summarised as follows:

  • The project will unlock access to these collections for scholars from around the world.
  • The conversion of the card catalogues will provide metadata for future digitisation projects
  • The resultant catalogue will allow the collections to be managed more effectively than at present.
  • The conversion of the catalogues will free up considerable amounts of  space for other research purposes in the refurbished Special Collections Library (to be known as the Weston Library)

A further step could be taken which would involve machine-matching the XML records against the WorldCat database using the WorldCat API[1] in order to obtain MARC21 records. The possibility of taking this additional step is currently the subject of a small-scale pilot project between the Bodleian Libraries and OCLC, with results expected in May 2011.

A further category of hidden collection remains: manuscripts. The Bodleian’s extensive collections of Western and Oriental manuscripts are one of the world’s greatest research collections of their kind. The cost of converting the various manual catalogues, in printed, typescript and manuscript form would be the equivalent of the cost of this project, and will therefore form the basis of a separate proposal.  We wish, however, for purposes of discussion of the scheduling of a possible follow-on proposal, to make you aware of this pending initiative.

[1] See http://www.worldcat.org/affiliate/tools?atype=wcapi

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