6.5 What would it take to participate in an aggregation of metadata about images, films and sounds?


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In general collection owners appear willing to take part in an aggregation of metadata about images and time-based media, as long as they are not required to invest too much work, support is provided where required, and the barriers identified (see section 7) are addressed.
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6.5.1 Three levels of digital readiness need different support

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During the course of the scoping study it became apparent that there are many different collection owners who would like to improve access to their collections, and are interested in the potential for an aggregation of metadata to do this.
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These can be grouped into three distinct types by their degree of digital readiness. These are collections with:
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  • Metadata digitised and already available for harvest.
  • Metadata digitised, but either not easily harvested or not available for harvesting. An example of the former is collections whose information is published as web pages, and of the latter collections that have databases of metadata but only used internally within the organisation.
  • Metadata not digitised.
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In general the larger collections have metadata digitised and available for harvest, though a number of smaller collections also fall into this category.
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6.5.2 Would collection owners participate?

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While the vast majority of respondents to the survey (8 of 9 respondents) and all of the interviewees were generally open to sharing metadata with an aggregator – primarily as a way of increasing exposure – there were caveats and previous disappointments which would be important for an aggregator to address[i]. There are also, in some HE institutions, organisational issues that may delay participation, and one large collection owner that already makes their metadata available to Europeana could not see a benefit in participating in another aggregation. On a positive note, there was indication that in recent years, the capacity of larger collections to contribute to aggregations has increased, although smaller collection owners still lag behind.
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An interest in increased exposure echoes the findings of an earlier survey conducted by VADS which covered 89 collections across the UK and related to digital objects as well as the associated metadata[ii]. VADS found that the overwhelming majority (88%) of respondents were willing to explore participation in cross-search services or prototypes in future. The main reason for participating would be to benefit from ‘marketing and publicity’ as collection owners expected that the aggregation may draw new traffic to their websites. Anecdotal evidence suggests that since the survey was conducted, some of these image collections have contributed to Culture Grid, and some to VADS, but no firm figures are available.
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6.5.2.1 Caveats to sharing

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For some collection owners this relates to the question of who would be the principal users of metadata, since they wanted to have a say in how their metadata might be shared (see section 6.2.1). Other conditions on sharing metadata with an aggregator (some contradictory from different collection owners) are that:
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  • Permissions may need to be sought for metadata to be made open for organisations that did not clear rights for metadata and objects originally.
  • The collection owner would have access to download statistics.
  • An indication that consideration would be given for a regional portal for all kinds of documents.
  • Limited metadata only should be provided to aggregator as the full catalogue has commercial value (and has been sold in the past).
  • Any conditions imposed by the aggregator are acceptable, including conditions of use of the metadata by others.
  • Metadata should be made available to the general public and not just for use in education.
  • Metadata should not be made available for commercial use.
  • Metadata should not be restricted to non-commercial use, as commercial service providers are in a better position to take risks if they feel that there is a business model to support development.
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Although of concern, some of these may be addressed through discussion about open licensing of the metadata such as use of Creative Commons.
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It would be valuable to explore further whether collection owners would consider a middle position between the last two bullet points i.e. that their metadata be made available freely on the internet in one context and be available in another context to commercial service developers to include in innovative new services that may serve the principal community of users of the content. It would be helpful to support this with education about the role of commercial organisations. These may fund development of services that may not otherwise be developed or develop free services and thus contribute something useful to users in the UK HE/FE community.
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6.5.3 How can the metadata be gathered and shared?

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6.5.3.1 How can the metadata be gathered?

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The Information Environment Service Repository (IESR) is a Mimas service funded by JISC, providing an aggregation of collection-level descriptions and facilitating access to the collections themselves. There are approximately 6,300 collections registered in IESR, and the majority of these collections are available via web pages. Approximately 1,850 state that they provide a method of metadata harvesting. The vast majority provide harvest capability via OAI-PMH, a much smaller number support Z39:50, and fewer still SRU, SRW and RSS.
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Similarly, the most commonly discussed standard for gathering metadata was OAI-PMH, with several aggregators already using this to harvest metadata from other collections. OAI-PMH is considered to work very well at taking metadata from a source into a cache and is well supported by existing repository interfaces such as ePrints and Fedora. Once past the initial harvest some considered it is less useful in relation to managing the state of records over time. A further option described was support for a custom schema and metadata in HTTP and XML format (which it is noted would need effort by both to collection owner and aggregator to agree and understand the schema).
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A number of the collection owners interviewed had already contributed metadata to other organisations or aggregations, such as Europeana and the VSM Portal Demonstrator, and they had contributed using different methods. Some produced metadata to OAI compliant standards, some used their own tools to produce metadata in a required format (e.g. for Europeana), and others contributed their own schema and data. One collection owner had not shared metadata with an aggregator but did issue RSS and podcast feeds.
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In order to develop an aggregation to which collection owners would contribute it should be as easy as possible for them to do this Experiences of other aggregators suggest that it is necessary to support multiple different ingest formats due to the varying levels of digital readiness and that some collection owners need more support than others. This poses a challenge for sustainability of any aggregation, not just one of images and time-based media, if collection owners have to do work (although minimal) themselves to contribute.
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6.5.3.2 How can the aggregated metadata be shared?

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An aggregator would develop expertise in managing and manipulating the metadata contained within the aggregation, and therefore would be best placed to provide metadata in as many different ways as possible to support discoverability. The most commonly encountered standard to facilitate reuse was OAI-PMH. This, however, is not the only way that the metadata could be shared: several of those interviewed recommended making aggregations available through RESTful APIs or in linked data format, which would enable service providers to exploit the aggregation.
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There is current activity looking at the use of RSS in the learning materials area[iii], which looks at the possibility of a repository subscribing to another repository to learn about new content and offer this in turn to its own end users. This has raised a number of issues, such as how to indicate item updates and deletions; these issues would likely apply to use of RSS to provide feeds from aggregations of metadata. It would be valuable to continue to track development in this area, from the perspective of repositories ‘pushing’ data via RSS and also those subscribing to the feeds.
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An aggregator of metadata for images and time-based media should be prepared to provide data in the required format to other aggregators (such as Europeana) to facilitate discoverability, and, if possible, to support making the items discoverable by commercial search engines.
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See Appendix D – Online Survey Analysis for selected graphs of the online survey responses and some more detailed responses to selected questions.
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[i] The single respondent who would not participate in an aggregation owns approximately 2,200 digital images, films and sounds. The metadata are digitised but are available only for internal use. No follow-up was possible as the respondent did not provide contact information.
[ii] http://www.vads.ac.uk/picshare/report/picshare_final_report.pdf (Accessed 07/09/10)
[iii] http://community.jorum.ac.uk/file.php/25/Issues_surrounding_syndicated_feed_into_institutional_repositories_GW.pdf (Accessed 07/09/10)

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