ETL 505 Module 2: Tools and Systems

Read: The first three sections of Chapter 3, ‘Tools and systems’ (pp. 33-39) of Hider, P. (2012), Information resource description. London: Facet.

The arrangement of resources by Dewey Decimal Classification, alphabetical order and on occasion by other attributes such as type of material, level of difficulty, and genre and the use of indexes and databases, such as the library catalogue, are key tools of information retrieval used in school libraries.

  1.  Arranged – Arrangements are designed to help people look for information resources and navigate resource collections. As there are numerous ways in which information resources can be arranged it is imperative for effective access to them that users know how they have been arranged. One way to arrange items is to place them in a particular order based on things such as ‘author’, acquisition order, DDC, genre, type of material etc. Arranging items by numerical and alphabetical order is common but this still has issues or questions that might be addressed such as how to deal with punctuation, word-by-word verses letter-by letter, numeric or alphabetic first, etc.
  2.  Labelled – Labels are a way of arranging information resources. Labels may be utilised to identify individual items and/or group items by categories such as subject matter or by a designated section of the collection (e.g. non-fiction). Symbols such as colour may be utilised on labels to group resources. Labels that indicate the items location within the collection are very useful (e.g. details such as call number, author’s name, Dewey classification, etc. may appear on the spine label of a physical resource). In digital environments, labels are used on hyperlinks in the form of brief descriptions.
  3.  Indexed – Indexes are “essentially arrangements of labels connected conceptually, rather than physically, to their resources” (Hider, 2012, p.35). Indexes are lists that are designed to be looked up, and in the context of library collections are often referred to as catalogues. An advantage of metadata arranged independently of the resource is that it can enable multiple access points to a resource. The likelihood of a user finding a resource are increased as the number of access points are increased (e.g. title, author, subject, etc.). Another advantage in using indexes to locate information resources is that many users find it easier to navigate descriptions of resources as opposed to searching the resources themselves.

In the online world logically arranged website menus and online directories might be regarded as indexes. Google, a search engine, is a form of electronic index. Rather than relying on metadata, these search engines index the content of the resources (e.g. text within the information resource).

What is Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC)?

It is an arrangement where notations are filed in numerical and alphabetical order but the arrangement is based primarily on subject. The idea is for resources of a similar subject to be located within close proximity.

How have computer databases impacted the information environment?

As modern computers can search very large files quickly, words entered into a field can be indexed individually. This means that searching for a particular title does not mean the user has to know each word in the title to gain the item they are searching for.

Computer databases are capable of not only storing metadata, but other kinds of data.

Tools of library organisation

  • Bibliographic databases – might provide a general keyword index, containing words found in many of the fields, a title word index, author keyword index, subject keyword index, etc. The library catalogue is an example for a bibliographic database.
  •  Library catalogues – used as a way to ascertain what is in the library collection and as a retrieval tool. Online library catalogues (e.g. OPAC – online public access catalogue) have superseded the old card cataloguing system, although both are similar in their descriptions. The online cataloguing system does have advantages for users trying to find items as they are often able to search with some knowledge about the text they are trying to find, as words within each element can be individually indexed. Online catalogues can provide users with numerous records from which to make their selection. Some even allow for users to input metadata (social metadata) such as tagging, ratings and reviewing items. Additionally OPAC, is integrated with the library system’s circulation module, which means users of the system are not only able to learn about the existence of items within the collection but also an item’s availability. Contemporary versions of OPAC allow users to access the library catalogue anywhere and anytime, accommodates sophisticated searching by users (e.g. Boolean searching), allows users to customise display options, provide images of information resources and may even provide links to such items as ‘shopping carts’. In the future, it is likely that OPAC will enable Google-like searching, may present metadata to users in more interesting ways, include relevance ranking, automatically make recommendations to users who borrow particular resources and include automatic dialogue boxes to support end-user’s queries (e.g. ‘did you mean…?’) (Hider, 2012, pp.42-44). To compete with users’ preferences for information searching through sites such as Google, library catalogues such as OPAC may in the future become integrated into the larger online environment. In library catalogues key access points (e.g. author name, subject, etc.) may be controlled by library cataloguers as a way of standardising information (referred to as authority control). 
  •  Periodical databases – are databases offered by commercial indexing services that can complement library catalogues by providing access to more in-depth information resources. Periodical databases such as EBSCOhost are large examples that aggregate records from multiple sources to create a database that contains a large number of centralised records that contain information such as title, subject, author and abstracts as well as often allowing direct online access to the articles.
  •  Federated search systems – a search facility that enables a single access point for users to the numerous library’s databases such as the library catalogue. This enables the users to simultaneously search across all the databases, which is more time-economical than having to individually access a range of different databases. Creating federated search applications that allow the sharing of metadata between information retrieval systems (interoperability) can be complex as different systems may not be compatible in terms of metadata elements or not support the same functions (Hider, 2012, p.47). While standardisation is needed to address this issue, it is somewhat idealistic given the varying purposes of different databases.
  • Search engines – The most well-known search engines, such as Google, are able to provide users with a large number of ‘hits’ for many of their searches by finding matches in content as opposed to metadata. Most search engines retrieve exclusively based on text, although there has been some experimentation with image and sound retrieval systems. They are popular tool for those looking for information resources as they work on a massive scale, are quick, regularly updated, they simple to use and a free service. Problems with search engines such as Google are users being able to find appropriate resources from the plethora provided, quality (e.g. accuracy, authority, appropriateness, etc.), the relevance ordering of ‘hits’ (i.e. some search engines have sponsored links and this may impact the order in which results appear), the lack of standardisation in terms of vocabulary control which can lead to many irrelevant results and the inconsistencies that can exist in terms of results when using different search engines because of the different algorithms they may be based upon. Searches for information in library catalogues, while unlikely to provide the exhaustive list of results as a search engine such as Google, have the advantage in that the information resources available have been carefully selected for quality, appropriateness and authority by information professionals and the systems used to organise and provide users with information about these resources attempt to standardise this information (e.g. vocabulary control).


Hider, P. (2012). Chapter 3, Tools and systems (pp.33-58).Information resource description: Creating and managing metadata.London: Facet

Activity: SCIS

I searched for The Last Tree using a ANYWHERE search. I was provided with 116 results. The 1st option given was in fact the exact book I was looking for by Mark Wilson.

Information included in the record included:

I really enjoyed reading the summary and the Author notes and I liked being able to see the cover of the version of the book that I was familiar with.

Activity: Primo or TROVE

Do a search on Primo or Trove to see the wide range of sources that are brought together by these federated search engines.


  • overall layout much busier
  • Several search options – simple to advance (title, keywords, creator etc.)
  • Main fields include
    • Books
    • Digitised newspaper
    • Pictures, photographs, objects
    • Journals, articles and data sets
    • Music, sound and video
    • Diaries letters and archives
    • People and organisations
    • Lists
    • Maps


  • Several useful search options – simple to advanced
  • Subject reserve is an interesting one I always like to do at the beginning of a study session
  • Main fields include:
    • Books, journals, DVDs & More
    • Articles
    • CSU Research output.
  • Other options include:
    • Limit search
    • Location in the records
    • Filters can be applied

Federated search engines are a tool that has enhanced the ease to which users are able to search and locate information. Instead of having to access resources through numerous databases, the user can save time by entering their queries in one location and allowing the federated system to simultaneously ‘search’ numerous databases based on the query.

Creating federated search applications that allow the sharing of metadata between information retrieval systems (interoperability) can be complex as different systems may not be compatible in terms of metadata elements or not support the same functions (Hider, 2012, p.47). While standardisation is needed to address this issue, it is somewhat idealistic given the varying purposes of different databases.

Having said that, from a users’ perspective, CSU’s Primo and Trove are such valuable tools for locating and accessing information. If there are, as suggested by Hider, issues in allowing users access to different databases through federated systems, it does not seem to be impacting my experience with data-navigation for these sites. I suspect it is most likely the combined efforts of specialised library staff, technical staff and others who both identify and manage any standardisation issues on an ongoing basis so that there are minimal issues for blissfully ignorant end-users such as myself.


Hider, P. (2012). Information resource description: Creating and managing metadata. London: Facet.

Digital Libraries

What are digital libraries?

Digital libraries have a collection that is focused on digital objects such as text-based, video, audio and multimedia resources. These items are carefully selected, organised and maintained by professionals to facilitate patron awareness of resources and effective access to these resources (Witten, Bainbridge & Nicols, 2010, p.7).

While the World Wide Web certainly contains an enormous wealth of digital resources, the quality of information has not been vetted or organised by information professionals. A digital library is different to the World Wide Web as it is a digital collection that has been specifically selected, organised and maintained by professionals to meet the needs of library users. A digital library, while not restricted by physical space, is not without limits as it can only be effective if it has boundaries in place that clearly enable it to be created and maintained with its purpose clearly part of the design purpose.

In addition to being carefully designed and maintained, to be effective a digital library must also have digital library support software that supports users to browse and locate digital resources within the collection to meet their needs and also enables librarians to provide appropriate organisation structures for the collection and the ability to maintain them (Witten, Bainbridge & Nicols, 2010, p.7).


Witten, I., Bainbridge, D., & Nicols, D. (2010). How to build a digital library. Burlington, MA: Morgan Kaufmann

Activity: TROVE image “minds eye” photos, pictures and objects….

Tree of Knowledge – Barcaldine QLD

This search unmoved 6621 images until I selected Australian Content, which narrowed it down to 380 images. Not all of them were relevant…. Images ranges in age from the late 1800’s to current. Images were clearly described and easily accessed. This would be a good tool for teachers looking form Primary Sources in History or Geography units. It was quick and easy to use. I really liked how it told users where the original image could be found.

Information included in the records examined included:

  • Title
  • Photo number
  • Citation address
  • Date take
  • Place
  • Collection
  • Description
  • Notes

Activity: Search for a song and compare the results.

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

  • I found the entry I was after a bit of scrolling
  • Some Biographical details given about the band
  • Links to other websites to provide further details – some pop-ups and ads
  • No date to be found…


  • Unsuccessful – I was not keen on signing up for this without being able to “play around’ with it first…


  • Love the RADIO Station option based on the Artist searched
  • Images of album covers available
  • Free – sign up is optional
  • I did not find locating specific details about my song simple…

Read ‘Library catalogue records’ (pp. 93-98), of Hider, P. (2012). Information resource description. London: Facet.

Sharing metadata – Chapter 6

Why is the standardisation of metadata important?

The consistency of metadata records enables the metadata to be used in different information retrieval systems, which enables it to be shared by a variety of information institutions. This means:

  • Metadata can be created once = time and economic savings
  • Metadata creation can be assigned to those most qualified for the task and then disseminated
  • That if the same metadata is being used, then there is more chance of it being amended or enhanced

The sharing of metadata is made possible not only through standardisation of content, format and vocabulary but also through standardisation of transmission of this information according to standard protocols (Hider, 2012, p.93).

What are library catalogue records and why is a standard format such as MARC needed?

Library catalogue records (metadata of information resources) were originally distributed in the form of library catalogue cards. Today, computerised systems have revolutionised this system by allowing the distribution of electronic records over the Internet. These files are usually have a standardised format,MARC (Machine Readable Cataloguing). “The MARC format not only allows computer systems to import copies of catalogue records from other systems, it also indicates how the data in the records should be indexed and displayed, in other words, how the record should be processed , or ‘read’, by the computer system” (Hider, 2012, p.97).

What are bibliographic networks?

Bibliographic networks involve libraries being linked together through a central database from which individual libraries can access bibliographical records. With the Internet now allowing fast download globally, many bibliographic networks have been consolidated as there need for smaller bibliographic networks to serve particular areas is diminishing.

Becoming a member of a bibliographic network usually requires the payment of fees and agreeing to adhere to format and content standards. This does not mean that libraries cannot edit records downloaded to their local system to suit system and user requirements but that they cannot make changes to the ‘master’ record in the network database. The bibliographic networks often focus on a particular types of libraries in particular geographical regions (e.g. SCIS for NZ and Australian school libraries) and subscribe to major bibliographical record suppliers on behalf of their members.

Why is metadata increasingly being shared and made available to search engines?

Libraries, museums, archives and other such organisations are not just sharing metadata between themselves but are now also sharing this metadata with internet search companies, such as Google, as a means to make their catalogues more accessible and increase the likelihood of their resources being utilised. There is a recognition that many users prefer search engines such as Google for information searching and many organisations are sharing their metadata and resources in an attempt to reflect the current information environment. For example, a university might see this as a way to promote assets such as research publications authored by university staff. Offering metadata for ‘harvesting’ to search engines also supports the ‘open access’ movement which is making scholarly repositories readily available and changing the nature of traditional publishing.

What is interoperability?

To share metadata requires that it can work in different systems or beinteroperable. Interoperability for metadata requires that it is either standardised or converted. Similar organisations may use standardised retrieval systems but with the increase of different information agencies sharing information, many information retrieval systems can work with a mixture of standards and formats. “The conversion, or mapping of metadata can be carried out at the level of format, element or value” (Hider, 2012, p.100), with the most common mapping required for format and element levels. Mapping from one metadata format to another (e.g. MARC records verses Dublin Core) is sometimes calledcrosswalks and can be required to convert the incoming metadata into data that can be processed by the host computer. Mapping metadata standards can be quite complex as different elements cover different attributes or when they do cover the same attributes they do so in different ways. It is rarely a one-to-one exercise. “Metadata standards are still important even when crosswalks are used. If all of the imported data conforms closely to a particular standard, then a crosswalk may work reasonably well. However, if the metadata is not already standardised, then a great deal of manual editing may be required, which may not be practical” (Hider, 2012, pp.100-101).

Quite honestly, it seems very straight forward and common sense to share metadata – why reinvent the wheel every time? Why not share what someone else has done so that it is easier and not to mention consistent.


Hider, P. (2012). Chapter 6, Sharing metadata (pp.93-101). Information resource description: Creating and managing metadata. London: Facet

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