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Bob Nardini looks at a single day of metadata for OASIS, ProQuest’s search, selection and ordering system for academic books.

Every librarian knows that when it comes to friends, family, strangers on a plane – most of them have no idea what kind of work goes on in a library. Patrons, sure, people may know what library patrons can do, since they could be patrons themselves. But the librarians?  No clue.  How did all those books get there, for instance? Well, the old books, the ones whose spines are worn down, they were just always there.  And the newer books? There could be big bookmobiles with library delivery routes. Or the librarians go out book shopping.  Must be something like that. 

There’s one thing even more mysterious than the work librarians do: the work library book vendors do.  Even, too often, for librarians. How, for instance, do books get into a vendor’s database? That’s where book shopping actually does happen, so why is this such a dark corner? We vendors, in our efforts to provide librarians with a seamless experience — “seamless” being one of our favorite words — don’t always say a lot about our processes. So, let’s throw some light on this.

Take Solid State: Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles, a Cornell University Press title written by Kenneth Womack, scholar of the Beatles responsible for The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles and other books about the Fab Four. Search OASIS and you’ll find it — and could have found it ever since one day last March, when we loaded the book’s bibliographic data into OASIS from a file received from the Library of Congress (LC). The list price is $26.95, and we’ll gladly take your order now. We won’t be able to ship the book to your library right away, however, since it won’t be published until October.  The record we loaded from LC was a pre-publication CIP record, or “Cataloging in Publication” in LC’s term.  Thanks to LC’s early cataloging work on the book, we already display two LC Subject Headings (“Rock musicians – England” is the first), an LC classification (ML 421.B4), Dewey (782.421), and a Notes field referring to “creation of the Beatles’ final masterwork in terms of the technological strides that made their cumulative achievements possible.”

After October, that CIP record and a full MARC record, once LC creates one, will help us provide the book’s cataloging to ProQuest customers.  But in the meantime, all that metadata, fully searchable in OASIS, will help librarians find and evaluate the book right now.  As LC upgrades the cataloging record, we’ll upgrade the OASIS record.  We’ll likely improve the record in other ways too, with an image of the book jacket, a table of contents, fuller description, information about the author, stock availability, ebook availability, and links among multiple formats. Our New Titles Group will add our own bibliographic terminology, defining interdisciplinary subjects, readership level, and other kinds of descriptors to Solid State and to every other book we profile on behalf of ProQuest customers.

You could think of OASIS title records as metadata mashups. A title might enter our database thanks to a record from the Library of Congress, as Solid State did, or might come from the British Library — like Twisted: The Cookbook, a collection of offbeat recipes from a popular Internet site (chicken parmesan spaghetti pie?), another October release, published by the London-based Kchiing, whose initial record reached OASIS on the same March day as Solid State. (We also load titles from the National Library of Medicine, a third national library helping to populate OASIS.)  These early records will be updated over time, likely a number of times — not only through these national libraries, but also by commercial bibliographic sources like our sister ProQuest company Bowker; our print fulfillment partner, Ingram; our print partner in Adelaide, Aus., ALS; or Nielsen BookData, all companies who enrich the metadata and also contribute titles in their own right to OASIS.

Meanwhile, OASIS is loading ebooks from 14 platforms which include not only the two leading aggregator platforms, our own Ebook Central and EBSCO, but publisher platforms like Cambridge Core, Oxford’s University Press Scholarship Online, Project MUSE, Taylor & Francis, Wiley Online Library and others. (Plus, streaming video titles from ProQuest’s Alexander Street.)  These platforms bring us scholarly titles such as Coastal Lives: Nature, Capital, and the Struggle for Artisanal Fisheries in Peru, from the University of Arizona Press, and at the same time, works not especially academic, like McFarland’s Twice the Thrills! Twice the Chills!: Horror and Science Fiction Double Features, 1955-1974.

These two books came into the OASIS title database on that same March as day Solid State came in, members of this one day’s cohort of over 2,000 titles, books created in more than 60 countries (from Argentina and Australia, to Uruguay and Vietnam), written in more than 40 languages (Afrikaans … Arabic … Turkish … Ukrainian), produced by nearly 200 publishers (those you’ve heard of, like Cambridge University Press, Routledge, Springer – and those you might not have, like Bearport Publishing, Brown Dog Books, Frog Hollow Books, Turtleback Books, Wild Dingo Press and Wild Goose Publishers). 

Those are only the zoological names from just this one day in March. OASIS adds and improves metadata all week, all month, and all year long, however, and has for about 20 years.  That adds up to more than 40 million titles and, we believe, the deepest academic book database offered by any vendor.  OASIS users search and order titles all week long too.  They nearly always find what they’re looking for… and we hope the reason why is no longer a mystery.         

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Bob Nardini is Vice President, Library Services, at ProQuest Books.  He worked in both public and academic libraries prior to 1985, when he took a job in the academic bookselling industry, where he has been ever since.  Bob joined ProQuest in 2015 with the acquisition of Coutts.  Bob holds an M.A. in History from the University of Virginia and an M.L.S. from the University of Toronto.  He lives in Antioch, Tennessee.
05 Jun 2019

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