As we increasingly use web-scale discovery systems to help clients find a wide assortment of library materials, how do we manage the different metadata schemes used to describe these different materials? This involves the concept of mapping within and across collections, depending on the scope of the collection. How do we manage these mappings to provide seamless discovery? How do we create, maintain and share records that reflect the needs, languages and identities of culturally and ethnically varied communities?
The importance of sharing across library silos
Patrons are looking for easy access to curated, high quality materials through the library, yet until somewhat recently, libraries have struggled with showcasing the extent of their digital collections. Accessing the variety of digital and digitized library contents required visiting a number of electronic resources, including the online library catalogue, licensed journal articles in specialized library databases, institutional repository contents, and the contents of curated resources available on the web or through other systems. Barriers to searching these disparate systems included how content was indexed, retrieved and displayed. Before patrons could begin to search these systems, they had to know the systems even existed.
One early solution to the problem of siloed information was the use of federated searching. With federating searching, patrons could query multiple databases, and have results retrieved for each. Sophisticated federated search engines de-duplicated the results if indeed a hit was found in more than one resource. Federated searching is slow, however, and requires that a number of web-based databases respond quickly to a query. Federated searching was a marked improvement over system-by-system queries, but it was fraught with problems nonetheless.
The advent of the current generation of discovery systems that rely on large-scale central indexes generated from content representing the broad range of databases, electronic journal collections, as well as metadata describing local physical and digital collections, brings an important advancement over federated search applications that prevailed previously. These federated search platforms relied on casting search queries to multiple content targets to receive and display results to users.
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