Making e-book collections visible to readers
E-books in Libraries
Introduction It has always been a challenge to make virtual library collections visible. Options for physical signposts to e-books are limited -users cannot browse the shelves to see what is available, look at a new book display, or discover a book on the reshelving trolley -all of which puts more emphasis on the effectiveness of the library catalogue as a means to highlight the availability of library e-books. However, the cataloguing of e-books presents some significant challenges, and a
... llenges, and a recent report found that many libraries struggle to catalogue all of their e-book holdings (Research Information Network, 2009). Conversely, the visibility of e-books in the wider world has increased significantly in recent years. The increasing popularity of e-book readers and now the iPad has raised the profile of books in e-formats, and, with their facilities for full text searching, sites such as Amazon and Google Book Search make e-books for consumers easy to find and purchase. For those trying to make library e-books visible however, this creates another challenge. If libraries are to be effective in connecting users with their e-books, they need to consider additional options which could offer more effective and efficient ways to increase the exposure of library e-books, alongside the traditional library catalogue. 3-1-2 E-books on the web Studies show that a decreasing number of library users start their search with the library catalogue, and are instead beginning with Google and other search engines (CIBER, 2008). For users, these offer two major advantages over the library catalogue: they can search in more detail, and they can cover more content. As Anderson (2010) points out, a catalogue listing the contents of a local collection was an acceptable discovery tool in the past, where the average user only had access to whatever was available in the library. But in a world where search engines make it easy to both identify and gain access to full text content outside the library collection, users wish to search beyond the limits of the local catalogue. So if users are not coming directly to the library catalogue, is it possible to make library content discoverable via search engines? In theory, link resolver services or widgets such as LibX can provide links from search engines to library content, so that when a user discovers a book in (for example) Google Scholar they are presented with a link to the library's copy of the e-book. In practice however, discovery of library collections from search engines does not match the standards of accuracy and reliability that would be expected from a library catalogue. The quality of metadata is variable, which affects not only the quality of search results but also the accuracy and reliability of the links. Nevertheless, embedding links to library content into search engines is a useful complement to the catalogue and despite these limitations 3-1-3 represents a good opportunity to increase the visibility of library e-books. In the longer term, is it possible that web search could replace the library catalogue? As well as offering a more effective search, it would also be a more efficient way to make library content discoverable. As Anderson (2010, 37) points out, creating a local catalogue is inherently inefficient since much of it duplicates metadata which is already available elsewhere. If reliable links to library holdings could be attached to the metadata already available on the web, there would no longer be a need to create a catalogue of local metadata. This is not a goal which is likely to be achieved in the short term. Improving the reliability of linking from search engines raises significant technical challenges, including issues surrounding metadata quality and standards, and the interoperability of search engines with library management and linking systems. Moreover, it is not just technical issues that need to be addressed. As the RIN report (2009) notes, it is not clear how supporting the discoverability of library content would fit with the current business models of search engine providers. But there is no doubt that the focus of resource discovery is moving away from the local catalogue and towards web-scale discovery. E-books in shared catalogues Another option for increasing both the effectiveness and the efficiency of resource discovery is to move towards a greater use of shared catalogues. Many libraries are 3-1-4 already using consortia catalogues on a local or regional scale, but the trend now is to develop shared catalogues on a larger scale -either nationally, for example the current project on the feasibility of a national catalogue for UK academic libraries (SCONUL, 2009) , or internationally, for example increasing use of OCLC WorldCat Local. Large-scale shared catalogues offer a more efficient way for libraries to catalogue their local collections, and they also significantly broaden the range of content covered, thus coming closer to competing with web search engines.