IFLA Rare Books Section Conference

Posted on March 1, 2016 | in Collections, Conferences, Featured | by


Last week, we attended the IFLA Rare Books and Special Collections Section Mid Term Meeting at the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal in Lisbon. The event on Monday 22nd February was a one day conference: “A common international standard for rare materials cataloguing? Why? And how?”

A joint delegation of an archivist and metadata co-ordinator from the University of Edinburgh20160224_112702 allowed us to discuss real issues we were facing with bringing together metadata standards and practice across the University Collections. It was clear that we have made major progress in this area and were able to contribute to discussions from real case study and practice. The question marks in the question posed were important, as any proposals for unifying metadata standards or practices must take into account the needs of researchers or students wishing to use rare materials as well as the nature of the material (it’s not all books) and professional standards and practices of curators of the collections. This certainly came across in both the papers and the lively discussions at the end of each session to which we contributed a wider view of practice and our experience of mapping metadata standards across libraries, archives and museums.

It was interesting to see how positively many European research libraries have embraced the new Resource Description and Access (RDA) metadata standard, adopted by Edinburgh University Library as the cataloguing standard for modern print and e-book collections in 2014, and looked at how it can be adapted or mapped to work with rare materials. The RDA Steering Committee, which held its most recent meeting in Edinburgh last November, have made considerable efforts to make the new standard more international in outlook and less centred on the Anglo-American world, so it was encouraging to see that their work is being rewarded. We discussed and reflected on how we bring together our archival, rare book, museum, art and general collections through one search facility for users. There were discussions on how we describe these materials and the need to do this authoritatively, authentically and using the appropriate standards in order to engender trust in the information provided. It was also recognised that there is not always a one size fits all approach.

There were particularly interesting papers from the State and University Library Hamburg on using RDA for cataloguing engravings and prints; from Uppsala University Library on the problems of transcribing the title pages of rare books; and from the University of Lisbon on managing private collections acquired through donation or purchase. Also encouraging were favourable comments from other delegates regarding the quality of EUL’s rare books catalogue records and our ability to search and analyse our metadata.

Rachel stayed on to liaise with colleagues from major institutions across the world and attended a visit to the Mafra Palace with the IFLA committee, where they were given privileged access to behind the scenes of the beautiful library. We were invited to contribute to IFLA work on metadata mapping and standards, with the University of Edinburgh being recognised as a place where cross sectoral working practices and mapping of standards is being done in practice.

Alasdair MacDonald                                                                                        Rachel Hosker

Metadata Co-ordinator                                                                                 Archives Manager

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