What is Metadata?

Working both as a librarian and as a computer network manager, one of the most annoying things in my job(s) was learning a second vocabulary for computing. Every field of study has its jargon. So, at the end of this post, I’ll tell you how I think librarians and computer programmers came to use such different words for such similar things. But first, a look at library metadata. Library science is the study of all existing fields of knowledge. For lack of a word, let’s call that the study of “meta-knowledge”. Metadata is a way of describing the meta-knowledge that librarians work with. Librarians who create metadata Catalogers are technical services librarians who work with the print materials, digital files, and media that come into a library. Catalogers create metadata for “documents” provided directly to patrons or for public services librarians to use in answering questions from their library patrons. If you have ever used a library catalog, you are already familiar with metadata. There is no need to feel intimidated by this word!  Likewise, if you’ve ever used back-of-the-book indexes to non-fiction, you’ll also be familiar with some kinds of metadata already. For example, a names index or a bibliography in a scholarly book is metadata. So is a subject index. Visible and invisible metadata Basically, library metadata is a standardized vocabulary for describing any document, i.e. printed materials, books, digital files, artwork, or electronic media  that can be found somewhere in a library or that’s for sale to those who want to read, view, or listen to it —or if it’s rare, bought by collectors who want to own it. In essence, metadata is the description of each piece of meta-knowledge that librarians provide access to for library patrons. Knowledge can be gained from either non-fiction or fiction. Common metadata that’s visible in a library catalog includes: author name, title, the ISBN number, format, date of publication, name of the publisher, number of pages or “locations” in the document, a list of up to six terms describing the contents of the document, and a unique number (accession number or call number) that tells library staff and patrons where the book can be found in a library. But be aware that library catalogers add a number of other pieces of data to electronic library catalog records that public service librarians, but not the public, will be able to see. The same thing is true for publisher and book-seller metadata that gets created...
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Book Discovery at the Library – Part 2

In Part 1 of Book Discovery at the Library we covered some traditional ways that librarians may promote your book(s). In this section we’re going to look at four companies that offer librarians a new way to make the books in their collections more discoverable at the library. For you as an author this is a plus for selling your book – studies show that patrons who find an author’s book in the library often buy other books from that same author. They also recommend authors’ books they like to friends who may buy those book titles to read. Short of appearing as an author on a TV show such as Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show,” getting your book touted by a library is the best word-of-mouth publicity for it! LIBRARY DISCOVERY SERVICES Nowadays, busy librarians can subscribe to book discovery services. Here are four companies that provide discovery services to librarians. These companies sell subscriptions to their online “knowledge bases”  to libraries that can afford them. Here’s a brief synopsis of some of these services. Ebsco Discovery Service (EDS) from EBSCO Information Services EBSCO Information Services is a long-standing supplier of magazine and journal subscriptions to libraries. Now it also offers library patrons access to research databases, ebooks, and digital archival materials. Ebsco’s database has a unified index and can even be integrated with a library’s online catalog (called an OPAC, short for Online Public Access Catalog.) Ebsco Discovery Service (EDS) is particularly useful for college students and you if you are marketing your book to students. Primo from Ex Libris Group Ex Libris Group  is a worldwide supplier of library computer (i.e., “automation”) systems. Among many other things, Primo offers libraries a  Search box for its databases so they can be integrated into web pages, blogs, and social networks used by librarians in order to increase the visibility on the Web of items in a library’s collection. Summon, from Serials Solution (a ProQuest Business)  ProQuest is another library vendor that has been around for a long time. It started with online research-article databases and has expanded to may other technology packages for all kinds of libraries. Among its strengths, Summon stresses its ability to serve patrons with cellphones and other mobile devices. It also claims to be fastest at delivering discoverability. WorldCat Discovery Services, from OCLC You’ve probably heard about WordCat’s catalog. This is where you can see if a library has bought your book....
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Book Discoverability at the Library – Part 1

Book discovery is currently a primo concern at publishing houses and bookstores. Libraries too have been dealing for centuries with the challenge of making print books and ebooks in their collections discoverable. Back in 1876 Charles Ammi Cutter laid down the rules for a “card catalog” with his book, Rules for A Printed Dictionary Catalog. Prior to that invention, there was no universal way for libraries to ensure book discoverability. Some librarians had arranged books by shape; others by spatial co-location; and yet others used various classification schemes of their own making. Card catalogs, along with Cutter’s systematic ways of arranging books by author, title, subject and category (e.g., genre), brought about a major advance in terms of improving book discoverability at the library. Librarians also employ display cases, empty walls, and book stands to make selected books in their collections more visible to people who visit that library. Today I’ll be covering both  traditional ways libraries have made books discoverable and suggest how you may be able to improve the discoverability of your book at the library. In part 2 I’ll introduce  you to several newer library discovery services that you may not have heard of and explain their implications for book-selling. DISPLAYS, HANDOUTS, and NEWSLETTERS Most libraries provide handouts about specific topics in the collections, e.g., mystery books, newly-received books, or current events people might want to learn about. The online web sites of libraries are another place where librarians display what is in their library. Library web site pages are where you’ll find out about ebooks, audiobooks, rare books, and special collections such as local history books or maps. You may even find a display about a library’s cookbook collection, car repair manuals, or other how-to-books.   Publicity at and by libraries is a major reason to make sure your book gets bought and displayed by a library. How do you ensure your book will be discovered at a library? First of all, remember that your cover is you primary sales tool for your book. Make sure you have an interesting, professionally-done cover. If you have a publisher, negotiate to get a attractive cover that will draw attention to your book. If you will use a thumbnail of your cover, make sure the tiny image can be clearly seen. Also, check your print-book or CD-case spine for readability. Remember that many libraries will put a label at the bottom of the spine with the book’s call...
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Publisher vs. Author Marketing

Which kind of marketing is better for your book? A recent study showed that the main reasons authors gave for choosing to go with a traditional publisher was publishers’ book distribution connections. This is unquestionably an advantage for authors. But the third most-prevalent reason is publisher’s marketing services. Is this really such an advantage? Here’s the difference between how publishers and authors market books. Publishers market many book titles in their publisher’s catalog(s). Authors market only their own titles. Now this isn’t the whole story. Publishers sometimes focus more on some author’s books than others. They promote potential “best-sellers” more heavily than other books. The main distinction is that your publisher will divide its time and resources among many authors’ books, while your time and resources can be devoted mainly to your own book.  Further, some publishers do very little marketing, other than sending out review copies and a publisher’s catalog. According to Alan Rinzler, in “Good Day Sunshine for Writers” in Forbes magazine: Fact: Nearly all published books – conservative estimates range between 80-90 percent – lose money. These books don’t earn out their advances, don’t have second printings, they sell in the low four digits at best, are returned from the retail accounts and pulped or recycled.” This is why smart authors create their own web/blog sites for their book(s). Smart authors are promoting their own books, sometimes along with other authors’ books, using Twitter or Facebook contests. These are  two effective marketing tools for selling books. The best strategy for authors with a publisher is:  do your own marketing and coordinate it with what your publisher does to market your book. What about you? Have you decided how to get your book into libraries? How to decide? Get a publisher, self-publish, or both? Pros of publisher marketing Publishers own recognizable brand names, called “imprints,” for marketing their books – serious readers are often fans of imprints. Seasoned publishers have well-established marketing channels – this is particularly true for books intended for libraries. Experienced publishers can get your books reviewed by many library book review journals that self-publishers can’t get into. Cons of publisher marketing Publishers may focus more on building their own brand with your book – rather than making sales for you. Publishers rarely venture into new marketing channels – especially ones for topics they don’t usually handle. Publishers’ marketing materials are professionally written – often they are impersonal and not “from the...
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Can’t Even Donate Your Book to a Library? – 5 Reasons Why

Rejection hurts! But don’t take it personally. Here are five reasons your book got turned down. 1. Donations of books aren’t “free” for the library It costs money to shelve books. Costs of shelving books include processing books for shelving, the price of the bookshelf itself, the labor involved in shelving books, utilities like heat and light, and the cost of the space a book takes up in the library building. The cost of shelving one book can run hundreds of dollars! After all, if processing and shelving books cost nothing, even bookstores would be happy to get book donations. In particular, to process a book, it costs a lot of money to catalog a book that has not yet been cataloged. Once a book has been cataloged, any library can and will use another library’s catalog record for that book. A library uses a catalog record for shelving a book, circulating a book, and letting patrons know the book is in the library. Thanks to catalog records, patrons can search the library’s online book catalog and find books of interest. Only trained librarians and their staff can crate these catalog records for libraries 2. Your book has no pedigree A publisher’s imprint or trade name, however tiny it may appear on the spine of a book, is an important pedigree for a book. Publish with publishers that librarians trust, and your book will be practically guaranteed to sell itself to librarians once they know it exists. Library book publishers guarantee at least a minimal quality of appearance and content of a book. A publisher’s name can suggest certain durability of a book. Larger publishers also have the privilege of being able to get from libraries what no one else can get – an official library catalog record created before the book is published. This kind of library catalog record is a gold stamp of approval by a librarian who works in the elite CIP unit of the Library of Congress. CIP (cataloging-in-print) pretty much guarantees that your book will be bought by some libraries somewhere in the US. 3. Your book has no track record Let me guess. You took in a brand new book and offered it to the library didn’t you? Think about that. In order to accept a book, a librarian has to know that your book will be useful to the people who use...
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