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66th IFLA Council and General

Jerusalem, Israel, 13-18 August


Code Number: 139-168(WS)-E
Division Number: IV
Professional Group: Cataloguing: Workshop
Joint Meeting with:
Meeting Number: 168
Simultaneous Interpretation: No

Creation of the electronic resources Meta-database in Russia: problems and prospects

N. Kasparova
M. Shwartsman



The problem of electronic resources cataloguing is the most urgent for Russia. It is not less complicated here than in any other part of the world.

While the volume of electronic resources in libraries has been constantly growing, the number of libraries that do cataloguing of those resources remains very small. And those which do catalogue electronic resources, use various bibliographic formats, various rules and various technologies for this. We even saw a card catalogue of Internet resources at one library.

In 1998 , specialists of the Russian State Library prepared a methodological manual: "Bibliographic Description of Electronic Resources" and the first edition of the corresponding national standard, which was based on the recommendation of the international standard -ISBD (ER).

Neither the creation of bibliographic rules for cataloguing electronic resources, nor even standards could by themselves secure that the problems of their cataloguing are solved, including the problem of unification of data in the bibliographic record. There are several reasons to this, but the main problem is that necessary data are either missing or are hardly accessible in the described resource. Besides, information in the bibliographic resource itself is often very much different from what is given in its advance advertising or in reference books. Another problem is that bibliographic information about electronic resources can receive different interpretation with different cataloguers.

The most significant factor that has contributed to solution of the problem is the existence of the international standard for bibliographic description of Internet resources - the Dublin Core, which enables to do minimal cataloguing of electronic resources and to create an information media in the Internet, which was called the Metadata in professional literature on the issue. Metadata - from the Greek "meta" - an intermediary or in-between - has the meaning of preliminary data, which is created as minimal information about an information resource, in this case, an electronic resource, which would follow up creation of the resource itself but precede creation of the catalogue.

In 1998-1999, the Russian State Library started experiments on creation of software for managing the Russian Internet Resources meta-database, which can be viewed at http://www.rsl.ru.dsl. The Russian State Library server holds an interactive form, where everyone can enter description of an Internet resource and to get back the description of this resource in the Dublin Core Matadata set format. The information, which was entered in the form, is written into the database. As of now, the database contains bibliographic descriptions of over two thousand electronic resources of the Internet. The DC RSL software development has been accomplished, and it is available as freeware.

The DC RSL package of software has implemented the Dublin Core Matadata element set and enables to perform cataloguing of Internet resources with automatic generation of metadata in accordance with this rule.

The package includes the following components:

  • a set of CGI programs that work on the server, support the data entry, search and display;

  • auxiliary utilities for browsing, verification and managing the database integrity.

The Software was developed in the Russian State Library with the use of Inprise Delphi 5.0.

In Russia, implementation of metadata for description of electronic resources is at its beginning stage. Various formats are used for it. In the Russian State Library, electronic resources that are part of the library holdings are catalogued in the USMARC format, while Internet resources are catalogued according to the Dublin Core Metadata set.

In the NGO Electronic Library (http://ngo.org.ru/ngoss/), the bibliographic description of books and Internet resources is done using the Dublin Core Metadata Set with smaller additions. For example, we use the Standard for electronic business cards (vCard) for statements of responsibility of creator, publisher and contributor. The search results can be output in RTF or XML formats.

At the Library for Natural Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, big work is being carried out now on organization of a database to hold information on Russian scientists. The database will contain information about publications, research institutions as well as personal dossiers. The project team chose the Dublin Core Metadata Set as the core format for the data and they are planning to expand it to certain fields.

The Russian Cultural Heritage network program, which will create a network of museum Internet sites, is also planning to use the Dublin Core Metadata Set as the basis for its description of museum exhibits.

We can say that that there is a general tendency of implementation of the Dublin Core Metadata Set for the basic description and of its extension to accommodate specific tasks in certain fields. Thus, the federal program "Electronic Libraries", is planning to use several languages of description at different levels. At the lower levels, more-detailed formats, like MARC, GILS or others are used, depending on the objects of cataloguing.

In the present, the largest number of metadata on electronic resources is produced by bibliographic agencies. The survey of the Russian Internet resources proved that producers of the resources very rarely use <meta> tags in their resources and practically never use the Dublin Core Metadata Set. And, as we metioned above, the information on CD-ROMs cover sheets or in description files is usually poorly structured. So it's time-consuming and painstaking task to find out all attributes of the bibliographic description for these resources.

Taking into account the swift growth of electronic resources and very modest opportunities of cataloguers, the most appropriate way out seems to be the creators of electronic resources should themselves participate in forming metadata on their resources, similar to the existing practice of preliminary cataloguing of printed products. The task is rather complicated, and some of our colleagues even think it to be a utopia.

In Russia, the central body that is responsible for registration of electronic resources, for the sake of providing copyright protection is Informregister. In the present, people, who work at Informregister and are responsible for managing the database on electronic resources, are facing all the above-mentioned problems.

Based on the experience of the RSL in cataloguing Internet resources and on the availability of the necessary software, we are planning to create the system of preliminary registration of electronic resources by their creators. Any author can access our server and fill out the fields of the proposed form. After he or she enters his data, the creator gets the registration number and the description of the resource in the standard format. Then the author should file his application form to the Informregister, where he indicates the RSL registration number, which was provided for the resource. The number would enable the Informregister staff to find the description of the resource in the RSL meta-database, to correct and to add other fields to the existing description.

We have reached understanding with Informregister, which will be transformed into a formal agreement on cooperation in the experiment on creation of the meta-database on electronic resources.

We will have to arrange a number of organizational issues to be able to fulfil this plan. The main problem is to make creators of electronic resources to, first, register it at Infromregister and, second, to use the system of preliminary registration. It will require creation of a reliable legal mechanism. Formally, Informregister protects copyright on any electronic resource, whether it is an online resource or a CD-ROM product. However, in reality, only CD-ROMs have been registered in the Informregister so far. The registration of online products has been out of reach of Informregister, due to their permanent changes. This problem should be solved within the framework of the general Russian legislation which regulates the issues of copyright on Internet resources.

The Russian meta-database on electronic resources may become the first component of the state system for electronic resources registration. Thus, it cannot be an enterprise for profit. Nevertheless, the Russian State Library will need additional funding for support and development of the meta-database. The main advantages of the system will be the following:

  • unification of the bibliographic description for electronic resources and reduction of production costs of cataloguing electronic resources for cataloguing agencies and libraries in Russia;

  • creation of the information milieu on electronic resources, which would be compatible with international standards, and would provide access to this information both for Russian and for international users.

The Russian State Library has set forth the project on creation of the national meta-database on electronic resources, based on the Dublin Core format. This project has the objective of creating conditions for unification of main data about electronic resources and their further use in the process of cataloguing electronic resources by cataloguing agencies. This project deals not only with resources of the Internet, but also with those that can only be accessed locally.


The following actions have been taken for this objective:

  1. A draft Russian Dublin Core version was proposed, adapted for the Russian cataloguing rules and practices;

  2. Additional subfield of the Dublin Core field 8 "Resource Type", was introduced for the sake of identification locally accessible electronic resources, which enables to list the main system requirements for this resource: brand name and type of the computer and/or its number, the memory requirements, operation system, software and peripheral devices, as well as technical means.

  3. We are considering the problems of creation additional reference resources in the Internet metadata milieu that would serve as a guide for creators of electronic resources, when they are entering the data in the Dublin Core format.

By the present time, access can be provided to the machine-readable Russian Library and Bibliographic classification, to the subject headings Authority file, and to the individual authors Authority file. We will have to achieve agreements with the creators of the two authority files: the Russian National Library and the Russian Book Chamber, about conditions for the use of their data in the process of creation electronic resources metadata. So far, these products have not yet become accessible in the free Internet.

The most complicated part of this project will be creation of the legal mechanism that would define the status of the Russian meta-database on electronic resources as the new technological mechanism in the system of the state registration of electronic resources.

In this connection, it is very important to exchange the experience internationally for the sake of developing a single approach to the issue.

As we have said, there are other approaches to the problem of unification of the bibliographic resources, which are not all based on the Dublin Core. Still, we consider that the Dublin Core approach should be favored, because it is relatively simple and because it corresponds to basic Russian and international standards for bibliographic description.

We hope on support of specialists from other libraries of the world and on further joint work to develop the common information space and new opportunities to access electronic resources under the aegis of IFLA.


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