Monthly Archives: February 2012
Posted by lfrankel9
Goodreads is a social networking site for book readers, but I have seen it characterized as a social cataloging site. The main purpose of Goodreads is the formation of connections between members based on their reading preferences. Yet another important function of Goodreads is the cataloging of members’ books on virtual shelves. Since members can examine each other’s shelves and compare books, cataloging facilitates the social networking aspect. There is a subset of volunteers that maintain the database who are called “librarians”, but any Goodreads member can enter a record for a book that isn’t found in search. A surprising number of members who aren’t Goodreads librarians are concerned about the accuracy of the metadata. They post to the group for Goodreads librarians asking for the titles, authors, formats, numbers of pages, publication dates and ISBNs to be corrected. They are concerned about differentiation of editions as well.
When Amazon recently ended its relationship with Goodreads , Amazon’s metadata could no longer be used. Although Goodreads did eventually establish a relationship with Ingram, Goodreads librarians were called upon to assist in finding alternate metadata sources. The current Goodreads policy is that users can only enter data from books in hand, or from libraries, publishers or author’s websites. As a Goodreads librarian, I worked to recover data for books that I and my Goodreads friends had shelved.
During this transition to Ingram’s metadata, concern over missing information in records has become very prevalent on Goodreads. There has been an increase in applications to become Goodreads librarians.
I mention all of this because there is an ongoing discussion on RDA-L, a listserv devoted to the discussion of RDA, on whether library users really care about metadata. Based on my experience of Goodreads, it seems to me that many do care. Professional library catalogers definitely are not alone in the metadataverse.
One of the stated purposes of RDA is to allow for metadata sharing in a linked data environment. The wide realms of metadata producers and users outside of libraries is being considered in the RDA development process.
Goodreads has been using Library of Congress name authorities for disambiguation purposes for as long as Goodreads librarians have existed. Worldcat is often utilized by these Goodreads volunteers to confirm the accuracy of user provided data. There has always been a strong link between Goodreads and the world of libraries. They are clearly an example of exactly the sort of non-library entity that RDA is intended to benefit. So an examination of how Goodreads utilizes metadata, and the metadata needs of its users should be relevant to any discussion of whether ordinary users really care about metadata.