By Jeffrey Edmunds, Digital Access Coordinator at the Penn State University Libraries
The phrase “Open Access” evokes, for most of us, Open Access resources: OA books, OA articles, OA journals. Equally important however, and often overlooked, is the metadata describing them. The visibility and discoverability of Open Access resources depends in part on good metadata, and since OA materials fall outside the traditional workflows of libraries acquisitions and cataloging, they are frequently under-described. A lack of good metadata impedes their discovery and lessens their visibility in the scholarly communication ecosystem.
Metadata for Open Access books originates with publishers, who generally use a metadata format known as ONIX (ONline Information eXchange). To be useful for libraries, ONIX data needs to be transformed into MARC (MAchine Readable Cataloging), the international standard for the capture and exchange of bibliographic metadata. MARC records are then loaded into library discovery systems such as catalogs to facilitate search and retrieval of Open Access materials.
Unfortunately, the current ecosystem, just as it remains biased against Open Access resources (most academic libraries rely on a tiny number of large publishers and discovery providers for both their electronic resources, locked behind paywalls, and the systems to manage them), is also skewed against the free and open sharing of metadata.