A measure of metadata improvement in the UNT Libraries Digital Collections

The Portal to Texas History is working with the Digital Public Library of America as a Service Hub for the state of Texas.  As part of this work we are spending time working on a number of projects to improve the number and quality of metadata records in the Portal.

We have a number of student assistants within the UNT Libraries who are working to create metadata for items in our system that do not have complete metadata records.  In doing so we are able to make these items available to the general public.  I thought it might be interesting to write a bit about how we are measuring this work and showing that we are in fact making more content available.

What is a hidden record?

We have to kinds of records that get loaded into our digital library systems.  Records that are completely fleshed out and “live” and records that are minimal in nature and serve as a placeholder until the full record is created.  The minimal records almost always go into the system in a hidden state while the full records are most often loaded unhidden or published. There are situations where we load these full records into the system as hidden records but that is fairly rare.

How many hidden records?

When we started working on the Service Hubs project with DPLA we had 39,851 metadata records in the system that were hidden out of a total of 754,944 total metadata records.  This is about 5% of the records in the system in a hidden state.  

Why so many?

There are a few different categories that we can sort our hidden records into.  We have items that are missing full metadata records.  This accounts for the largest percentage of hidden records.  We also have records that belong to partner institutions around the state which most likely will never be completed because something on the partners end fell through before the metadata records were completed,  we generally call these orphaned metadata records.  We have items that for one reason or another are marked as “duplicate” and are waiting to be purged from the access system.  Finally we have items that are in an embargoed state in the system either because the rights owner for the item has an access embargo on the items, or because we haven’t been able to fully secure rights for the items yet.  Together this makes all of the hidden items in our system.  Unfortunately we currently don’t have a great way of differentiating between these different kinds of hidden record.

How are you measuring progress?

One of the metrics that we are using to establish that we are in fact reducing the number of hidden items in the system over time is to track the percentage of hidden records to total records in the system over time.  This gives us a way to show that we are making progress and continuing to reduce the ratio of hidden to unhidden records in the system.  The following table shows the current data we’ve been collecting for this since August 2014.

Date Total Hidden Percent Hidden
2014-08-04 754,944 39,851 5.278669676
2014-09-02 816,446 43,238 5.295879948
2014-10-14 907,816 38,867 4.281374199
2014-11-05 937,470 44,286 4.723991168
2014-12-14 1,014,890 41,264 4.065859354
2015-01-11 1,053,607 42,514 4.035090883

You see that even though we’ve had a few rises between the months we’ve been moving overall in a downward trend in the number of records that are hidden versus unhidden.  The dataset that is updated each month is available as a Google Drive Spreadsheet.

There are several projects that we have loaded in a hidden state over the past few months including over 7,000 Texas Patent records, 1,200 Texas State Auditors Reports and 3,000 photographs from a personal photograph collection.  These were all loaded in a hidden state which explains the large jumps in numbers.

Areas to improve.

One of the things that we have started to think about (but don’t have any solid answers) is a way of classifying the different states that a metadata record can have in our system so that we can have a better understanding of why items are hidden vs not hidden.  We recognize our simple hidden or unhidden designation is lacking.  I would be interested in knowing how others are approaching this sort of issue and if there is some sort of existing work to build upon.  If there is something out there do get in touch and let me know.