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Scope and Diffusion of National Presence in the Published Record

In recent years, the advent of big data and the tools and methodologies used to extract useful, actionable information from these data has transformed scholarly inquiry. One emerging transformation is the potential to characterize the cultural patterns and trends represented in a national presence in the published record. This work illustrates the concept of national presence, explains how this presence can be operationalized in library data and demonstrates how the data can be used to define patterns of analysis characterizing the general contours of a national presence and its diffusion worldwide.



Not Scotch But Rum: The Scope and Diffusion of the Scottish Presence in the Published Record by Brian Lavoie.

Kiwis in the Collection: The New Zealand Presence in the Published Record


Though the impact of data-intensive research methodologies has been most pronounced in social-science, these new analytical tools also have benefited the humanities. Literary scholar Franco Moretti coined the term "distant reading" to describe literature studies not based on "close" (i.e., human) reading, but computation analysis of massive digital aggregations to study topics such as lexicographical patterns or the distinctive features of certain literary genres. While these topics require full-text data, bibliographic descriptions that include metatdata identifying the author, publication information, subject, etc., allow other types of analysis. This present work uses the millions of bibliographic descriptions in the WorldCat database to identify and characterize the national presence in the published record. While no single aggregation of bibliographic data completely describes the published record, WorldCat is the best representation of the global library resource available, and therefore the closest approximation of the published record.


Analysis of a national presence in the published record illustrates how massive aggregations of bibliographic data can be used to conduct research on cultural patterns and trends. National libraries, as well as other memory institutions, would benefit from a view of national contributions to scholarship and culture reflected in the published record, given their mission to collect, make available, and preserve their country's cultural and intellectual heritage. The methodology and analysis described in this report would be of interest to cultural heritage institutions in any country interested in exploring a national presence in the published record in the context of collection development strategies, prioritization of digitization activities, and "gap analysis" for library collections, and would likely be of special interest to national libraries, academic institutions, and public libraries tasked with the responsibility to collect the intellectual and cultural contributions of a particular country.  The concept of a national presence in the published record is a valuable tool to benchmark the scope and diffusion of a country's literary, scholarly, and cultural heritage in an increasingly globalized information landscape.   


The first paper in this work uses Scotland as a case study for illustrating a national presence in the published record. The purpose of the case study is to demonstrate that:

  • the concept of a national presence can be operationalized in the form of a methodology operating on bibliographic data;
  • the methodology can be designed such that it can be re-purposed without significant modification to almost any country, with only minimal manual intervention

The concept of a national presence is defined and operationalized in WorldCat data through a methodology that emphasizes machine processing with minimal manual intervention. The Scottish national presence in the published record is extracted from the global library resource represented in WorldCat, and characterized along a variety of dimensions. In addition, library holdings data is used to track the international diffusion and impact of the Scottish national presence.

A follow-up report applies the same methodology to identify and analyze the New Zealand national presence in the published record.

    Most recent updates: Page content: 2014-10-13