Use of handles at the national agricultural library
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Use of Handles at the National Agricultural Library. “Getting a Handle on Federal Information: Persistent Identification Using Handles—a CENDI Workshop” Sherry L. Davids January 29, 2003. Today’s Discussion. Background Why Handles? How we use Handles Maintaining Handles Conclusion.

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Use of handles at the national agricultural library

Use of Handles at the National Agricultural Library

“Getting a Handle on Federal Information: Persistent Identification Using Handles—a CENDI Workshop”

Sherry L. Davids

January 29, 2003

Today s discussion
Today’s Discussion

  • Background

  • Why Handles?

  • How we use Handles

  • Maintaining Handles

  • Conclusion


In early 2001, NAL began to become aware of the need to incorporate metadata into digital objects:

  • to facilitateretrievability of those objects

  • to facilitate creation of bibliographic recordsfor those objects.


  • A task force, consisting of representatives from each of the Library’s three divisions, was formed; and the NAL Metadata Element Set was developed.

  • In July of 2001, the NAL Metadata Element Set was officially approved by the NAL Management Team.

  • From that point on, NAL staff were required to incorporate metadata into all digital objects that they created, including both original documents and digitized versions of publications formerly available only in print.


The NAL Metadata Element Set is based on the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set and can be accessed at:

Why handles
Why Handles?

  • At the same time the Metadata Task Force was working to develop the NAL Metadata Element Set, the question of providing permanent access to NAL-created electronic resources arose.

  • A second task force was formed to look into problem, and after extensive research we narrowed the possible solutions to two:

    - Handles

    - PURLS

Why handles1
Why Handles?


  • Developed by the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI)

  • Being used by DTIC and DOD and was being considered by other CENDI and FLICC libraries

  • Handles were an implementation of URNs; they were location independent

  • CNRI would allow us to register up to 5,000 names on their server at no cost - this was attractive to us, especially at the beginning phase

  • If NAL were to decide to run our own handle server at some later time, the change would be easy to accomplish

    • the only change needed would be to make would be to make an entry in the naming authority register

Why handles2
Why Handles?

PURLS (Persistent Uniform Resource Locators)

  • Developed by OCLC (Online Computer Library Center, a global library cooperative that serves more than 42,000 libraries around the world)

  • Intended (at least initially) to be a short-term, partial solution to the resource-naming problem

  • Not location independent

  • Rumors (at the time) that OCLC was going to discontinue supporting PURLS

Why handles3
Why Handles

NAL decided that Handles best suited our needs

Use of handles at nal
Use of Handles at NAL


The NAL Metadata Template(online fill-in form) was developed to facilitate metadata creation by NAL staff. Staff members must register and obtain a password in order to access the template

Use of handles at nal1
Use of Handles at NAL


Use of handles at nal2
Use of Handles at NAL


Use of handles at nal3
Use of Handles at NAL


  • A key metadata element is the “NAL Identifier.” This identifier is a unique combination of letters and numbers assigned to every electronic resource created by NAL staff. The NAL identifier is automatically generated when metadata is created using NAL’s online template (fill-in form).

  • Example of an NAL Identifier:


Use of handles at nal4
Use of Handles at NAL

The Identifier becomes part of the Handle.

Resolves to url
Resolves to URL


Use of handles at nal5
Use of Handles at NAL

  • The Process:

    • NAL staff member creates a digital object

      • New resource

      • Digitized version of print resource

    • Create metadata for the object using the NAL metadata template

    • “Submit” the template

Use of handles at nal6
Use of Handles at NAL

When the metadata is “submitted,” four things happen:

1. HTML Metadata tags are generated which can be copied and pasted directly into the electronic resource

Use of handles at nal7
Use of Handles at NAL

NAL Metadata Tags

<TITLE> "Who Will Pay for On-Farm Environmental Improvements in the 21st Century?" </TITLE>

<META content="Dublin Core Metadata Template (NAL Metadata)">

<META name=NAL.Title content="Who Will Pay for On-Farm Environmental Improvements in the 21st Century?">

<META name=NAL.Creator Scheme="PersonalName" content="Clark, Andy">

<META name=NAL.Creator Scheme="PersonalName" content="Gagnon, Stuart R.">

<META name=NAL.Subject.Keyword content="agricultural economics">

<META name=NAL.Subject.NAL Thesaurus content="agricultural economics">

Use of handles at nal8
Use of Handles at NAL

<META name=NAL.Description content=""Agriculture in the United States has historically produced a food supply that is relatively inexpensive.” That benefits our society. However, agriculture, like other land uses, can have negative impacts on the natural environment. That detracts from our quality of life. To counter this, many people are working toward the goal of protecting the environment while maintaining the agricultural producer's ability to operate a viable enterprise that provides an adequate standard of living, contributes to the community and produces high quality, affordable food."">

<META name=NAL.Publisher content="National Agricultural Library">

<META name=NAL.Date.Created content="2000-05-11" Scheme="ISO8601">

<META name=NAL.Date.Issued content="2000-04-00" Scheme="ISO8601">

<META name=NAL.Date.Modified content="2001-08-15" Scheme="ISO8601" >

Use of handles at nal9
Use of Handles at NAL

<META name=NAL.Resource.Availability content="No Guarantee">

<META name=NAL.Type content="Text">

<META name=NAL.Content.Stability content="Permanence Not Guaranteed">

<META name=NAL.Format content="text/html">

<META name=NAL.Identifier content="" Scheme="URL" >

<META name=NAL.Identifier.NAL content="">

<META name=NAL.Source content="SRB 2000-01" Scheme="Free text" >

<META name=NAL.Language content="eng">

<META name=NAL.Coverage.Jurisdiction content="united states">

<META name=NAL.Rights content="Public Domain">


Use of handles at nal10
Use of Handles at NAL

  • The metadata record is deposited in a MySQL database maintained at NAL

  • The Handle is registered with CNRI

  • An e-mail message is sent to NAL’s technical services staff notifying them that metadata has been created.

Use of handles at nal11
Use of Handles at NAL

The e-mail message:

  • Alerts Technical Services staff that a digital object has been created.

  • Contains the metadata for the object, which provides TSD staff with enough information to enable them to search AGRICOLA (AGRICultural OnLine Access, a bibliographic database of citations to the agricultural literature created by the National Agricultural Library and its cooperators) to determine whether a bibliographic record for the resource already exists.

Use of handles at nal13
Use of Handles at NAL

  • If a record already exists, it will be modified by adding the following information:

    • if the bib record is for the print version of the resource, a note will be added saying that an electronic version of the resource is available and the Handle will be added to the record

    • If the bib record is for the electronic version of the resource, the cataloger will replace the URL with the Handle

  • If no bibliographic record for the item exists, the item will be cataloged and added to AGRICOLA

Use of handles at nal14
Use of Handles at NAL

Modified Bibliographic Record for a Print Resource now available electronically:

2 070 0 aS21.D27 #b S64 no. 2000-01

3 072 0 E100

4 074 0095-A-03

5 086 0 A 17.24:2000-01

6 090 S441 #b .W49 2000

7 090 #b

8 049 AGLL

9 245 00 Who will pay for on-farm environmental improvements in the 2lst century? : #b a resource guide / #c Compiled by Andy Clark ... [et al.].

10 246 3 Who will pay for on farm environmental improvements in the 2lst century

11 260 Beltsville, Md. : #b USDA, ARS, National Agricultural Library, #c [2000]

12 300 63 p. : #b ill. ; #c 28 cm.

Use of handles at nal15
Use of Handles at NAL

13 490 1 Special reference briefs series, #x 1052-536X ; #v SRB 2000-01

14 500 Shipping list no.: 2000-0261-P.

15 500 "April 2000."

16 500 Includes index.

17 530 Also available via remote access.

18 650 0 Sustainable agriculture #z United States #v Bibliography.

18 650 0 Sustainable agriculture #z United States #v Bibliography.

19 650 0 Sustainable agriculture #z United States #x Computer network resources.

20 650 0 Agriculture #x Environmental aspects #z United States #x Finance #x Computer network resources.

21 650 0 Agricultural pollution #z United States #v Bibliography.

23 700 1 Clark, Andy.

24 710 2 National Agricultural Library (U.S.)

25 830 0 Special reference briefs ; #v NAL-SRB. 2000-01.

26 856 41 #u

Use of handles at nal16
Use of Handles at NAL


Currently, the process of creating new bibliographic records from metadata is a semi-automatic process:

- The cataloger copies the URL from the metadata contained in the e-mail message and copies it into OCLC’s Connexion (cataloging interface)

Use of handles at nal18
Use of Handles at NAL

- Connexion program extracts the metadata from the resource and creates a preliminary bibliographic record

Use of handles at nal20
Use of Handles at NAL

  • The cataloger “cleans up” the preliminary record, referring to the metadata in the e-mail message asnecessary

  • The cataloger adds the Handle to the bibliographic record

Use of handles at nal21
Use of Handles at NAL

We have had preliminary talks with OCLC about developing a procedure to export the NAL metadata records directly to Connexion, which would create the bibliographic records from the metadata and deposit the records directly into the Connexion database

Use of handles at nal22
Use of Handles at NAL

The completed bibliographic record is exported to AGRICOLA from Connexion.

Use of handles at nal23
Use of Handles at NAL

NAL customers search the AGRICOLA site for the resources they require. Records for resources in electronic form for which we have created metadata will contain a Handle; all the customer need do is click on the Handle to retrieve the resource.

Use of handles at nal24
Use of Handles at NAL

Any item to which NAL has assigned a handle can also be retrieved from the CNRI site:

in the text box fill in the handle (NAL’s ID and the identification number)


Maintaining handles
Maintaining Handles

- NAL staff are required to inform the Cataloging Branch whenever the URL of a resource to which a handle has been assigned

- Cataloging branch staff edit the records in NAL’s MySQL database and also in the CNRI Handle system so that the Handle will continue to resolve to the resource


  • It has been a lengthy process

  • - to develop the metadata element set for NAL

  • - to develop the identifier system

  • - to research and select a naming system

  • - to educate staff as to the importance of metadata and Handles

  • - to educate staff on how to create metadata

  • registering metadata creators

  • to maintain records in the MySQL database and the CNRI repository when a URL for a resource

  • changes


However, we feel that the effort has been well worth it because:

- Electronic resources created by NAL staff have increased accessibility

- through bibliographic records in AGRICOLA

- through OCLC’s Connexion

-through CNRI

- through standard search engines because of the metadata embedded in them


- Bibliographic records containing URLs for electronic resources have to be modified every time a URL changes.

- Bibliographic records containing Handles will not have to be edited when a resource moves to a different directory or server or is renamed.

Contact Information:

Sherry L. Davids

National Agricultural Library


[email protected]