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MetaDoor: a new bibliographic service for libraries to be offered by Ex Libris

Library Technology Newsletter [Jun 2022]


Ex Libris, part of Clarivate, is developing a new metadata platform for libraries, branded as MetaDoor. This new platform will differ from existing bibliographic utilities. Instead of building a massive repository of bibliographic records, the service is based on indexing and artificial intelligence technologies to identify records residing in the integrated library systems or library services platforms of participating institutions that can be shared with other libraries for copy cataloging or record enhancement.


MetaDoor is currently in the design and development phase. Following its routine practices for new products, Ex Libris has engaged several development partners that provide advice and assistance with its design and functional expectations. Presentations about MetaDoor so far have been made primarily to Ex Libris customers and not to the broader library community.

Some of the development partners working with Ex Libris for MetaDoor publicly mentioned include:

  • University of Minnesota
  • Southern Methodist University
  • Brandeis University
  • University of Delaware
  • Swiss Library Services Platform
  • National Library of Israel
  • Washington Research Library Consortium
  • Florida Gulf Coast University
  • University of Tennessee Chattanooga

Ex Libris has not yet officially announced details about the product, such as its planned launch date.

Peer-to-Peer Bibliographic Ecosystem

One of the well-established models for copy cataloging relies on the Z39.50 search and retrieval protocol. This model enables a cataloger using a Z39.50 client to search and retrieve records from any ILS implementation with a Z39.50 server component. Though pragmatic, this peer-to-peer approach based on individual Z39.50 sessions can be inefficient since a cataloger may have to search multiple targets to find a suitable record. Typical targets include national libraries, major university or public libraries, as well as others with specialized collections. MetaDoor, in contrast, will use indexes to enable access to all participating collections at once, resulting in dramatically improved speed and efficiency.

MetaDoor will operate as a peer-to-peer or community-based record exchange service. The platform indexes the bibliographic records of the participating institutions and assigns scores to each record representing its completeness and quality. These indexes and algorithms comprise the infrastructure for a bibliographic ecosystem that can be accessed through a web interface or integrated within the Alma cataloging environment. Ex Libris will provide APIs to enable libraries to develop custom tools and other vendors to integrate MetaDoor into their products.

Scope of metadata addressed

MetaDoor will initially leverage the collections of libraries using the Alma library services platform that choose to share their bibliographic records. Key sources for the service include national libraries, participating institutions contributing their local records, and metadata available in the Alma Community Zone.

The 2,322 libraries using Alma rely on an aggregate total of 1.2 billon bibliographic records to manage their collections and power their catalogs or discovery services. Many records will exist for any given title among the collections of libraries participating in MetaDoor. Across all Alma implementations, there are currently about 275 million unique titles. These records, typically reside in the Local Zone of a library or the Network Zone of a consortium.

MetaDoor will draw on this massive pool of bibliographic data as libraries opt to enable the service to share all or portions of their records. MetaDoor uses a scoring algorithms to help catalogers select the best version when there are multiple records available.

Centralized Cataloging Services

The peer-to-peer approach embraced by MetaDoor contrasts with centralized cataloging services such as the OCLC Cataloging and Metadata Subscription Service or SkyRiver from Innovative, another Clarivate business. Many national and regional libraries also offer centralized bibliographic services for libraries within their domain.

Beyond the Alma Community Zone

The data model of Alma includes a Community Zone that provides records for print and electronic resources as a shared resource and can be used by any library using the platform. Groups of libraries implementing Alma together can also share records through a Network Zone allocated for their consortium. While MetaDoor includes the Community Zone, these records are already easily accessible to libraries using Alma. More importantly, the service enables libraries to share Local or Network Zone records. Any library participating in MetaDoor can choose whether to share all their records, or to exclude specific categories or collections.

Cataloging Workflows

Ex Libris will offer a web interface for MetaDoor, where catalogers can search, select, and download records. The web interface presents a search box that responds to title, author, ISBN queries and returns one or more records, giving precedence to those with the highest MetaDoor score and that matches the preferences configured. A downloaded record can then be uploaded into the library's cataloging module or editor.

Prototype of MetaDoor interface
Prototype of MetaDoor web interface

The Alma cataloging environment has been extended to take advantage of MetaDoor functionality. These workflow tools handle copy cataloging and record enhancement.

Catalogers using Alma will be able to use MetaDoor as an option to obtain bibliographic records for new items added to the collection. For libraries that create or load brief records upon acquisition, MetaDoor can enrich that placeholder with more robust record. Enrichment can be performed manually, where the cataloger selects a specific record among those recommended by MetaDoor. New acquisitions can also be enriched in bulk through automated processes, where brief records are enhanced or replaced according to the highest score and configured preferences.

Any preferences for specific types or quality levels of records desired can be configured through an Import Profile. Characteristics of interest may include the source of the record and the completeness of specific MARC fields. Those cataloging scores or recordings, for example, would be able to give preference to records originating from a music library.

These workflows illustrate the general vision for MetaDoor. The initial set of capabilities planned for MetaDoor is still in the development phase.

Record Governance

Ex Libris asserts no ownership of the records addressed by MetaDoor. It is based on existing records in library collections and the library retains ownership and custody. Records are not modified in the originating system when shared via MetaDoor. Libraries receiving records through MetaDoor can make modifications as they are added to the local catalog. Libraries participating in MetaDoor designate any license types associated with the records they share, including Creative Commons licenses such as CC0 (public domain) or CC-BY-NC (attribution to source, noncommercial use).

Linked Data Possibilities

The vision for MetaDoor includes the use of BIBFRAME and other linked data structures to enhance discoverability of library collections. These capabilities have not yet been fully articulated or developed.

Business Model

Ex Libris plans to offer MetaDoor as an included component for libraries using Alma and as a free service to those using other systems. A web interface will be available to any library to select and download records. APIs will be offered so that other system vendors can integrate MetaDoor into their cataloging modules or clients.


Presentations created by Ex Libris staff are publicly available that describe the concepts and planned capabilities of MetaDoor.

Ex Libris presentation on MetaDoor
Mar 23, 2022

Ex Libris has not yet released official information about MetaDoor to the press or the broader library community. Since the product has received recent attention, this article provides an early look at this planned product.

[Return to issue: Jun 2022]
View Citation
Publication Year:2022
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Library Technology Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 1 Number 06
Issue:Jun 2022
Publisher:Library Technology Guides
Place of Publication:Nashville, TN
Subject: OCLC vs Clarivate
Record Number:27423
Last Update:2024-04-19 20:51:06
Date Created:2022-06-20 14:38:37