Tim Sherratt

Sharing recent updates and work-in-progress

Jan 2022

Zotero support in Australian GLAMs

Last year I started compiling information about the level of Zotero integration provided by Australian GLAM organisations though their online collections. The basic test is, can Zotero capture useful, structured information about an item from the collection interface. The results are not great.

Zotero extracts information from a web site using a variety of 'translators'. Some of these translators look for generic information embedded in a web page, such as <TITLE> and <META> tags. Others are written to work with widely-used software systems, such as library catalogues. For bespoke systems, custom translators can be created to extract the necessary data. But sometimes, the data just isn't available in a form Zotero can access.

So in the results spreadsheet you'll notice that the National Archives of Australia's RecordSearch database works with Zotero. This is because I created a custom translator for it many years ago. There's also a custom translator for Trove's digitised newspapers, but the translator for other parts of Trove was broken by the site's upgrade in 2020.

A number of the results note that Zotero support is 'limited'. This usually means that Zotero can get a title and a url, and maybe a description. This basic metadata is often embedded in pages for use by social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, but Zotero can also grab it. The absolute very least you might expect from a GLAM organisation is to make sure this sort of basic metadata is embedded in every page, but as you can see by all the red in the results table, even this is missing from many online collections. Libraries used to champion the use of Dublin Core metadata in web pages, and Australian government agencies were expected to make use of AGLS to aid web discovery. But it seems these are no longer priorities.

The good news is we can fix this, either by supporting and encouraging GLAM organisations to embed useful metadata, or by creating custom translators. There's been a lot of talk about HASS research infrastructure over the last six months, and it seems to me that some integration and cooperation in this area would make a big difference to the way researchers work with GLAM collections.

There's an online form available if you'd like to contribute new results to the spreadsheet, or update existing details.