The Evolving Elements and Uses of Metadata

January 14, 2014 by Darren

So it’s been quite a while since our last blog post. When we wrapped up #NaBloPoMo, we took a (well-deserved!) break. Then we were shut down for a little while over the holidays. But now we’re back with our first post of 2014, and it’s all about…

metadata bookMetadata!

Metadata has been used to organize and describe ideas as early as the 3rd Century BC, when the Pinakes system was used in the Library of Alexandria to keep track of roughly 500,000 manuscripts. At the time, metadata collected included the book’s title, the author’s name, his father’s name, his birthplace, his educational background, any teachers he studied under, and lastly, a brief biography. Sometimes they also recorded the first line of the work, a summary of its contents, and information about its origin. The manuscripts were then stored in separate rooms according to subject.

The librarians of Alexandria must’ve been onto something, because elements of the Pinakes system are still in use today, and were the norm for centuries.

Until the printing press.

Prior to the printing press, books were kept in libraries and monasteries and were more or less exclusive to the wealthy elite. But when the press created a boom of book production, and the number of books printed per year exploded, things started to change.

As books became more accessible, private presses flourished and demand grew. Printed catalogues were the most effective tool publishers had to get word out about their new and forthcoming titles. Libraries found themselves housing more books than ever before, and they came to rely on the likes of the Dewey Decimal System, subject headings, and specific rules for entering bibliographic data in order to organize their shelves. Information about publishers themselves came to be included in a book’s metadata as well.

In the 1970s—a newly computerized world—electronic record keeping and electronic transfer of bibliographic data influenced publishers and libraries. Libraries developed Online Public Access Systems for consumers, and publishers started using the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) to manage bibliographic data as well as their inventories for libraries and retailers. The data publishers stored electronically was relatively brief, since printed catalogues were still the primary vehicle to disseminate rich information about titles.

Then the internet showed up.

Websites like Amazon began their ascension, and for the first time consumers were interacting directly with publisher metadata. Thanks to new technologies like ONIX, which allowed for a streamlined standard for communication of data from publishers to distributors, metadata now includes rich descriptions of text crafted to speak directly to consumers. And as sites like Amazon and Google continue to craft more intelligent algorithms, metadata is being designed with discoverability and search engines in mind, to help titles stand out against the millions of other books published every year.

The elements and uses of metadata are still evolving for both libraries and publishers. But this short history solidifies efficient metadata, like title, author, subject and summary as being the most useful way to store and organize the ever-growing volume of published books in the world.

Come back next week to learn how the move from in-store to online bookselling has been further changing metadata post-1995.

#NaBloPoMo Highlights

November 30, 2013 by Darren

#NaBloPoMo has been pretty wild. This month we’ve blogged about the Kitchener-Waterloo area, our latest books, staff members here at WLU Press, the future of the scholarly book and our interdisciplinary Environmental Humanities series (to name a few!).

For the big finish today (and we’re all so sad to say goodbye) I dug through our archives to select some of my personal favourites. Here are the very best blog posts from #NaBloPoMo at WLU Press:

Blaire wrote this ode to the KW area. I’m pretty new around here myself so I got a kick out of this one.

Philip McTaggart, our Financial Administrator, reflects on spending a year in the life of academic publishing.

I wrote a profile on Lisa Quinn, our acquisitions editor.

Clare made this big connection between Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and one of our books.

She also wrote about Israel Unger’s celebration at the Senate earlier this month.

Jasmine Derr asked, “Does format mater?”

Dr. Cheryl Lousley contributed a spotlight on our Environmental Humanities series during University Press Week.

And lastly, for the aspiring novelists out there, I found three books of ours that can help you write your next (or your first) masterpiece.

We’re not going to stop blogging, but we will be toning the frequency down a bit. Thanks for following along, everyone!

Press Profile: Heather Blain-Yanke

November 29, 2013 by Darren

When Heather Blain-Yanke was first hired as a Layout Assistant, almost 40 years ago, WLU Press was known as Academic Publications and printed about 10 books a year. Today, she’s the Production and Editorial Projects Manager and oversees the 35-40 titles we now publish annually.

Heather’s seen big changes come to the publishing industry. Her earliest responsibilities included the laborious duty of printing out camera-ready copy, manually changing the typesets on the printer where different fonts and sizes were required. After revisions, she would use a light table and an x-acto knife to superimpose corrections onto the original script. And when it was finally ready for printing, she would have to individually inspect printer-supplied negatives for dust spots to make sure the finished product came out properly.

It isn’t hard to imagine why we only published 10 books a year.

Heather’s process has changed considerably since then. After a book is acquired, Heather launches workflows, monitors the editorial process, establishes budgets, manages freelance designers and compositors, and works with printers, juggling many deadlines along the way. When a book is ready for production, she supplies designers with cover design elements and suggestions. “There’s such a satisfaction when you see a book come into print,” she beams.

If this sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is.

As technology has evolved and enabled WLU Press to publish more and more books, Heather’s job has gotten more and more, well, crazy. “You learn quickly in this job that you have to be very organized,” she explains. One of her tricks? Perhaps counter-intuitively, Heather uses printed documents and schedules to keep herself organized. But most of all, she’s just one of those fast-thinking, fast-moving doers who knows what she likes when she sees it, and seems to be wired perfectly for the multi-tasking role she’s mastered. “I can talk fast,” she fires out, then catching herself, “I have a pretty busy brain.”

As our conversation wound down I asked Heather to select some of her favourite designs from our more recent books. Here’s what she said:




The Newfoundland Diaspora

Mapping the Literature of Out-Migration

Jennifer Bowering Delisle

“I love the cover design and the use of gloss spot varnish is a nice touch. The chapter opener design treatment has played off the dots on the cover, which I think is quite clever.”







Ornithologies of Desire

Ecocritical Essays, Avian Poetics, and Don McKay

Travis V. Mason

“It’s just a gorgeous cover design. I’d like to pet that bird. The interior design is very clean and tight.”






Avatar and Nature Spirituality

Bron Taylor

“I’m drawn to the beautiful colour of this book. It has a very calming effect.”






Heather’s busy brain gets its downtime after hours, when she likes to read fiction and spend time on her boat. Maybe her quirkiest quirk? Heather is a design and layout junkie who actually prefers her printed work sans serif. “It’s more modern,” she says.

Marketing Skills You Need to Make it in Publishing

November 28, 2013 by Darren

I recently read this Forbes article that lists the three skills you need to make it in the publishing industry, as overheard last week at the FutureBook conference in London.

The three skills:

  1. Understanding mark-up language
  2. Working with data
  3. Mastering workflow

But those aren’t the only skills you need…

I present the other list of necessary skills to make it (as a marketer) in (academic) publishing. The list you need to be on the inside to know:

Rule No.1: Smile! You’re in the publishing industry

But don’t let having your copy edited by a real copy editor do this to you

There are three essential types of meetings you must master:

1. Transmittal Meetings

1. Cover Meetings

3. Marketing Meetings

Your position on the “death of print books” is

Netgalley and Edelweiss are your new best friends

But there’s always a new opportunity somewhere out there…

And this should always be you when a new book comes out

BONUS: Establish dominance with Booksonix immediately, or
it will never respect you*








Vulcans, Earthlings and Marketing ROI Getting Finance, Marketing and Advertising onto the Same Planet David Rutherford and Jonathan Knowles

Vulcans, Earthlings and Marketing ROI
Getting Finance, Marketing and Advertising onto the Same Planet
David Rutherford and Jonathan Knowles

Think you’re ready to be a marketer? Read Vulcans, Earthlings and Marketing ROI by David Rutherford and Jonathan Knowles to learn how accountability applies to a marketer’s role in an organization.

“Every few years, business is galvanized by a new concept. Accountability is the latest idea in the spotlight. It’s a huge topic, and in the broadest sense embraces ethics, corporate governance, and all the issues spawned by the recent spate of business scandals. Vulcans, Earthlings and Marketing ROI deals with a more pragmatic aspect: the accountability behind the question ‘Are our investments in marketing and advertising sensible and successful, short and long term, from a business point of view?’”





*No lions were harmed in the making of this post.

The Memory Effect

November 27, 2013 by Clare

In April 2011 The Department of English and Film at Laurier welcomed international scholars for a conference titled Memory, Mediation, Remediation: An International Conference on Memory in Literature and Film, part of the celebration of Laurier’s 100 year anniversary. The conference was hugely successful, and WLU Press was there with many of our titles, especially those of our Life Writing series, the books of which draw heavily on memory in their narrative.

We’re thrilled to say that out of that conference came a book, The Memory Effect: The Remediation of Memory in Literature and Film, edited by Eleanor Ty and Russell Kilbourn, professors in Laurier’s Department of English and Film who also organized the conference. The book begins with an overview of the field, with an emphasis on the question of subjectivity. In separate sections, contributors examine literature and its relation to cultural memory; autobiography and life writing, especially those lives shaped by trauma and forgotten by history; cinema and its intimate and mutually constitutive relationship with memory and history; and individual and collective memory in the context of contemporary visual texts, at the crossroads of popular and avant-garde cultures.

The texts examined span the century, with one chapter examining British propaganda in the First World War and another looking at Dionne Brand’s latest book, Ossuaries. Visual media examined ranges from the 1940s film Casablanca, to Canadian Heritage Minutes on television, to contemporary series such as Tremé and Saving Grace.

The book can be purchased on our website or ordered from any bookseller, online or bricks and mortar. If you think you might use the book in your teaching, or review it for a publication, you can request a copy here.