The English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) is a union catalog and bibliography of everything printed between 1473 and 1800 in England and its former colonies or in the English language elsewhere.  Now more than 30 years old, the ESTC contains close to 500,000 records and millions of holdings from libraries around the world.  It is co-managed by the British Library and the Center for Bibliographical Studies and Research (CBSR) at the University of California, Riverside, and is freely searchable at

In the spring of 2011 the CBSR was awarded a planning grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to “redesign the ESTC as a 21st century research tool.”  Broadly speaking, the goal of this grant is to rethink what the ESTC is and does both to make the resource more usable to a broad spectrum of researchers and librarians and to harness the knowledge and input of those users to expand and refine ESTC data.  For the last nine months a planning committee has discussed what kinds of content and features a redesigned ESTC should contain.  This blog summarizes that committee’s recommendations.  I have attempted to organize these initial ideas for a redesigned ESTC thematically and place them in individual pages within this blog, which are accessible via the tabs above.

The planning committee welcomes and encourages feedback on our ideas from ESTC users.  This blog will remain active through April 20, 2012.  At the end of that period the planning committee will collect and evaluate user responses from this blog, many of which we hope will be incorporated into the scope of the redesigned ESTC.  Then this summer database and software designers will translate the proposals for a redesigned ESTC into  a database blueprint and will prepare a roadmap for development.  Those documents will form the basis for future grant applications to implement the proposals from this planning period.

Please support this effort to rethink the future of the ESTC by commenting on the following pages and taking the brief survey at the end of the blog.  Your feedback is critical.  From the entire planning committee, thank you for your contributions to this project.

– Brian Geiger, Director, CBSR

Committee Members: Ray Siemens, Merrilee Proffitt, Benjamin Pauley, Carl Stahmer, David Gants, David Vander Meulen, Kristian Jensen, Luis Baquera, Manon Theroux, Iris O’Brien, Ann McDermott, Rachel Stockdale


6 responses to “Introduction

  1. Renae Satterley

    One of the aspects of ESTC that I appreciate the most is the ease and simplicity of its design. Yes, it is old-fashioned, but it works exceedingly well. It is easy to navigate, easy to search, and easy to view records in MARC format. As a daily user of ESTC, I would hate to see this ease-of-use disappear in favour of “21st century” technology. Too often, people jump on the Web 2.0 bandwagon without understanding the fundamentals of good web and database design.

    An important feature which is currently lacking from ESTC is a way to submit unrecorded items. The only I have found is through email, which is time consuming for both sides. Another feature which I would find useful is integration with digitised items. The links that Gallica provides between a digitized item and its catalogue record is invaluable. The links between ISTC records and digitized items is another good example of this practice.

    • Valerie Fairbrass

      Strongly second the comment about rush to Web 2.0 solutions. Avoid unless it truly improves. Look at British Library’s Explore as an example of an update that fails to improve on predecessor.

  2. 1. ESTC needs to face up to a bad decision to exclude all engraved music. Single song sheets (like 17th-c broadsides) would ruin the budget, but substantial items need to be there. I’d much respect the input of David Hunter (Univ. of Texas, and formerly on the ESTC staff).
    2. What’s old-fashioned about the design?

  3. Lenore Rouse

    ESTC is my “go-to” place for disambiguating records that are unclear in the bibliographic utilities; it is authoritative, easy to search, and of enormous value to librarians and scholars. I’m proud to have been a part of ESTC as an undergrad intern back when this database was getting off the ground in the 1980s, and I applaud the decision to make ESTC a publicly-accessible product. (Thank you B.L.!) I strongly second everything said about the inadvisability of tampering with the design. I’ve seen too many good bibliographic records turned into irretrievable hash in the effort to dumb them down in Web 2.0. I don’t want to
    search ESTC and get a response like : “did you mean….?” or “[heart] add to favorites” or “be the first to tag this record”. Please don’t “fix’ what isn’t broken.

    That said, my only suggestion would be to find a way to streamline submissions of new records. In a one-person shop like mine, I’m lucky to have time to catalog in OCLC. No time anymore to send separately to ESTC. Maybe Mellon could find an efficient way to scour OCLC for new records that are not in ESTC.

  4. Amanda Bernstein

    I first began to seriously use ESTC when my institution took part in the Britain in Print project a few years ago. Now I consult it every day. I find it easy to use, intuitive and straight-forward. Some of the records on there from 1701 to 1800 are not as thorough as they could be, but if experienced rare books librarians could contribute easily, then the records could easily be brought up to standard.

  5. Pingback: Big Data in Early America: Bibliometrics and The North American Imprints Program (NAIP) |

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s