25 years, 60 staff, one Scotland’s digital success stories – 2020 is a year to celebrate BDS, supplier of metadata and web services to the book trade across the UK and internationally.
On 1 February 1995, Bibliographic Data Services Limited (BDS) commenced trading. The principle objective of the company was to supply metadata to libraries for UK publishing.
As Managing Director, Lesley Whyte, said 25 years to the day later, at an event held to mark the anniversary, “Tonight is about celebrating the people, past and present, who have contributed to the success of BDS: our advisors, our customers, our suppliers, but most of all, our staff. Thanks to their talent, vision, dedication and professionalism, we have created services that have transformed our industry.”
BDS was a digital disruptor before the term was commonly used. The internet offered the opportunity for speedy data exchange at distance, replacing existing slow and manual processes. As a start-up, BDS was free to innovate and devise services that replaced traditional models. It meant that libraries could achieve savings by purchasing metadata to order and catalogue stock.
Credibility and Growth
BDS quickly gained custom, notably with the British Library where it won the contract to supply metadata for the Catalogue in Publication Programme, which it has held ever since. The contract gave BDS’s service credibility and announced the company’s arrival to a worldwide audience as a supplier of English language metadata for libraries.
As custom grew so success was built upon investment in staff numbers and training, and in systems and hardware. To this day these are key to the success of BDS.
However, flexibility towards a changing market has also been a major feature in enabling BDS to grow and prosper.
A Changing Industry
In 2002, a plan to introduce a licensing scheme was introduced after consultations with customers, stakeholders, industry bodies and professional representatives.
The success of the licensing scheme transformed the company. The cost to individual subscribers is modest, and the service important, so, today, all local authorities subscribe to the service. This allowed the company to invest further in products and services to meet library requirements.
The Total Entertainment Database
A series of acquisitions, including film metadata aggregator Parafax in 2002, the music records from Entertainment UK in 2008, and a further deal with a supplier of computer games metadata, allowed BDS to form the “total entertainment database”.
Expansion continued with the purchase of Ehaus in 2004, a company which provided websites to publishers, and Weesleekit, a design company, in 2011. These companies were amalgamated into the trading division BDSDigital in 2016.
Strengthening its relationship with publishers and the book trade further, BDS invested in a daily e-zine, BookBrunch in 2011. The technology on which BookBrunch runs is supplied by BDSDigital.
Relationships and Maintaining Standards
BDS works closely with publishers, the key source of the metadata that BDS produces.
When the company began, this information was supplied on paper. Today, almost all source metadata is supplied electronically, to which the company adds value, and delivers daily to customers. This migration from physical to digital has also allowed the collection of digital information, including digital identifiers for books, film, music and computer games.
Also vital to the continued success of BDS is maintaining a close working relationship professional bodies and organisations such as CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library Professionals), BASE (British Association for Screen Entertainment) and FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft).
BDS contributes expertise and staff to assist with the development and maintenance of international metadata standards on committees such as those convened for RDA (Resource, Description, Access) and EDUG (European Dewey User Group) and CIG (Cataloguing and Index Group), as well as BIC (Book Industry Communication).
Through these associations, BDS not only keeps abreast of all the latest developments in metadata theory and creation but also plays an active role in determining its direction in the future.
BDS prides itself on its professional and ethical approach to work. Customer service is given the highest priority. Emphasis is placed on staff training in “the BDS Method”, and all staff, both in the Data and Digital divisions, become expert practitioners in their field.
However, it is not all work and no play. BDS has been active in its sponsorship of cultural, social and educational projects, including seven successive seasons of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre company performing in the grounds of The Crichton, where the BDS offices are situated.
It has also sponsored Waltham Forest, the London Borough of Culture in 2019, Absolute Classics, a Dumfries and Galloway classical music festival and Cash for Kids, a Scottish initiative to raise funding to assist children’s charities, as well as the Da Vinci Challenge, an international educational project for students, for which BDSDigital also provided the website.
BDS works closely with the universities of Glasgow and West of Scotland and has sponsored projects, undertaken guest lectureships, mentored students and employed graduates of these institutions.
In its 25-year history, BDS has demonstrated remarkable tenacity and ingenuity, developing services that become vital to its customers and their success and it plans to continue doing so far into the future.