META – The Online Catalog of German-language Archives and Libraries of the Women’s and Lesbian Movements online

In November 2015, the umbrella organization of German-language archives and libraries of the Women’s and Lesbian Movements, i.d.a. launched their joint online catalog called META. META is the crowning achievement of years of hard work and networking – i.d.a was founded in 1994, having developed out of the meetings of German-language women’s and lesbian archives and libraries, which have been taking place since 1983. i.d.a. is an international network with members in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Italy. The idea for a common catalog was first pitched in 2006, and the past three years have been spent on the technical realization of the project. The catalog is currently in its Beta-phase and enables users to search the holdings of 30 of the 38 member institutions of i.d.a.

The META catalog reflects the diversity of the archives and libraries and their collections. As opposed to traditional archives, archives of the Women’s and Lesbian Movements usually have both archival and library holdings. META-users can search the holdings by institution, by document type as well as by numerous other criteria. The sixteen current document types provide insight into the diverse holdings of the i.d.a. members. Currently the user interface is only available in German, but the list of document types with accompanying symbols is easy to use, even with a language barrier. The affiliated libraries and archives have holdings in multiple languages, so a search can turn up results for non-German speakers and German speakers alike. Besides the usual library offerings such as books, articles and periodicals, META-users can search through files, papers, posters, photographs, postcards, music, data storage media and objects. Although for various reasons a large number of the institutions have not yet provided data entries for all holdings, a range of material from files from organizations of the First Wave of the Women’s Movement to articles on current feminist discourses and controversies can be found using the catalog.

META offers users various ways to search the holdings and find related items. META-users can do a general search or search by institution or document type only. When a user clicks on a book title, META not only provides the bibliographical information but also the articles appearing in the work, which in many cases are also individually cataloged and can be clicked on for further information. Contact information and opening hours for the institution holding the item is provided, and should more than one institution have the item in question, the other institutions with the identical item are also listed. Furthermore, when one institution uses keywords to further describe a book, but another institution with the same book does not, one will still find the book in both institutions using the keyword search. The multiplicity of keywords is not seen as a drawback, but rather as an advantage. By not forcing all institutions to conform to a specific format, META respects and reflects the diversity of its members and the specific focus of each institution. Furthermore, the keyword cloud reflects the feminist nature of the holdings, where terms like Women’s Movement, lesbians or gender roles are some of the terms with the greatest number of hits. Although some kinks need to be worked out and a certain amount of standardization of entries will take place, even in its Beta-version the META-catalog provides a user-friendly and feminist-minded tool to search the holdings of the i.d.a member institutions, increasing the visibility of women’s and lesbian archives and libraries and their holdings.

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