I grew up in Canada. I was born here, went to school here, have travelled across the land, and I am happy here. I have believed the myths and lies about this country and I have struggled to be "Canadian."
The Canadian identity is in constant debate. In school it was easy to sum up the United States as a country defined by manifest destiny and the melting pot but in Canada it seemed we always had a slippery hold on who we are as a people. What does it mean to be Canadian?
Because some Canadians are celebrating 150 years of trying to define Canada as a nation, we challenged our BiblioShare database to discover Canada. How, you might ask, can a database discover a nation? And our answer would be: Well, if not by subjects, titles, or descriptions, then perhaps by keywords?
Creating a list of Canadian keywords
We created a list of what we thought were words that define some of what it means to be Canadian. We were running with the theme of Canada 150, so wanted to come up with 150 keywords — and the list quickly ballooned to 200. If you start down this road be aware that everyone has an opinion, which is a good thing. The debate regarding Canadian identity is strong and free and, uh, true? Countries are complex, to say the least, not to mention identity.
Culling keywords from books identified as Canadian-authored was our second approach. Canadian authors seem like a good source for discovering books about Canada, so the keywords used to describe their books should be useful, right?
Top 30 keywords pulled from Canadian-authored titles
|Rank||Keyword||No. of Titles|
For our final approach at sourcing keywords, we turned to the responses from our most recent consumer survey. We asked Canadian book buyers: "What do you think of when you read or hear the words 'Canadian books'?" While some of the answers were expected — "hockey," "maple syrup," "Indigenous peoples," "any books written by Canadian authors" — some were funny — "to be honest, not too interesting," "boring," "dull," "Kevin O'Leary" — and others were heart-warming — "Awesome I'm Canadian I love that people from Canada get to dive into their passion of writing," "Gritty, great books with not enough credit."
The most-used Canadian keywords
So now that we have all our keywords, what can we discover about Canada?
First off, we ran our long list of keywords against all 2.5 million titles in BiblioShare to see how many were being used. We found that 149 of them were being used on titles. That was so close to 150 that we were happy. On a whim, we threw in "Drake" to see if it would bring it up to 150 and it did!*
So we ran our final list of 150 keywords against all the titles in BiblioShare and the terms below were the most common.
Top 30 Canadian keywords across all titles
|Rank||Keyword||No. of Titles|
When we ran our keywords against only Canadian-authored titles, we got the following keyword ranking:
Top 30 Canadian keywords across all Canadian-authored titles
|Rank||Keyword||No. of Titles|
|23||Charter of Rights and Freedoms||26|
|30||Canadian Armed Forces||17|
BNC BiblioShare Most Canadian Book Award
Out of curiosity, we also decided to find and declare a winner for the inaugural BNC BiblioShare Most Canadian Book Award based on our hand-crafted criteria. The title had to:
- have a Canadian contributor;
- have a cover image;
- have a Canadian regional BISAC code (bonus points for a specific code, like Toronto, versus a more general one, like Ontario); and
- have a Thema geographical code that is Canadian (bonus points for a similarly specific use of Thema geographical code).
We then added a point for each of the keywords being used from our list of 150 Canadian terms. (We also subtracted a point if the title did not conform to keywords best practices. See below.)
And through this very non-committal, fairly unscientific, non-democratic process, we determined that the BNC BiblioShare Most Canadian Book Award winner, with a score of 12 (after losing a point for failing to follow keyword best practices) is Feasting and Fasting: Canada's Heritage Celebrations by Dorothy Duncan (Dundurn Press). Congratulations!
Feasting, Fasting, Canadian History, History of Canada, Food history, History of food, Celebrations, Canadian Celebrations, Celebrations in Canada, Food, History, Drink, Food and Drink, Holidays, Holiday, Canadian Holidays, Historic Holidays, Historic Food, Dorothy Duncan, Dorothy, Duncan, Jewish Holidays, Scottish Celebrations, Irish Celebrations, First Nations, First Nations Celebrations, First Nations Food, Maple Syrup, Spring, Fall, Autumn, Winter, Summer, Harvest, Thanksgiving, Halloween, All Saints Day, All Hallow's Eve, Passover, Easter, Christmas, St. Andrew's Day, St. David's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Purim, Hannukah, Secret Societies, L'Ordre Du Bons Temps, Sir John A. MacDonald, Valentine's Day, St. Valentine, Robbie Burns, Gung Hey Fat Choi, Chinese Celebrations, Chinese Holidays, Chinese New Year, Shrove Tuesday, Alcohol, Temperance Movement, Temperance Hotels, Bees, Cold water drinking societies, Mother's Day, Queen Victoria, Victoria Day, Picnics, PicNics, Rosh Hashanah , Yom Kippur, Guy Fawkes Day, Remembrance Day, Ste. Catherine's Day, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Canada, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Fish, Meat, Bread, Beer, Pemmican, Fur trade, Voyageurs, Coureurs de bois, Beaver, Channukah, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, Twelve Days of Christmas, Dominion Day, Canada Day, January, February, March, April, May , June, July, August, September, October, November, December, Labour Day, Depression, Great Depression, Canadian National Exhibition, non-fiction
BISG's Best Practices for Keywords in Metadata suggests a limit of 500 characters in the keyword field, which this title's record is well beyond. There are many keywords in this list that are simply restating data that is discoverable by other fields already associated with this title (e.g., "non-fiction, "Dorothy Duncan"). But that's all part of the fun of surviving in the wilderness that is keywords.
The Canadian keyword experience
So there you have Canada by the keywords. We hope we've cleared up the Canadian keyword experience, even if we maybe haven't brought us any closer to the Canadian identity. There's always the bicentennial. We'll see you back here then.
*In case you really want to know, these are all the ISBNs in BiblioShare using "Drake" as one of their keywords: