Metadata: Implications for Academic Libraries

By Yañez, Israel | Library Philosophy and Practice, October 2009 | Go to article overview

Metadata: Implications for Academic Libraries


Yañez, Israel, Library Philosophy and Practice


Introduction

This paper surveys the literature available on metadata and its implications for academic libraries. Definitions of metadata are offered. Metadata schemes are presented, including the scheme most prominently in use among academic libraries: Dublin Core. The paper examines the types of metadata projects prevalent in academic libraries, and the types of collections for which metadata is used. Implications beyond the technical aspects of metadata include organizational changes, and changes in roles and responsibilities necessary to implement projects involving the use and adoption of metadata. Also, implications for the skills set required of aspiring cataloging and metadata librarians are explored. Finally, this paper looks at the importance of undertaking metadata projects and the benefits for academic libraries in pursuing digital initiatives.

Almost every book and scholarly article on metadata includes a section dedicated to defining metadata. Caplan (2003) reminds us that while metadata is a term used in library science, it actually has its origins in computer science. The term metadata, as adopted by the computer science and library and information science field, simply means "data about data" (Greenberg, 2005).

Caplan further expands the definition, for her target librarian audience, as "structured information about an information resource or any media type or format" (2003, p.3). Other sources go a bit further adding the element of retrieval, use and management of an information resource to the concept of metadata (Understanding Metadata, 2004).

Miller (2004) offers a definition that seems to be aligned with FRBR's (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) user tasks of "find, select, identify and obtain" (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, 1998). Miller tells us that metadata is the "extra baggage" associated with a resource that aids a user in finding that resource (find); discover where, and by whom it was created (identify); decide whether the resource is of value to the user (select); and conclude whether there is feasible access to the resource (obtain).

While the most basic definition of metadata ("data about data") can be applied to traditional library metadata such as the information on the cards in a card catalog and the information in a bibliographic record displayed in an online public access catalog (OPAC), when metadata is mentioned today, it usually alludes to data that facilitates the description, discovery, and retrieval of networked electronic resources (Hudgins, Agnew, & Brown, 1999). And while AACR2 is a metadata standard (Smiraglia, 2005), when metadata standards and schemes are mentioned today, more than likely reference is being made to metadata schemes such as Government Information Locator Service (GILS), Encoded Archival Description (EAD), Text Encoding Initiative (TEI), or Dublin Core, to name several examples.

Major Metadata Schemes

GILS is a service used to locate and access information resources generated by federal agencies. The general public can search the GILS records for thirty-two federal agencies via the search interface offered at GPOAcess (Government Information Locator, 2007). EAD is an "extensible markup language (XML) Document Type Definition (DTD) and the international standard for XML encoding of finding aids" (McCrory & Russell, 2005, p.99). With EAD, one can create collection-level finding aids and individual cataloging records (Single Item Metadata) for resources in academic libraries' special collections (Hudgins, Agnew, & Brown, 1999). EAD is modeled on TEI. TEI is a well established DTD. It is extensively used in the digitizing of texts, such as literary works, ensuring standardization and facilitating the sharing of texts in library collections (Hudgins, Agnew, & Brown, 1999). TEI provides a set of guidelines which stipulate encoding methods for machine-readable texts, mostly in the humanities, social sciences and linguistics (TEI: Text Encoding, n. …

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