Summary of MDG session, 11-27-07

* Written by Jenn Riley *

The first meeting of the IUB Metadata Discussion Group seems to have been an unqualified success. Although we held the session in a room with the largest seating capacity in the Wells Library, we still had to turn some people away. My apologies go out to those who wanted to attend but were unable to because of space. By our next session, a second door should be installed in the room which will raise its legal maximum capacity. Thank you to all who attended, and who tried to.

The article for discussion this month was:

Gilliand, Anne J. “Setting the Stage.” In Introduction to Metadata: Pathways to Digital Information, ed. Murtha Baca. Online edition, version 2.1. Available from http://www.getty.edu/research/conducting_research/standards/intrometadata/setting.pdf

The group used the general principles outlined in the article to discuss the role of metadata in libraries and their technical services departments. Participants appreciated the breadth and high-level focus of the article, but expressed an interest in balancing this approach with more practical approaches in future meetings. The difficulty of describing the concept of “metadata” in any succinct way was noted by participants.

Two features of the article were brought out in discussion: the thought of metadata as something that grows and changes over time, and the fact that “lay” metadata is important in addition to “expert” metadata.

Regarding the continued accrual of metadata over the lifecycle of an object, the group discussed the potential effects on copy cataloging of this need, noted that WorldCat Local could play a part in this, and postulated that one of the roles of a technical services department could be the adding to of metadata records over time.

The concepts of “Lay” vs. “Expert” metadata, not surprisingly, generated a good deal of discussion. No participant voiced the sometimes-heard opinion that metadata from lay sources such as users, publishers, etc. (including user reviews, sales data, tagging of images, etc.) had no place in the library environment, although several individuals cautioned that the metadata we maintain must support effective retrieval and that more uncontrolled metadata could threaten that goal. One participant voiced an opinion that one role of libraries is to supplement lay metadata with expert metadata, to help ensure authority, a sentiment that seemed to have general agreement.

From this point, the discussions turned to the role of systems in providing services based on metadata. Participants felt that our systems needed to handle both factual, structured data like ISBNs and more fluid, organic, unstructured data like that our users can provide. It was noted that to provide high-quality services on these different types of metadata, our systems need to have *more* structure on the back end, rather than less. While the discussion didn’t delve very far into specific metadata formats, there was a general sense that the data being recorded was more important than the format in which it was stored. One participant summarized this view as “I don’t need to have MARC, I need to have the specificity of MARC.” The need for different approaches for different types of materials was raised, which led to a request for future MDG sessions to study in more depth these different approaches, the standards that emerge from them, and the communities behind them, and to discuss whether there is more these communities can do to work together. Participants also expressed interest in system design issues, allowing complex linking of records but still allowing them to make sense out of context.

Throughout the discussion, possible roles for technical services staff in the metadata environment emerged. Most ides centered around creating and maintaining descriptive metadata, although a need was expressed for all involved in metadata creation to know about all types of metadata being created and how it is used. Possible roles for technical services staff included:

  • Recording relationships between information objects that are not possible to generate automatically. (For one initiative designed to help automatic recognition of relationships between objects, see http://www.openarchives.org/ore/)
  • Authority control, to allow more powerful discovery mechanisms
  • “Expert” metadata to supplement that from other sources
  • Describing hidden collections with no or inadequate existing descriptive metadata
  • Describing Web sites intended for archiving
  • Describing objects deposited into IU ScholarWorks
  • Targeted projects to enhance older metadata
  • Provide value-added content
  • Managing groups of records
  • Providing acquisition information to fund managers

We had a lively discussion, with many points of view raised. Our next session will be Tuesday, January 29. The article for discussion for that session will be distributed by January 15. Please send ideas for topics for future session to the MDG listserv, and feel free to use the listserv for discussion between in-person sessions.

Author- Jennifer A. Liss

Human. Librarian. Consumes large quantities of data. http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3641-4427