Summary of MDG Session, 12-18-08

* Written by Jenn Riley *

Article discussed: Kurth, Marty, David Ruddy, and Nathan Rupp. (2004). “Repurposing MARC metadata: using digital project experience to develop a metadata management design.” Library Hi Tech 22(2): 153-165.

The discussion group felt that while it was desirable that the work described in this article was based on theoretical work on metadata management, the explanation of the metadata management theory, including the concept of enterprise, was not extensive enough to fully understand the connection. It was clear, however, that to do management, you have to do mapping and transformation. Management allows you to rethink and retool. Our group was interested to know what has happened since this article was written. Have they put this into production? What has changed? It appears there is a follow-up article to this one that would be interesting to read.

The article claims that MARC mapping work is representative of the metadata management task as a whole. Choosing metadata standards based on specific project needs is good, and the projects described here demonstrate how to do that. It’s easy to imagine a project where you can start with MARC. But what do you do when no MARC already exists? At IU we have experience in many library departments wth projects that re-use existing MARC metadata.

The group identified three possible cases for metadata management for a digital project: have existing MARC, have existing non-MARC, have no existing structured metadata. Are the strategies outlined in this article useful in all three of these cases? We didn’t come to a strong conclusion on this issue.

An interesting discussion grew up around the topic of how to deal with legacy (pre-AACR2) MARC records? Institutional memory is likely the best bet, as documentation comparing older practices and current ones is sparse. Politcal boundaries change and places of publication become no longer correct. Some legacy data is easier to deal with, however. An institution could use an authority vendor to update name headings with death dates. Yet certain data elements should be updated over time, but others shouldn’t. The group noted that most metadata work is bibliographic record based and doesn’t do enough with authority records. Making the full authority structure available to the metadata creation staff is sorely needed.

A substantial amount of discussion time was spent on the topic of collection-specific mappings. The benefits of corse are that these get it done, the way you want it. The drawbacks are potentially reduced shareability and interoperability. One has to take the whole scope of the project in mind to make good decisions and worry about what’s really important. Have to keep USER in mind. This is difficult to do, though. We think “the user needs this information” but we should think “how can the user use this system?” One participant noted that we worry too much about the specialized discovery case to the detriment of the generalized one. How much tweaking of metadata mapping is of use? The community seems to swing back and forth over time between the generalized and specialized approaches.

The discussion then turned more theoretical, with thoughts on the changing roles of libraries – specifically, to what degree should we be the intermediary? If the user is on his or her own, should this change the way we provide access to information? We do see a great deal of evidence that libraries have moved to a model where users interact directly with information with no active intermediation from us. The system provides the intermediation that staff once did. We expect better technologies to automatically enrich our records in the future to help with this. For us, participants felt it was more important to get something out than to get it perfect. We need to make a better effort to integrate authority control into non-MARC environments. Automated methods will rely on the authority records a great deal. It therefore follows that we should send less time on bibliographic records and more on authority work. The MARC world is certainly moving in this direction, with professional catalogers doing more high-value activity, leaving the lower-value tasks to machines or lower-level staff. Mapping activities are an example of the higher-value activity, as seen in this article.

This article describes the most common transformation as MARC to simple DC. To make sure information gets into the right DC fields, one need to understand DC. Those doing the mapping must ask – what is the essential information to go in DC? What really identifies rather than just describes? The role of the cataloger would be to oversee the transformation process, to make sure it works correctly. This would need to happen both on the content end and the technical end.

What should relationship of metadata staff to technical staff be? Metadata staff understand both the source and the target data. They would still have to correct things in the output in the end. It certainly helps if the technical staff understand the data as well. Similarly, metadata staff need to have technical skills. For metadata staff, understanding non-standard source data can be a big challenge. The Bradley films are an example of these challenges here at IU. Each set of materials will have different balance of effort spent on it, based on perceived importance and use. Mapping often unearths mistakes in the original metadata. We must get the best bang for our buck by spending more time on the information that’s really important for the users, and leave the rest alone. Effective projects will also need the involvement of collection development staff.

Author- Jennifer A. Liss

Human. Librarian. Consumes large quantities of data.