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

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
  • 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.

First meeting!

* Written by Jenn Riley *

The first meeting of the newly formed Metadata Discussion Group is coming up soon! Two weeks prior to each Metadata Discussion Group meeting, we will distribute an article on a metadata-related issue that all who plan to attend are encouraged to read. At the discussion group session, we will engage in informal conversation and analysis about the points raised in the article. Details regarding the November meeting and the article we will be discussing are below. We hope to see you there!

Date: Nov. 27, 2007
Time: 10-11 AM
Place: Wells Library Staff Lounge, 3rd floor East tower
Topic: What is metadata and why is it important to me?
Article to discuss: Gilliand, Anne J. “Setting the Stage.” In Introduction to Metadata: Pathways to Digital Information, ed. Murtha Baca. Online edition, version 2.1. Available from

Announcing the Metadata Discussion Group

* Written by Jenn Riley *

The IUB Libraries is starting a new “Metadata Discussion Group,” which will meet monthly to discuss an article relating to a current metadata topic. The group has no formal “membership” – discussions are open to anyone from the Libraries, SLIS, or elsewhere on campus who is interested in the topic under discussion. Come join us for lively collaborative conversation about diverse topics in metadata, both broad and detailed. A citation for the article to be discussed will be distributed two weeks before each Metadata Discussion Group meeting, to give participants time to read articles prior to the group discussion.

Metadata Discussion Group sessions are scheduled for the last Tuesday of the month, from 10-11 AM, in the Wells Library Staff Lounge, 3rd floor East tower. The first meeting will be November 27, 2007. The topic for this meeting will be “What is metadata and why is it important to me?” A citation to a specific article covering this topic will be distributed soon. At the November meeting we will also discuss possible future topics for Metadata Discussion group sessions.

Announcements for Metadata Discussion Group meetings will be widely distributed; however, we have also created a dedicated email list for the group. This list will provide a forum for more detailed information about the group, and communication between those interested in its activities. To join the email list, send the following in the body of an message (not the subject) to

subscribe metadata-discuss-l

The Metadata Discussion Group is sponsored by the IUB Libraries Technical Services Advisory Council (TSAC). Comments, questions, or ideas for discussion topics or articles can be sent to Jenn Riley, Metadata Librarian, at or the chair of the TSAC, Lynda Clendenning, at

More information on the Metadata Discussion Group can be found at <>.

Jenn Riley, Metadata Librarian
Lynda Clendenning, Chair, Technical Services Advisory Council