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What's the fuss about all this metadata?


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What is metadata? Why is it so important? How does it work and what makes it difficult? Using a case study from my previous work as a museum & archives intern with the Museo Nacional de Arte in La Paz, Bolivia, I will use this presentation to try and answer these questions and more.

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What's the fuss about all this metadata?

  1. 1. First of all…what is it?• Well, there are different types: structural, descriptive, & administrative• Most users interface with the descriptive kind – so let’s focus on that: – It’s a kind of filter that we put over information resources in order to summarize or extract information & make them more usable – “Data about data”
  2. 2. Put more simply: •Books/Articles •Sound/Audiovisual •Video/Film •and more… Info-rich resources Info-poor resources •Photos •Images •Artifacts
  3. 3. Metadata & the Library• A library’s job = helping patrons find information – accurately & efficiently• In order to do that, we have to predict the resources we think users will want & make them discoverable• The level of description matters! – Rich, specific metadata = easy, accurate find  – Sparse, general metadata = too many search results  – No metadata = chaos!• In sum, we need metadata!!!
  4. 4. The Analog Story:• In some ways, assigning metadata was easier with card catalogs because: – There was a limit to how much stuff one repository could hold – Had only a few metadata categories: corporate body, author(s), subject matter • More access points are possible with digital metadata control, which changes the game a little bit
  5. 5. The Digital Story:• Computers & the Internet forced us to make changes!• The move to digital had lots of pros and cons – Remember that card catalog index card? Some of the cons are still apparent today!• What’s different now is the amount of space we have online: it’s constantly expanding! – Megabytes have become gigabytes, terabytes, and so on – Cloud storage expounds upon that even further! – That means millions of information resources – way too many to look through one by one!• This makes metadata a little bit trickier – The same tricks don’t work with all that data – We need richer ways to describe & search through everything
  6. 6. Metadata & EthicsCase Study: Archiving in Bolivia
  7. 7. Gran Poder
  8. 8. Metadata & Ethics• Controlled vocabularies & standards make metadata really useful for patrons• But - not all metadata schemas or cataloging rules are language convertible – How do you provide for multilingual audiences? – How do you handle colloquial terms? – What about Anglocentric vocabularies & rules?• New standards make global metadata more possible every year, but it’s still an obstacle
  9. 9. Collection Materials: Major BolivianNewspapers
  10. 10. Ethical Problems in Multilingual Digital Records mgmt: AACR2 (1904); Flexible XML ISBD; FRBR metadata structures with room for discussion of IP/copyright versus ??? Attempt to Dublin Core: No national or standardize Newspapers of cultural regionally declared cataloging in Central objects, artists, events, cultural objects America (1949-50) ; and media – standards – infamous for IP/Copyright of each typically claim inconsistency in completely unknown Anglo-American or following cataloging (as are laws regarding European rules, lack of copyright) equivalent librarian training, & more
  11. 11. WDL…the multilingual solution? Image cataloging currentlyavailable in 7 separate languages
  12. 12. Search Engines vs. Catalogs• Libraries = Discovery – Collections have been hand-selected – Data and bibliographies are attended to much more closely – Better search results based on relevance• Google = Search – Using Google is taking a big gamble on the information that results • Google results are sorted by click-popularity • A business run by Ad-words • No controlled vocabulary or thesaurus • Yikes!
  13. 13. Metadata & the Future• Today’s information users are growing up with the Internet & Google search• People don’t learn how to use (or depend) on Boolean search operators anymore – Rather than force users to learn our ways, we’ll have to adopt what makes sense to them – OCR & the semantic web will become more & more relevant, requiring extremely flexible but complex metadata structures• Search & metadata [in tandem] will become richer – but more time consuming to create• We need to collaborate and prioritize what users need and find valuable over time
  14. 14. in working with metadata…• Collection management professionals need to – select and craft careful metadata that can be the voice for thousands of books, images, films, and artifacts – Be flexible & learn about new metadata formats – Pay attention to international & domestic cataloging ethics – Listen to users, patrons, and the community!
  15. 15. Any Questions?• Please feel free to ask away!