22:3 (2007:09) 22nd Conference (2007): Preconference: Metadata Standards & Applications

August 30, 2007 at 2:03 pm | Posted in Conference Reports, Preconferences | Leave a comment


Metadata Standards and Applications
Diane Hillmann, Cornell University; Rhonda Marker, Rutgers University
Reported by Deanna Briggs

Diane Hillmann and Rhonda Marker instructed approximately forty students in the Metadata Standards and Applications preconference session. The class was developed by Hillmann for the Library of Congress and the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services in early 2007. Many preconference participants expressed that their desire to attend the class was due to an impending project to develop a digital repository. As expected, most attendees were catalogers in some capacity.

The class covered a variety of metadata topics, including: metadata relationship models, interoperability, application profiles, and more. Hillmann and Marker explained early in the session that working with metadata standards and applications requires the metadata specialist to take a broad view of metadata, and consider how their metadata must function. For instance, one function of metadata is to manage documents. Therefore, the metadata specialist should look at items that require management in aggregate to make the best choices for the collection of items as a whole. The presenters stressed how important it is to frequently look at websites and digital libraries and mentally deconstruct them, asking themselves how the site applies metadata in bulk to collections to meet its functional goals. To illustrate this point, the class completed an exercise examining several digital library sites, including Birdsource, which is a database-driven site.

The preconference presenters continued to expand upon this vision of the aggregate view concerning metadata creation, storage, management, and distribution. They discussed the pros and cons of different metadata creation and storage models. They also remarked how important it is to maximize human resource efficiency in any project. For example, on the metadata distribution side, any one project might achieve some efficiency by harvesting metadata; but doing so may require additional human resources to implement the best methods to normalize the metadata for interoperability. Again, Hillmann and Marker focused the class on examples to see these principles in action, as in the case of the Country Walkers’ site. This site uses its metadata to draw potential customers in due to the ease of browsability, by destination, for instance.
No metadata information session would be complete without mentioning metadata relationship models and specific metadata standards. In this context, Hillmann provided the class with an update on the status of RDA and the class discussed relationships in UNIMARC, Dublin Core, and FRBR. The presenters noted that most metadata standards do not explicitly reference content standards, but simply provide guidance on content management. Some of the specific standards discussed included MARC21, Dublin Core, MODS, IEEE-LOM, and ONIX for Books.

The next lesson was metadata interoperability and distribution. As expected, OAI-PMH, OpenURL, and cross-walks were the focus of this section. Hillmann and Marker alerted attendees of the importance of documenting your institution’s specific practices and interpretations of any one standard to enable appropriate sharing of metadata. The presenters also raised the issue of documentation in the lesson on application profiles, including the many benefits of documenting the terms in an application profile.
The preconference also covered vocabularies and data quality. While it is important to document and register your vocabulary, Hillmann and Marker also emphasized the degree to which the choice of a vocabulary should be situation-specific, especially because there are so many different vocabularies.  Similarly, the presenters noted that data quality should be evaluated at the community level, as different communities may have different levels of data quality that may be acceptable for their purposes.

In summary, the course was an excellent whirlwind into the world of metadata standards.


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