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Metadata or data about data identifies and describes an object such as an article, book and/or digital item (i.e., photographs or pdfs). Metadata is created with key words and key terms, natural language, controlled and index terms. Different types of metadata are used such as descriptive, structural or administrative. Each type aids in describing elements of an item or object. Metadata is thought to describe the content of an item but it also describes formats, and even the provenance of an item. For librarians, metadata provides a means of indexing, accessing, preserving, and discovering digital resources of many kinds. Metadata was traditionally kept in the card catalogues (book inventories) of libraries and archives. As information has become increasingly online and digital, metadata are used to describe objects using metadata standards.
According to Kurtz et al (2013), "...metadata is an attempt to capture the contextual information surrounding a datum ("a single element of data"). The enriching contextual information assists the data user to understand how to use the original datum. Metadata also attempts to bridge the semantic gap between machine users of data and human users of the same data...." In the library environment, metadata is commonly used for any formal scheme of resource description applying to any type of object, digital or non-digital. Traditional library cataloging is a form of metadata; MARC and the rule sets used such as AACR2 and RDA are types of metadata standards. Simply put, metadata is used in libraries to facilitate the discovery of books (and other catalogued resources). Metadata is critical to find materials in catalogues and search systems. The use of structured information to describe information resources/objects is an essential component for finding things in search systems. Book cataloguing is formally a type of metadata creation but the term is generally used for non-traditional schemes such as the Dublin Core or the Encoded Archival Description (EAD).
Metadata can be categorized as descriptive, structural or administrative. (Reitz, 2004) Descriptive metadata refers to any information that describes the content of an object; structural metadata describes the format of the materials being described; administrative metadata provides copyright information for those materials. Most library catalogues contain tons of metadata as they contain information about books, journals, and electronic resources that make up collections. Metadata records in traditional libraries fulfill a range of functions such as allowing users to search for and find something and helping librarians manage inventories. Many of the same principles that govern description, retention and weeding apply to objects in digital and print-based collections.
In 2013, it was announced that Jeffrey Pomerantz from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill plans to offer the very first library and information science (LIS) massive online open course (MOOC) entitled Metadata: Organizing and Discovering Information.
Three categories of metadata
Metadata is grouped into three categories:
Metadata is an increasingly central tool in the current web environment, enabling large-scale, distributed management of resources. Recent years has seen a growth in interaction between previously relatively isolated metadata communities, driven by the need for cross-domain collaboration and exchange. However, metadata standards have not been able to meet the needs of interoperability between independent standardization communities. For this reason the notion of metadata harmonization, defined as interoperability of combinations of metadata specifications, has arisen as a core issue for the future of web-based metadata. Resting at the heart of application profiles, metadata harmonization presents a little understood, but critical challenge in design of languages of description. DC-2011 will explore the conceptual and practical issues of design when the language solution calls for cross-fertilization from different metadata specifications. Source: International Conference on Dublin Core & Metadata Applications. Metadata Harmonization: Bridging Languages of Description, Netherlands, September 2011.
Metadata standards organizations
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