Introduction to Metadata

On Tuesday, July 7th SocHum welcomed Daniel Lovins and Corey Harper from NYU Libraries’ Knowledge Access Design and Development (KADD) department to talk to us about metadata. I wasn’t able to be at this meeting but, hopefully, when we start doing more in-depth training in the fall, metadata will be one of the topics we can choose to get more instruction in. Personally, I’m very interested in learning more about it.

This post has been compiled from notes taken by Mem Barnett who was at the meeting, but a summary prepared by someone who was not at the meeting can never be as good as first-hand information. So if any of our readers — whether inside the department or out — have personal experience with the topics discussed in this post or questions that come up, please post them in the comments section!

You can take a look at Daniel and Corey’s presentation here.

The most valuable sentence I saw when going through the notes from this presentation, made the mission of metadata and metadata standards crystal clear in an incredibly simple way: “Metadata exists to help get people to stuff.” Intuitively, as librarians, we know this. But, I see this sentence as the kind of imperative mission statement that can truly guide the decision-making of anyone working with metadata and standards —  very powerful.

As our information universe continues to become more and more vast, as technology advances, and standards for metadata collide, the cracks begin to show. We are currently working in a period where the complexities and limitations of various standards are exposed by the increasingly broad scope of the engines that search across them. This makes it important for those who define metadata standards to think about the minimally viable record — in other words, the information that is sufficient for an item to be retrievable by a library search engine.

One way NYU’s KADD is hoping to adapt to these new requirements is to move towards using linked data technology, which could allow users to quickly make connections between items in our library and items in outside collections. Of course, this type of change is still quite a ways off.

It will be interesting to explore all of these considerations (search engines, metadata standards, and ways to support linked data) in terms of our SocHum digital project. As with our other summer meetings, this was just a brief introduction and we will devote more focused attention to it as we move into the fall semester. Daniel and Corey’s presentation also included technical details which I don’t necessarily feel comfortable trying to recreate third-hand, but you can check out their presentation if you want to see some of what they shared with us.

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