Article Summary for Lecture #5 – Schottlaender

Article Summary for Lecture #5 – Schottlaender

In the journal “Why Metadata? Why Me? Why Now?,” Schottlaender attempts to provide an introduction to metadata: what it is, why catalogers should be involved, and why to learn about it now. Problems that exist for metadata include the fixedness of print documents in time and space, lack of content standards, and interoperability.

What is Metadata? The Association for Library Collections & Technical Service’s Task Force on Metadata defines metadata as structured, encoded data that describes characteristics of information-bearing entities to aid in the identification, discovery, assessment, and management of the described entities. In short, data that described information. Rules for it are called schema, with three kinds specifically associated with metadata: encoding schema; metadata schema; and architectural schema. Encoding schema is how data is formatted, such as in MaRC (Machine Readable Cataloging), HTML (HyperText Markup Language), and XML (Extensible Markup Language) formats for output. Metadata schema deals with how data is described, such as by number with ISBD (International Standard Bibliographic Description) or AACR2 (Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, second edition). Non-cataloging communities use descriptors like Dublin Core (Dublin Metadata Core Element Set) to discover document-like objects in networks. Government documents get described with AGLS (Australian Government Locator Service), FGDC (Federal Geographic Data Committee), or CSDGM (Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata). REACH (Record Export for Art and Cultural Heritage) is used for arts. Two important, but non-descriptive metadata schema are PICS (Platform for Internet Content Selectivity) and A’Core (Admin Core). PICS is one of the most robust content rating schemas, while A’Core is used to test the integrity of content metadata. Architectural schema is the infrastructure the data will be housed in. RDF (Resource Description Framework) and the Warwick Framework are the most common. RDF is an infrastructure for encoding structured metadata, while the Warwick Framework is for diverse sets of metadata. INDECS (Interoperability of Data in E-Commerce Systems) is an architectural schema established mainly for copyright issues in the audiovisual community.

Why should catalogers be concerned with metadata? Cataloging is about describing content in an orderly fashion. Metadata is data that describes information, thus catalogers already use metadata. The Task Force on Metadata say catalogers need to be involved with the emerging standards to help define data elements and prepare guidelines using existing expertise. Catalogers already describe materials by metadata schema rules, often by ISBD. These describers contain identifiers, like ISBN (International Standard Book Number), or URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) for digital items. Following these schema rules would make searching for data and materials consistent across library institutions and would be one less roadblock in the evolution of library services worldwide.

Why now? All of the schema are derived from library-based items, such as AACR2. Few content standards exist outside the library. Those wanting to describe data outside the library are recognizing that catalogers have a very useful skillset. Any company that has a catalog of goods could improve the findability of their products to users by partaking of metadata schema. A roadblock to consistent search descriptors is interoperability, or systems not working with each other such as web scripts working (or not working) in different internet browsers.

Catalogers already deal in metadata, but perhaps do not know it is called as such. To get library users to the item they want, catalogers must lead the user to the item with as much descriptor information as possible – much more than would fit on a card in a card catalog. There is little to solve the concreteness of print documents, though many print documents are being transformed into digital documents. How far back the transformations will go is anyone’s guess. Content standards are taking shape, but Schottlaender says there will always be a struggle with vocabulary sets between different subjects, such as arts versus science descriptors. Interoperability will also always be a problem as long as companies aren’t willing to see passed the almighty dollar to share proprietary parts. Change happens best in baby steps though, and having catalogers describing entities following the same set of rules is a step in the right direction.