Karen Coyle recently did a presentation called “Directions in Metadata” through ALA Publishing. I have always enjoyed Karen’s presentation style. It is directly, easy to grasp and full of examples. This presentation was no different. The presentation was posted and I’ve included at the end of this summary. Also, if you are interested in continuing to research this issue and Karen’s ideas on metadata, go to her blog, Coyle’s InFormation and her post on the topic of data vs. text.
Karen began the presentation with a definition and short introduction to metadata. She sees metadata as “constructed data” that is actionable. Actionable means that it is data that someone wants to do something with. Karen used the example of maps and finding places on maps. More importantly, this data is read and acted on by computers. Karen expanded on her example with contrasting google maps to a print paper map. There are things you can do with google maps that you can’t with a paper map, such as satellite view. Further, Karen noted that the data that is read by computers is also used and re-used in ways not thought by its original creator.
But what about library data? Karen provided a brief history of library data. We are familiar with the story of catalogs to MARC21. One of the issues with library data is that it is text that is hard to be read by a computer and thus used and re-used.
Karen offered some actions that the library community can do to tackle this issue: use more data and less text ; use metadata that is web-friendly ; use metadata that can be used and re-used.
How to we do that? Karen made the following suggestions: define data elements in an actionable way ; define controlled lists ; assign unique identifiers ; create data that uses those elements ; share the data by making it accessible on the Internet.
Karen gave examples of how some institutions are already taking these steps of making library data less textual and more like actionable data.
Karen did say a few words about RDA in terms of seeing that RDA is leading the library community more towards data and less text. Karen also focused on the importance of relationships. The more relationships that can be actionable data will add in Karen’s words “to the richness of the user experience”. This is already being developed with the Open Library and OCLC’s WorldCat Identities.