In this post, let’s take a quick look at the next DCC step, appraisal. According to the DCC:
- Appraise and select: Evaluate data and select for long-term curation and preservation. Adhere to documented guidance, policies or legal requirements.
What is interesting is that appraisal should really take place all throughout the project and even after. As I mentioned before, these steps in the metadata lifecycle are not linear. You might not need to conceptualize the architecture of a system to implement a standard but you may have to appraise or re-appraise how metadata are being implemented with what you currently have. This is one of the reasons I like the lifecycle to be visualized as a circle. Your end is most likely a beginning. Perhaps you have a new project that is similar to an old one but of course has its unique requirements. You don’t have to go through all the steps.
Preservation has always been a concern for libraries. For physical materials, many institutions have a disaster plan in place. And who doesn’t have a couple of trusty industrial strength fans in case water starts leaking onto materials. Where I work, we’re lucky to have a conservator who has plans in place for damaged books because of people, nature or little critters. This preservation concern is of also high importance for our digital collections. If your institution has never thought of how to preserve its materials, analog or digital, perhaps its time to think of simple things. Strategies include a disaster plan for physical materials and servers. How is your data backed up? Is it secure? Is the building humidity correct for the long term storage of a variety of materials?
Long-term curation might be a little different. For the library or materials that are not part of special collections or archives, my library no longer really has a collection development policy. We’ve moved aggressively to the patron driven acquisition model. I’m not sure if this falls under the rubric of long-term curation. Will the demands of patrons today be those in the future or should they be kept for future use? I don’t know the answer to that. However, it was seen that libraries were places to preserve and collect for the future whether or not users consulted these materials today. While long term curation plans might not be a priority for physical collections, what is interesting is that long-term curation is very present with digital projects. This could be because many digital projects start or somewhere end up with archival material or material from special (i.e. unique) collections. These collections and/or material are typically kept for the benefit of future generations and their long-term value is essentially. Where I work, there is a large human rights department, institute and initiative. There is a heated debate on the long-term value and how to curate blogs posts and other social media that take place during large events that concern the rights of people (take your pick of events recently). Actually some of these types of social media expressions can be seen on Archive-It. For example, there is the collection about the earthquake in Haiti (http://www.archive-it.org/collections/1784).
Thus far, I’ve focused on resources and not necessarily metadata. Preservation and long-term curation are also essential for metadata. How will you preserve metadata that drives access, discovery, and presentation of your resources? Will you decide to use standards or will you use a local home grown metadata schema? Recently, MODS went from version 3.4 to 3.5. Do you decide to move your metadata to the new 3.5 or just use 3.5 going forward? This is the same question that many face with RDA. Do we change all of our legacy records in our ILS or just use RDA as a content standard moving forward? These decisions how how we store, manage and to a certain extent preserve metadata directly relates to curation. Depending on your definition of curation, one common goal is to mitigate obsolescence, which is aligned to the goal of how to preserve metadata. I think this goes back to the idea of standards and implementing standards. With standards, your metadata is more easily shared, transformed, migrated, re-used and understood. It is easier to make the move from MODS 3.4 to 3.5 (especially if 3.5 is backwards compatible). Perhaps with metadata, preservation and curation go hand in hand.
What happens if you don’t appraise how to preserve and especially if you don’t curate your metadata? Quite simply, your metadata will become outdated. Eventually these metadata will not be able to fulfill their function of describing uniquely a resource. As a result, these metadata will no longer be able to drive discovery, access and presentation. In other words, resources that are described with such metadata will be lost.
You might say that this is drastic, an exaggerated cautionary tale for young librarians. This is far from the truth. How many have seen horrible pre AACR1 records that really don’t make much sense? I’ve seen some home grown metadata standards where each column had the letter and a number. If you think this can’t happen, just work with some faculty in e-science and take a look at this great YouTube video: