I’m working through the results of a survey on metadata practices with digital scholarship. I asked a question about why metadata services aren’t provided. Several answers were of the variation that administration didn’t support metadata services. The most negative answer recorded was that administration ignored cataloging and metadata. I’ve heard this complaint before at various conferences and in blog posts.
Before delving into this, I need to make a detour to a conversation I had with a colleague after work. We hope to create a new position for a data management librarian. We want this future person to be sort of a jack of all trades in relation to data management. This person would have a social or hard sciences background, be able to talk to faculty, coordinate with various key people in the library and on campus, ensure the data management repository suits the needs of our researchers on campus, provide training, etc. etc. etc. We finished our wish list which made us pause. We both realized that this is a new type of librarian job. This person would have to bridge technology and outreach and be comfortable in a variety of working environments.
In a sense, we wanted someone with a working knowledge of:
Outreach and marketing, Training and education, Documentation, Technologies and technical infrastructures, Assessment, evaluation, and audit methods, procedures and their applications, Higher education research policies and procedures, Project management, Emerging technologies, Current and upcoming trend, Faculty (and yes they deserve a category unto themselves :)), Licensing and copyright.
I’m probably missing a lot on my list. And there are the “soft” qualities such as being flexible, dynamic, communicative, and the like. I began thinking of this list and realized that this is much of what is also demanded of many library jobs today including catalog/metadata library positions where metadata services are offered. Metadata services need to reach out to fellow staff and the community; generally metadata services are being marketed to the data management and digital humanists crowds at research or liberal arts universities. There’s documentation to be created and updated. You need to know various technologies and infrastructures to understand such things as how metadata is being indexed. Services imply that you’re helping people with their projects — project management. You’re always on the lookout for better technologies and trends in the profession. This is a lot to do for one person. Imagine when your catalog/metadata is the only one trying to pull off a variety of jobs and trying to do all of these things for all the jobs they’ve had to inherit because of downsizing.
My guess is that many library administrators realize the changing trends in cataloging and metadata but haven’t quite grasped the enormity of the various functions involved in carrying out a program called metadata services. I would say this is true in the libraries where I have worked. It is not that administrators ignore cataloging and metadata. They are unaware of what is involved to create, implement and sustain metadata services. Of course, not all library administrations are similar. I would hope that those administrators who purposely ignore cataloging and metadata are few and far between.
One of the ways to bring to the forefront the various functions and the importance of metadata services is to be active in outreach, marketing and assessment. This is particular true at my library where assessment is a big deal. In a sense, it is necessary to market metadata services to library administrators in addition to those at whom these services are directed. Further it is necessary to market these services in a language that library administrators understand. At my library, this means assessment as well as describing these services in relation to the university’s academic priorities and what the provost has set as the goal for our head of libraries. Granted this is far from easy and requires years of practice. But I would suspect that it’s worth it. We’re just beginning to think of assessment. But a good example is a project done by a colleague in eresources. Her team created a massive analysis project that made the recommendation to discontinue Web of Science. This document was well received and in a language (assessment) that library and university administrators understood and supported at the end of the day. In my next post, I want to look at ways to assess and evaluate metadata services.