In my last post, I ended with the question of how to get the resources you need to create and deliver metadata services. I should say right now that I’m not sure really how to do this effectively. One issues is that metadata services is a very vague subject. What are metadata services? And then who delivers those services? There’s also the question of change and how change is accepted in your institution.
One of the reasons I put out a survey on metadata practices in digital scholarship was to find out what these practices were. Further I wanted to see it people had any suggestions or things that they tried at their institution that helped create and deliver such services. The second reason was that I was interested in seeing what is meant by a “public” metadata service. I wrote the survey around the time of the ALCTS e-forum on public service and cataloging. The majority of participants told stories of how they work at a public “desk” in the library and how their cataloging skills helped them find information faster and more efficiently for the patron. With metadata services, I believe there is a public component. You might not sit at a desk for a couple of hours per day. But you are on call to answer questions from staff or patrons and then also you set up appointments for longer consultations. For myself, these public reference and consultation services concern almost exclusively digital initiatives (research data, digital humanities, and our digital repository).
Let me return to resources because I wanted to know how people responded to needs of metadata (creating, enhancing, transforming between various standards, best practices, etc.) in digital scholarship with a small staff and few resources for training. There was one respondent who described a pilot project at their institution. The respondent explained that the pilot project was a new attempt to provide services to those who work with research data. Essentially this pilot brought together several staff across units: metadata librarian, subject specialists, programers, digital librarians. Their goal was to draw on each others strengths to create a toolkit for faculty who produce research data (most likely in the sciences). This toolkit included tips and ways to get help from this team in the library. What I found interesting was that to have the staff resources necessary, this institution brought together a team of people who work in different areas. To help with training and time, this team helped each other learn together as they developed this toolkit for faculty.
This is something that my institution has had to do as well. No one person can handle all of these services together. This includes metadata services. With research data, often the researcher has the best handle on their data or at least you hope so. They might need guidance in terms of making it more accessible to a certain user base or more consistent for re-use for visualizations for example. However, they are the data owners not you. This allows the metadata specialists to work with a fellow data expert. When you add a subject specialists, you add another specialist who understands the researcher, their work and their “framework”. In some cases, the subject specialists has or participates in the researcher’s type of project. What is more is that the subject specialist also understands the library’s goal of helping the researcher with whatever they need help with (perhaps a data management plan, a digital humanities project, creating a timeline, submitting research to a repository, …). When you add a digital initiatives or even a programmer, then there are more people to share ideas and move forward. Instead of one person or one unit trying to respond to needs, you have a group working across silos.
With the survey, I would say that a majority of respondents worked across silos in their institution. I would venture to say that even the largest and well funded institutions don’t have all the resources they would like. To offer services, it is necessary to have a group effort. That way staff rely, learn, teach, and help each other.