What in the world is metadata? Good question! It’s the behind the scenes, computer information about an object or information resource that allows you to find and find out about that object. So when you are looking for a mystery by your favorite author as an eBook in your library’s online catalog, the metadata about the eBook is the record of it in the catalog. Sounds simple, right? Kind of like a database. But what happens when the metadata in your library’s catalog is set up one way and the company that provides the eBook to the library sets up their metadata in a different format? The process you have to go through to find and access that eBook becomes much more complicated and difficult.
So why doesn’t the library just fix the records and make them match the format of the catalog? The first answer to that is the sheer number of records means it would take way too much time to fix them all. But there are plenty of other reasons, as I am learning in my final course for my MLIS. Choosing my last class should have been simple. All of my requirements are completed, leaving a free elective for my last term. My one personal restriction was avoiding any more online group projects. (Don’t get me started on that subject!) So I began looking for courses that were likely to be both interesting and useful. I really enjoyed my Digital Reference course last Spring, so I decided to look more closely at courses in the Digital Libraries concentration. In the end, I chose to take the follow-on course for Cataloging, Metadata and Resource Description.
I’m learning a lot in the class, though not exactly what I had hoped to learn. The general principles apply to a public library setting. But many of the details we’re covering are more appropriate to archival and academic applications. Our final project is a technical analysis of sets of records from multiple digital collections for completeness and accuracy. I am working with digital image records for archived photographs in one museum and two university collections.
While it is a reasonably interesting class, I’m having a hard time staying motivated to keep up with the work. Perhaps I’m feeling burned out with school after over two years of courses. Perhaps it’s because so much of the course doesn’t seem to apply directly to situations I am likely to encounter while working in a public library. Maybe it’s just the amount of tedious, technical detail involved in the analysis. I’d be much more interested in doing a study of user behavior than in counting how many records use a given element field. Ah well, it is my last class. Graduation is in my sights now, which of course begs the question: What next? But that’s subject for another time.