Speaking Notes from a Tech Talks Presentation by Daniel Alemneh, October 5, 2005


This presentation will provide a brief introduction to metadata, discuss the reasons for creating metadata, and then demonstrate the UNT Libraries' activities in implementing metadata.

What is Metadata?

Metadata is structured information that describes resources. While the resources are interesting to the end user, the metadata is helpful to the people or programs that have to manage the information.

[For more information, see Definitions of Metadata on the Web via Google.]

Types of Metadata

Different communities describe and categorize types differently. But all agree that the boundaries of different types of metadata are not necessarily distinct from each other, or exclusive of other types of metadata. For instance, the Digital Library Forum (DLF) Systems Architecture Committee describes three different types of metadata:

  • Descriptive Metadata - which is used in the discovery and identification of an object. Examples include MARC and Dublin Core records.
  • Structural Metadata - which is used to display and navigate a particular object for a user and includes the information on the internal organization of that object. Structural metadata could exist on various levels of complexity.
  • Administrative Metadata - which represents the management information for the object: the date it was created, its content file format (JPEG, JTIP, etc.), rights information, etc. that facilitate the administration of metadata.

What Does Metadata Do?

  • Facilitate resource discovery
  • Organize resources
  • Facilitate data integration
  • Facilitate the long-term management of digital objects

[For more perspective, see the U.S. Geological Survey's Metadata in plain language.]

The UNT Libraries Metadata Elements

  • Staff identified a list of possible metadata elements in October 2002, based on various schemas including:
    • Dublin Core (DC)
    • Metadata Object Description Schema (MODS)
    • Open Archival Information System (OAIS)
    • CURL Exemplars in Digital Archives (Cedars)
    • Research Library Group (RLG)

[See the UNT Libraries' current metadata elements on the Metadata page.]

The UNT Libraries Metadata Structure

  • Resource discovery metadata
    • DC Based
  • Technical metadata
    • Technical details about the original hardware and software environment
  • Rights management
    • Intellectual property rights ownership, deposit agreements, etc.
  • Preservation and metadata management
    • Preserving integrity and authenticity of the resources


[Source:  Alemneh, D. G., S. K. Hastings, and C. N. Hartman. "A Metadata Approach to Preservation of Digital Resources:  The University of North Texas Libraries' Experience."  First Monday.  Issue 7_8.]

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Metadatizing Digital Resources: The UNT Libraries Creation Tool

  • Examples from the UNT Libraries' digital projects work flow.

Issues in Metadata Implementation

  • Functional requirements
    • What are you describing?
    • How do you want your collections to be searched? Used?
  • Granularity
    • At what "level" is metadata assigned?
    • What does your metadata describe?
      • E.g. Newspaper issues: -Section:-Pages:-Stories-Photos...
  • Balance risks with cost (or sustainability)
    • Identify the "right" metadata
      • Avoid large schemas
    • Create at the right time
      • At creation vs. at other points in object life-cycle (e.g. ingest, migration, etc.)
    • How much of the process can be automated?
  • Interoperability or the ability to communicate with other systems, standards, types, formats, etc.
    • Structural interoperability
    • Syntactical interoperability
    • Semantic interoperability
      • Metadata registries
      • Mapping

[For more perspective, see In the Company of Strangers:  Challenges and Opportunities in Metadata Implementation by Maxine Brodie.]

About the Author:  Daniel Gelaw Alemneh is a metadata management specialist for the UNT Libraries' Digital Projects Unit.


Wednesday, October 5, 2005 - 12:00pm