Metadata: Description & Access

By Cristina Vignone


Thanks to the Ellis Mount Scholarship provided by the New York Chapter of the Special Libraries Association I was able to enroll in the Metadata: Description & Access course offered at the Palmer School of Library and Information Science during the Fall 2013 semester. Taught by Professor Rick Block, Metadata Librarian at Seattle University, the course covered metadata terminology, content, and encoding schemes currently in use. Beyond his engaging lectures and readings, Professor Block designed practical assignments that allowed each student to evaluate and apply the principles of metadata learned in class. Together we explored the application of metadata standards for different purposes and environments including digital libraries and archives, museums, cultural heritage institutions, and special collections.

The course was exhaustive, providing an overview of metadata applications such as Dublin Core, Text Encoding Initiative (TEI), Metadata Object Description Schema (MODS), VRA Core, Categories for the Description of Works of Art (CDWA), and Cataloging Cultural Objects (CCO). It was extremely comprehensive in analyzing various metadata formats, providing descriptive detail for different forms of material, and outlining how librarians implement authority controls. Most importantly, the course was forward thinking and incorporated perspectives on metadata interoperability and quality as well as the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting.

I am grateful to have taken this course as a prospective special librarian, as I am especially concerned with how libraries will promote and provide access to unique materials in a constantly evolving digital age. This semester I learned that mastering metadata—in all of its complex forms and diverse applications—is central to understanding how to best tackle these problems. The vast documentation about metadata and content standards and the strong community support from interested librarians and archivists made it possible for me to both complete my assignments and explore how information professionals are actively creating, using, and refining such schemas. I learned that librarians face many issues around easy and equitable access when attempting to select metadata schemes for displaying and searching their digital collections. Professor Block and his challenging but rewarding course provided me the opportunity to engage the skills I will need in my professional future to do just that.