So, I’ve been doing some work with a group outside the library – TERRA: the nature of our world. I was invited in on the redesign project primarily as a web developer, but my foot in the door gives me a chance to introduce metadata standards, digital archiving and other traditional digital library stuff. It’s been a nice opportunity to put emerging library services where the rubber meets the road.
Anyway, working with the TERRA group has given me a whole new perspective on metadata standards. Selling metadata in the library is pretty much a no-brainer. Cataloging and description of resources is widely respected (for better and worse) within the library community. Making the case to other communities can be something else. Early in the TERRA project, I started talking about OAI and MODS markup. About 2 minutes in I looked around the room: blank stares. At one point, I think I heard crickets. Time to shift gears…
It wasn’t that what I was saying was off the wall. It was all about presentation. You’ve gotta recognize what resonates for the group. In the TERRA case, it was selling the idea of standard data to query and distribute. TERRA is a group intimately knowledgeable about RSS; it’s what they use to distribute their podcasts. Couching my argument with the example of RSS as a data standard opened the door.
A couple of strategies for finding the metadata sweet spots for the groups you work with:
- Assess lowest common denominator of metadata
- People don’t want complex; they want simple. Lower the cost of entry by deciding what is the easiest standard to adopt that still works with your larger digital library collection metadata standards.
- Hide your metadata behind the scenes
- Many metadata standards have fields that can be hardcoded (e.g., DC Language). Take advantage of these prescriptive fields by creating as many default values in your web form or database structure.
- Find a data standard that your group has experience with
- NIH Researchers can grasp the metadata concepts behind PubMed. Engineers understand the role of ASTM standards. Pick a familiar data standard concept and explain how metadata follows this model for search and retrieval.
- Play the “increased access through metadata” card
- Point to repositories that will get research or data into user’s hands. Talk about how metadata can be harvested by diverse groups and repurposed in new search settings.
Groups don’t want to hear how the 15 base elements of Dublin Core make your life easier. Standards and normalized data are going to help you out in the long run, but what’s in it for your working group? Learn to find the common ground and give your groups a KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) when it comes to metadata.