What’s in a name? Wouldn’t a rose by any other name still smell as sweet? Well, sure. But when your Mom asks what kind of flower it is and where can she get some seeds so she can plant some, you’re out of luck unless you can give her a name.
Names are important. They tell us what something is. They tell us from where something came. They tell us how to identify that something.
The ‘Title Identifier’ of a piece of metadata is almost so obvious that it shouldn’t need defending. When we know the title of a book, we can search for that book with ease. When we know the title of an article, we can recommend that article to a friend without having to google it a thousand times just to find it. Even the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set says “a Title will be a name by which the resource is formally known”. In other words, if you want to find an object or a document or whatever, one of the first things you’ll search for will be the title.
Dr. MacCall shared this article from NYT yesterday and I found it quite interesting.
The only time I’ve ever really encountered metadata has been in a context of the library, so it never really occurred to me that other professions might have their own metadata standards.
This article talks about some of the standards that news organizations use and apparently, much like the library science world, they’re having trouble finding universal standards that everybody can agree on.
I guess it’s just nice to know we’re not alone in our quest for the perfect metadata.
Just a little something fun for your Monday…
As library students, we are constantly trying to come up with innovative ways to get people interested in the library.
Check out this awesome article where these people have created mini-libraries in order to promote community and interest in reading. We could probably learn a thing or two…
One of the recurring themes of any intro to library/reference class is ‘user needs’. User needs: the ability of the librarian to anticipate and accomodate the information needs of their users.
In fact, the very first article in the ALA Code of Ethics is to ”provide the highest level of service to all library users through appropriate and usefully organized resources; equitable service policies; equitable access; and accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests.”
Yet, sometimes we forget (or I forget, anyway) that not all of our users are twenty-somethings who use the term ‘googling’ in everyday vernacular, nor are they academic professors trying to write a thesis.
Furthermore, not all of our users are fully capable of performing searches completely on their own.
In his article ‘The Changing Face of Search‘, Tony Russell-Rose brings up a good point: “A much ignored issue in search is that of accessibility and the needs of disabled users.”
I know a woman who suffers from multiple brain injuries as a result of a car accident. This accident left her vision and cognitive abilities seriously injured, resulting in permanent disability.
Because of her brain injuries, she requires large print books and cannot operate a standard computer. Search engines must have audio assistance and large print in order for her to use them.
So as we’re thinking of ways to construct useful search functions for our users, let us not forget those who need a little extra accommodation.
If you’re like me, then library school might have ruined your ability to do a Google search.
My friends constantly make fun of me for putting the most obscure things into Google search and expecting to get the right answers. I try to explain that all my reference classes have trained me to use things like Boolean operators and specificity so sometimes it’s hard for me to be very general.
But Google doesn’t work in terms of extreme specificity. Google isn’t geared towards librarians who are looking for some random 15th Century document on basket weaving. Goggle is for people who want to find the nearest gas station with a car wash.
Different people see the world in different ways. The idea of having general users tag or comment on archival materials isn’t the worst idea, because people who didn’t spend two years learning about reference and metadata and whatnot might have a fresh perspective on materials that need to be identified.
It’s kind of like a Google search. My friends are Google pros because they think in very general search terms, and when you’re looking for general information on archival materials, then that’s not such a bad thing.
I was thinking about David and Dr. MacCall’s comments on my previous post and it got me thinking about Wikipedia.
We all know what Wikipedia is. It’s an online encyclopedia that anyone with an account can edit.
And if you think about it, it’s kind of one big social metadata extravaganza.
I’ve been doing a Wikipedia project for the museum where I’m interning where I’m editing pieces of art in the museum’s catalog in an effort to direct online traffic directly to the museum’s website.
And I’ve learned, those Wikipedia people are crazy strict about the content that’s used. I mean, I could upload a picture and in about three minutes someone will take it down and report me for some reason or another.
This brings me to Dr. MacCall’s point about having some sort of metadata specialist as a middle man between the people who comment and tag and whatnot, and the actual metadata. There has to be someone who understands the process of finding useful and accurate information so that there is some sort of standard for what’s out there.
It cracks me up when people think the information I’m using is sketchy, because I’ve spent the last two years intensely studying how to use accurate information. So the next time someone reports me for the information I post, I’ll just have to politely explain that I am, in fact, the middle man of Wikipedia metadata.
I’m fascinated by this idea of ‘social metadata’. It’s brilliant, really. Why wouldn’t we get friends, acquaintances, or even total strangers to help us identify archival materials? I mean, we are constantly tagging, commenting, identifying information for each other (think Facebook). Why would we not apply the same principles to library work?
The blog post I read that got me thinking about this used the example of a picture of a dairy farm. No one in the library could figure out where the picture was taken but, serendipitously, a librarian’s husband used to work on the farm and when she showed him the picture, he identified it immediately.