This week presented two very different ideas on what metadata can and should be. The readings showed us the power contained in a connected, standardized world as well as a cynical view on the likelihood of achieving metadata utopia.
The articles by Gartner and Duval read like typical library writings on the strengths of metadata. Both readings focus heavily on the next step for digital metadata: interoperability. Gartner’s article as the more recent of the two, speaks more detail on the advantages XML technology gives digital librarians. Importantly XML provides librarians with the ability to use the metadata schema which best fits their needs and yet fit it into the standards established the library community.
In the article by Duvel, et al. the author’s principles of metadata could all conceivably be met using XML and the most common schema such as Dublin Core, MODS & METS. However the principles section of the article takes digital metadata a step further discussing creating metadata registries, mandatory and automatic metadata among other suggestions. The author’s goal is to create strong metadata through rigid control. They wish to push the hierarchical controls currently in place for traditional cataloging onto a digital platform. In theory this strict, structured control would be beneficial yet Doctorow offers up a few colorful reasons why digital metadata is unlikely to work.
Doctorow’s article while not written in typical, polite form nevertheless brings up valid points on the difficulty of standardizing metadata usage. While the author often seemed to be referring to the average individual’s apparent inability to master metadata there are concerns with librarians skills as well. I will not call librarians lazy or stupid but not all librarians posses training in digital metadata and may make mistakes unknowingly. Even more obvious twelve years after this article is how fast technology changes and how difficult it is to create a standard which can last through technological changes and innovations.
Placed between the two extremes of metadata ideas do you feel we headed towards one or the other? Will we balance out and have messy, slightly standardized metadata? And for those who have experience in digital libraries, how is the technological knowledge required shaping up with librarian’s current knowledge? If XML is the future of digital collections will librarians need to become coding experts? Will the lack of training make creating standards that much more difficult?