Session 14

Using Descriptive Metadata to Enhance End-User Access, Murtha Baca, Getty Research Institute


Metadata is an overused and often-misused word. In its purest sense, metadata is “data about data”. It is used to describe a discrete data object or objects. It may also be viewed as cataloging or indexing information created to arrange, describe, and otherwise enhance access to an information object.

Metadata is important for increasing accessibility; for retention of context; for expanding use; for multi-versioning; for compliance with various legal issues; and for preservation of data.

There are five different types of commonly used metadata:

The building blocks of a good metadata cataloging system include:

An effective metadata cataloging system will enhance end-user access to digital objects. Aside from adhering to the building blocks of a good cataloging system, additional strategies for improving end-user access include creating thematic groupings that reflect one’s collections, making sure to include variant forms or broader terms as likely access points for keyword searches, and studying end-user behavior (log files, web statistics, usability studies, etc.) and adapting accordingly.

When indexing for the Internet, keep in mind that end-users tend to employ broader, more generic terms than do catalogers. Indexers must also try to anticipate what terms users, who typically have “information gaps”, would use to find items in hand. In other words, users shouldn’t be required to input the “right” term in order to find something. It is also of paramount importance that the websites that one creates be “reachable” by commercial search engines. For example, Google does not index text that is embedded in images. It also places paramount importance on websites’ title tags. Therefore it is to your advantage to optimize your data not only for users but also for external search engines. The careful and consistent implementation of title tags and other metadata will facilitate end-user searching and retrieval of web resources.

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