Metadata · 17
Survey Questions and Responses
The SPEC survey on Metadata was designed by Jin Ma, Catalog/Metadata Librarian at Baruch College,
The City University of New York. These results are based on data submitted by 68 of the 123 ARL member
libraries (55%) by the deadline of March 19, 2007. The survey’s introductory text and questions are repro-
duced below, followed by the response data and selected comments from the respondents.
One deﬁnition of metadata is simply “data about data,” information about the objects in library collections, whether these
are in traditional or electronic formats. The working deﬁnition proposed in the ALCTS Committee on Cataloging Task Force on
Metadata Summary Report (June 1999) expands this basic deﬁnition: “Metadata are structured, encoded data that describe
characteristics of information-bearing entities to aid in the identiﬁcation, discovery, assessment, and management of the
In the standard library world, catalog records are metadata, as they contain information about the library’s collection of “data,”
i.e., the books and journals that make up its collections. Metadata records in the traditional library fulﬁll several functions,
including allowing users to ﬁnd items, allowing them to assess their usefulness, and allowing librarians to administer them
correctly. The same principles apply to objects within the digital library and for the purposes of this survey metadata refers to
information about digital objects.
Metadata can take several forms, some of which will be visible to the user of a digital library system, while others operate
behind the scenes. The Oxford Digital Library deﬁnes three types of metadata that can apply to objects in a digital library:
Descriptive metadata: information describing the intellectual content of the object, such as MARC cataloging records, ﬁnding
aids or similar schemes.
Administrative metadata: information necessary to allow a repository to manage the object: this can include information
on how it was scanned, its storage format etc (often called technical metadata), copyright and licensing information, and
information necessary for the long-term preservation of the digital objects (preservation metadata).
Structural metadata: information that ties each object to others to make up logical units (for example, information that relates
individual images of pages from a book to the others that make up the book itself). (See http://www.odl.ox.ac.uk/metadata.
The purpose of this survey is to investigate which staff in ARL member libraries are creating metadata and for what kinds of
digital objects, what schemas and tools they use to create and manage metadata, what skills they need and how they acquire
them, and the organizational changes and challenges that metadata has brought to ARL member libraries.