(This syllabus is also available in Markdown format.)

Metadata Architectures
LIS 4404
Spring Quarter 2014

munroe, standards
Randall Munroe, "Standards." xkcd, https://xkcd.com/927

Kevin Clair, Assistant Professor
Archives Processing and Metadata Librarian e-mail: kevin at jackflaps.net

Class time: Thursdays, 7:00pm-9:20pm

Office hours: Thursdays, 5:00pm-6:30pm, or by appointment

Description: Provides an overview of the principles and theories of metadata development in the digital environment. Focuses on the design and application of metadata schemas for distinct domains and information communities, issues in metadata interoperability, vocabulary control, quality control, and evaluation. Examines international standards, activities, and projects. Prerequisites: LIS 4000, LIS 4010, LIS 4070 or LIS 4800 or LIS 4801.

Learning outcomes: At the end of the class, students will be able to:

Textbook: There is no required textbook for this class. All of the readings are available for free online, or are available through the library. There will also be copies on Blackboard and on course reserve.

Software: There will be activities that require you to do XML editing. In my considered professional opinion, oXygen is the best XML editor there is. Academic licenses can be had for $99, which is less of a steal than it used to be, but probably worth it if you think you'll be doing this for more than the quarter. You can also just get a 30-day trial and plan your use of it strategically. A free XML editor that I've gotten a lot of mileage out of is jEdit. Note that it doesn't come with the XML plugin installed out of the box, you have to set it up yourself.

Assignments: There is basically one assignment, which is to identify a digital collection and outline its metadata needs, based on expected audience and user tasks, existing metadata standards, and requirements for curation and preservation. This can be a collection with which you are currently working or have previously worked, a collection in your field of interest, or an invented thing that seems like it would reasonably require a lot of metadata.

Throughout the quarter, as we touch on more aspects of metadata design and creation, you will write drafts detailing how you will apply the lessons you have learned to your collection. The assignments (as well as their due dates) are as follows:

Grading: Here's how the grading will play out:
[5%] Short paper #1
[10%] Short paper #2
[10%] Short paper #3
[10%] Short paper #4
[35%] Final presentation and paper
[30%] Class participation, including readings, activities, and discussion
[100%] TOTAL


What is metadata? Metadata standards and schemas. Dublin Core: A history, pros and cons.

We will discuss the origins of metadata as a concept, and the development of standards and schemas over time, as an extension of library cataloging, archival description, etc. At the end of the section we'll talk a little bit about Dublin Core, its development and evolution over time, and some of its benefits and shortcomings as a descriptive standard.


Activity: Create a Dublin Core record describing a digital resource.

Assignment: Send to me a summary (keep it short; I'm thinking one page, or possibly two) of what you, personally, are hoping to get out of the class, and how you think it will help in your academic professional goals. This isn't strictly a part of your quarter project, but it will help in planning it.


Standards and data models. Learning how to compose an XML record.

We will discuss data models, the information domains they seek to represent, and the user tasks they seek to address. We will also use the Sayers site as a launching pad for a discussion of analyzing metadata schemas, and using them to develop standards for a project. Our in-class activity will be to develop a MODS record for a digital resource.


Activity: Create a MODS XML record describing a digital resource of your choice.

Assignment: Nothing due this week. Think about/begin writing your metadata standard(s) review.


Controlled vocabularies and authority control. Content standards. User tasks and audiences. A gentle introduction to linked data.

Two parts to this week. First, we will discuss controlled vocabularies and authority control, their reasons for being, and some of the problems that may be encountered in implementing them. We'll talk about RDA and probably also DACS a little bit. I will insinuate that such a thing as "linked data" exists which makes much use of these ideas, without going into much detail on how to create it.

Second, we will talk about user tasks, audiences, and persona analysis, and try and get at questions about who exactly will be using your metadata, and how much of it is really enough for them to do what they need to do with your collections.


Activities (there are two!): Controlled vocabulary analysis, followed later by an audience analysis for digital collections.

Assignment: Metadata standard(s) review and case study. 2-3 pages detailing one or more metadata standards, their uses within the community in which they are adopted, and their relevance to your project (including an evaluation of the terms within each standard that you plan to use).


Metadata in the disciplines: Cultural institutions, digital humanities, the sciences.

How is metadata applied in digital libraries? Archives and museums? How do faculty and researchers think of metadata, and what implications does that have for data curation and library resource management?


Activity: Metadata mapping. Choose a standard with which you are familiar (EAD, MODS, MARC), and try to map a record encoded in that format to Dublin Core. We will talk about some of the issues you encountered while doing this (you will encounter issues while doing this).

Assignment: None. Think about the next assignment (user tasks and audiences).


An actual introduction to linked data. Microformats and Web-based metadata schema. Schema.org, search engine optimization; how those little infoboxes on Google got there.


Activity: We'll do some schema.org markup on some websites to expose data on them in a structured way.

Assignment: Metadata audience and user tasks paper. 2-3 pages detailing a) the expected audience for your digital collection; b) the tasks you expect them to want to complete on your site; c) how you plan to develop your metadata schema in order to facilitate these tasks.

WEEK 6 (MAY 1)

Metadata quality control. Design and documentation of metadata to ensure interoperability; application profiles.


Activity: Open Refine. Some Belgian fellows have a project called Free Your Metadata that has a bunch of good tutorials about how Open Refine, a metadata normalization and standardization tool, works; we'll watch a few of those, and then set about cleaning up disgusting, non-normalized metadata with it.

Assignment: None. Think about/begin writing your third draft paper (vocabularies and data dictionary).

WEEK 7 (MAY 8)

Metadata for institutional repositories. Administrative, technical, and rights metadata.


Activity: I will show Digital DU, the university's digital repository, to the class, as a way of seeing how one digital repository tool (in this case, Islandora) deals with various non-descriptive metadata applications.

Assignment: Continue thinking about your third draft paper; you get an extra week for this one since the Week 7 discussions are probably necessary for it.

WEEK 8 (MAY 15)

Metadata aggregations. Collaborative re-uses of metadata; interstate and international projects.

We're going to talk about Europeana and DPLA.


Activity: To be determined, but will likely involve poking at the Europeana and DPLA APIs

Assignment: Vocabulary and data dictionary paper. Based on your metadata standards paper from Week 3, and the comments and discussions I have with you about it over the following weeks, construct a data dictionary for the fields you are including in your collection. This should include:

WEEK 9 (MAY 22)

The future of metadata: research, future developments, policies.

We'll talk about those things. Class itself will be short this week so that if you have questions or issues related to your projects, we'll leave time for me to go over them with you and offer answers, advice, etc.

Activity: In all likelihood, just the discussion since I expect this class to be shorter, but we can maybe come up with something else to do.

Assignment: Keep working on your final projects. Ask me any questions or bring to me any problems you may have, either in class (there will be time!) or over Blackboard or e-mail.

WEEK 10 (MAY 29)

Final presentations.

What it says on the tin. Come prepared to talk for about 7-8 minutes about your final project, the reasons why you made the metadata decisions you did (including schemas, controlled vocabularies and authority control, and user interface decisions), and how you expect users to interact with the metadata and the content.

Readings: None.

Activity: Do your presentation...

Assignment: Finish up your final papers.


No final, but papers are due by 8:00pm, Thursday, June 5th, the time the final is scheduled.