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Schools Use Metadata to Manage Information

Aug 23, 2011

What do a tag on HTML coding and a library card catalog have in common? They both use metadata as a way of managing information. This information can range from who wrote a book and where it is located in a library to resources on the Web, including e-books, electronic documents, educational materials, scientific research and government information.

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By Mercy McKee

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What Is Metadata?

Simply put, metadata is data that describes other data. A metadata schema is a set of attributes or elements that describes what an information resource is, who and where it came from and where it is located. The use of metadata is design to manage copyrights, intellectual property rights and archiving and preserving resources.

The National Information Standards Organization says there are three main types of metadata:

  • Administrative metadata helps manage who created a resource and how it was created, as well as technical information including file type and who is allowed to access it. Two distinct purposes of administrative metadata include rights management and preservation.
  • Descriptive metadata assists in resource discovery and identification. Descriptive metadata can include information such as author, title, keywords and an abstract or summary of the resource.
  • Structural metadata can facilitate more effective utilization of resources by describing the logical or physical order of complex information, much like chapters organize information in a book, with each chapter representing a piece of the whole.

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What Is Metadata Used For?

The term metadata is used differently among different communities. However, metadata essentially serves as a method for identifying resources, connecting similar resources, allowing relevant criteria query of resources, distinguishing unrelated resources and providing the location of resources.

As a means of resource discovery and organization, metadata has uses in a wide range of fields. Libraries and museums can use metadata for the description of any resource object, whether it is textual or non-textual or digital or non-digital. Scientific researchers can use metadata to share information with other researchers, prevent duplicate information, expand data-intensive applications and efficiently manage large sets of data. Institutions of higher education and online education programs can use metadata to allow students and faculty to access, analyze and contribute to educational materials and resources. Businesses utilizing a website can use metadata to draw customers searching for relevant keywords and identify relevant links. And government agencies can use metadata to help the public access and use public information and services efficiently.

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