I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the “Education” portion of our grant project. This is the part of the CPC project where, in the hopes of making the CPC website inclusive to organizations of all sizes and abilities, we create some tools to try and empower and educate orgs that might not quite be ready to make the leap and become a partner.
We circulated a survey at the Presidential Sites and Libraries conference asking for feedback on areas where orgs felt like they needed help. (The survey is ongoing and is still available here—we’d LOVE to hear from you!) The most in-demand topic was “Metadata”… and I can completely imagine why that might be. Metadata sits in this unique spot between being a (relatively traditional) library function and being a cutting-edge, “big data”, information technology, “wave of the future”-type thing.
Structured data (metadata) is so wonderfully powerful in this day and age, and will continue to be so: Using an agreed-upon format means a computer can read that data without needing specialized instructions. It means one website can “talk” to another to share and retrieve data stored across different sites. There are a lot of disagreements about what’s the “best” format or the “right” way to do things, but the thing is that structured data is useful, always.
And here’s the thing, (and I’m telling myself as well as all of you): Whatever we create to be part of the educational materials is not going to solve the ongoing disagreements about what’s “best” or “right”. Our goal is to get you started. And I think a lot of orgs are pretty close to prepared to deal with that. Yes—there might be hurdles (like lack of internal knowledge of software systems or simply overloaded staff)… but the basics are pretty straightforward.
So lest I get too tangled up in the discussions about “flavors” of Dublin Core and Europeana and MODS, this blog post is here to remind me: The most important thing is to demystify the topic and just get started.
Don’t get me wrong about the “best” or “right” thing: we do have educated opinions about metadata and will freely share (and adapt) them as time goes on: Consistency is crucial, open source software is generally better than not, metadata should be free for all to share and learn. But this conversation will grow and change as time goes on—and I can’t wait to see where it ends up.
There were a few other areas that seemed to pique the interest of the PSL attendees: Many wanted budget solutions for digital development, including information about options for putting a collection online. Again, there will be no “right” answers here. But we have every intention of creating a heck of a toolbox for anyone interested.
What do you think: Is metadata mystifying? What about it is intimidating or unclear?
When you think about digital development (digitizing collections, creating records, putting things online), what are the biggest barriers in your way? Are they human (like fear of change or lack of expertise) or technical (like outdated software)?
If someone could provide you with one or two “keys” that would unlock your workflow and move you further into the digital future… what would those keys be?