Sunday, June 20, 2010

A metadata renaissance

In her paper “Time Horizon 2020: Library Renaissance,” Susan Gibbons, Vice Provost and Dean, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester, speculates how the next decade will mark the renaissance of technical services and a complete transformation of collection development. Several of her projected changes would seem to apply to the future of visual resource collections as well.

In particular, these two points struck me:

“The emphasis of technical services will change from the acquisition of content to the user’s discovery of content. A library’s success will be defined by whether its users are finding the best materials easily and quickly, rather than by collection metrics…The success of these services will be dependent upon the availability and quality of metadata.”

“The need for all content to have some online manifestation, whether a full-text scan or a metadata record, will force all of a library’s hidden collections into the light, including manuscripts, images and other special collections.”

Metadata associated with images – in the form of shared, structured standards – has always been important to visual resources managers and librarians who sought to make their collections findable and discoverable to an audience. Just think of the on-going efforts of the VRA and other professional organizations to develop standards, schema and crosswalks for image metadata, or the amount of discussion on our listservs devoted to these issues. But today you can hardly talk about digital libraries, data repositories and Web 2.0 without the mention of metadata.

The acknowledgment that metadata is an essential element in the information infrastructure is rewarding. Metadata is ubiquitous, in the sciences, medicine, economics, education, industry, and government, as well as the arts -- in all disciplines which comprise our world today.

In the coming years, the fundamental “what” of technical services and library and visual collections will not change. However, we must be ready for the radical transformation in the “how” and “why” of these activities. Susan Gibbons believes that “the focus will shift from disparate silos of information resources to a mandated expectation that those silos can communicate and interact in ways that meet the expectations of library users.”

It is nice that as visual resources professionals, we are the established experts in developing demonstrable useful information standards for images, and that we have the skills and experience in place to leverage our knowledge with other disciplines, organizations and industries which are increasingly relying on quality metadata.

See “Time Horizon 2020: Library Renaissance”, by Susan Gibbons:

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