“Why Metadata? Why Me? Why Now?”

In this article, Schottlaender sets out to provide an overview of metadata’s current professional environment, and from that proceed to examine reasons for catalogers to become actively involved in metadata work and organization. He opens his text with basic definitions. Two are definitions of metadata: an informal one from Clifford Lynch, which describes metadata as “a cloud of collateral information around a data object,” and a more formal description assembled by the Task Force on Metadata, which finds its subject to be “structured, encoded data that describe characteristics of information-bearing entities to aid in the identification, discovery, assessment, and management of the described entities” (20). Also provided is a definition from Murtha Baca for schema, “a set of rules for encoding information that supports specific communities of users” (21). From these definitions, Schottlaender notes the different types of schema (encoding, metadata, and architectural) and goes on to provide a rather hurried survey of these schema which currently help to regulate the metadata universe. Some example coding schemas mentioned and discussed briefly are MaRC, HTML, XML, and SGML. The article then passes on to metadata schema, noting that the number of types of metadata has expanded dramatically in recent years, now including metadata concerned with description, administration, technology, security, personal information, preservation, and more. Schottlaender chooses to focus on descriptive metadata, and briefly discusses ISBD, AACR2, PCC, and the Dublin Core. He mentions two non-descriptive systems, the Platform for Internet Content Selectivity (PICS), and the Admin Core (A’Core), and passes on to identifiers, which he describes as very concentrated descriptive metadata types. Examples of these include ISBN and ISSN, as well as URIs. All of these, the author notes, tend to focus on syntax, not semantics, and it is up to cataloging codes to decide what attributes an object actually has, and how to record and describe those attributes. From here, the article moves to glance briefly at three architectural schema. These include Interoperability of Data in E-Commerce Systems (INDECS), which integrates standards from many groups concerned with copyright, Resource Description Framework (RDF), which handles structured metadata, and the Warwick Framework, which was built to handle many different types of metadata. In closing, the article points out the shared concerns of metadata and cataloging, notably providing access, and the benefits that both areas could reap from collaboration.

The definitions which Schottlaender’s article provides are useful, and do much to highlight aspects of his subject matter that are often overlooked or not fully appreciated. More importantly, his comments on the similarities and shared values between cataloging and metadata are compelling. They make a strong case for catalogers taking an active role in working with and shaping metadata organization methods. The whirlwind tour of modern systems in between these two sections, however, detracts from the overall quality of the article. It is too quick and full of imposing acronyms to convey pertinent information to a reader truly ignorant of the subject, and too shallow to satisfy a professional conversant in the field.