“Metadata has become a stand-in for place.”
So says Richard Amelung, Associate Director at the Saint Louis University Law Library. When asked to expand on that idea he explains, “Law is almost entirely jurisdictional. You need to know where a decision occurred or a law was changed to understand if it has any relevance to your subject.
“In the old days, you would walk the stacks in the law library and look at the sections for U.S. law, international law, various state law publications, etc. Online? Without metadata, you may have no idea where something is from. Good cataloging isn’t just a ‘nice-to-have’ for legal reference online. It’s a requirement.”
Richard’s point is one example of a trend that is being felt across all aspects of information services, both on and off the Web: the increasing importance and ubiquity of metadata. In a world where more and more people, systems, places and even objects are digitally connected, the ability to differentiate “signal from noise” is fast becoming a core competency for many businesses and institutions.
Librarians—and catalogers more specifically—are deeply familiar with the role good metadata creation plays in any information system. As part of this revolution, industries are increasing the value they place on talents and the ways in which librarians work, extending the ever-growing sphere of interested players.
Whether we are tracing connections on LinkedIn, getting recommendations from Netflix, trying to find the right medical specialist in a particular city or monitoring a shipment online, metadata has become the structure on which we’re building information services. And no one has more experience with those structures than catalogers.
“It is clear that metadata is ubiquitous,” Jane continues. “Education, the arts, science, industry, government and the many humanistic, scientific and social pursuits that comprise our world have rallied to develop, implement and adhere to some form of metadata practice.
“What is important is that librarians are the experts in developing information standards, and we have the most sophisticated skills and experience in knowledge representation.”
Those skills are being put to good use not only in the library, but in nearly every discipline and societal sector coming into contact with information.