DRAFT Checklist for Evaluating Metadata Standards

The ALCTS/LITA Metadata Standards Committee submits this draft document, Checklist for Evaluating Metadata Standards, to the library, archives, and museums metadata communities for discussion.

The committee will discuss this document at our next meeting at the American Library Association Midwinter Conference in Chicago on Sunday, February 1, 2015 from 1:00pm to 2:30pm in McCormick Place West, Room W194a. Registered conference attendees are welcome to attend.

We encourage those not attending the conference to comment on this post or send private comments via our webform.


This checklist is intended for use by libraries, archives, and museum (LAM) communities for the development, revision, use, and assessment of metadata standards.

1.  The future of metadata is in the network

Metadata, its standards, systems, and services, are most efficient when connected with the broader network of information. This requires openness, automation, computation, web-design, and responsivity. These features are the new value proposition for metadata creation and management in LAM institutions.

2.  Metadata should only be created where there is value

For too long, LAM institutions have relied on a network of professionals to create metadata “just-in-case” it is needed. The ability of information systems to analyze and index digital objects themselves changes the value of traditional metadata. Heavyweight standards are paralyzing rather than transforming LAM information services.

3.  Metadata and metadata standards should be open and re-usable

Open metadata is a foundational building block of information systems and next-generation research. Metadata standards, associated vocabularies, and the metadata records themselves need to be open for use and re-use.

4.  New metadata standards should support new research methods

Traditional bibliographic metadata supports a narrow vein of research. As new research methods emerge (e.g., computational linguistics, computational bibliometrics, linguistic analysis, network analysis) metadata standards and exchange/access methods should support this new research.

5.  A metadata schema without a maintenance community is of little enduring value

Metadata schema are only as valuable and current as its community of practice. Communities of practice are changing rapidly and, although metadata in LAM institutions have been very stable over the last 40 years, that is not necessarily the case for future standards.

6.  Metadata standards of the future should be web-enabled by default

Newly adopted standards should leverage the web, to connect information from different sources, to support distribution to indexing and research services, and to support resource visibility on the web. “Web-enabled” standards leverage the building blocks of linked data by using HTTP URIs to reference objects, by publishing metadata-rich information, by using RESTful design approaches and by adding to data already available on the web.

7. Standards should be extendable with properties/classes/elements from other communities/standards

A key enabler in the successful deployment of a metadata standard is its ability to work with schemas and vocabularies from multiple communities. It is important that these schemas and vocabularies enjoy “first-class” status, in that their incorporation into a record or broader standard respects issues of granularity and specificity.

8.  Standards should be applicable to multiple communities and support selective adoption

Metadata standards should follow a “plug-in” architecture in which they enable adopters to adjust the standard to the needs of their local community. “All encompassing” standards do not scale well over time and have difficulty engaging new adopters. As such, metadata standards should feature a “lite” implementation or should be narrow enough in scope to allow expert comprehension. Common libraries, archives, and museums (LAM) standards should not incorporate these details as a central part of their design.

9.  Standards should support aggregation, exchange, automation, and computational analysis

The use of literal over referential metadata has created an environment in which LAM communities cannot easily aggregate metadata without considerable attention to normalization, disambiguation, and record unification. New standards should leverage “by-reference” models by default and should create a new web or cloud of metadata in which aggregation, exchange, and computational processing are core and easily accomplished tasks.

10.  Metadata schema should follow the rules of “graceful degradation” and “responsive design”  

Schema should support lossless and lossy interoperability with other standards and should be well described enough to support new and unexpected uses. Metadata should gracefully degrade by easily supporting simple or limited use scenarios. In addition, metadata should support automatic “up-sampling” so that more sophisticated uses (e.g., ontological inferencing) are easily achievable.

Jennifer Liss

Jennifer heads the Image Cataloging department at Indiana University Libraries, where she designs and implements metadata strategy for the Libraries' physical and digital collections. Her research interests are focused on the history of library technology and how core competencies for professional catalogers have changed over time. See also: forest explorer, WWII warbird nerd, brownie consumer.

Leave a Reply