Practicalities of Standards Adoption

The following post was submitted by students enrolled in LIS2407 – Metadata at the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences. For more information on the series, see the introductory post

By Megan Massanelli and Mary Phillips

The “DRAFT Checklist for Evaluating Metadata Standards,” submitted at the beginning of the year by the Association of Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) / Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) Metadata Standards Committee of ALA, provides something akin to a mission statement for the metadata community. It succeeds at providing theoretical scaffolding to guide practice. The “Discussion notes: DRAFT Checklist for Evaluating Metadata Standards,” posted in March 2015, points out that further specificity in regards to the themes and issues from the Checklist would provide better guidance in practical application.

In seeking an actionable solution to these questions, a case study in the problems with navigating the quagmire of the “multiple communities” mentioned in #7 of the Checklist may prove a helpful point of departure for an ongoing discussion of metadata standards in practice.  In addition, the issue of selective adoption and the utility and scalability of standards across disciplines found in #2 and #8 can benefit from an on-the-ground study that unifies the recurrent themes into a single, succinct point.  We aim to provide a more granular example of how the Checklist can support consistent metadata practices across disciplines.

Issues in creating a metadata schema for the digital collections of the Center for PostNatural History (CPNH), a small museum of biological specimen and research materials affiliated with the Frank-Ratchye Studio for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, provides such a case study. Megan has been working with the CPNH since May 2015 to establish a standard schema for museum collection materials. The CPNH states that its mission is “to acquire, interpret, and provide access to a collection of living, preserved, and documented postnatural organisms” (CPNH Brochure). The term PostNatural refers to living organisms, whether plant, animal (including humans) or microbial, that have been genetically altered by human intervention through selective breeding, or transgenetic manipulation. The CPNH collects, studies, and displays organisms that have been genetically altered by humans, or human-made processes, as well as published books, periodicals and photographs. As a museum of both scientific and cultural heritage significance, the Center does not seek to take a stance or influence the judgement of visitors on the topic of PostNatural, but simply to provide a space for the presentation of information and exploration of concepts and ideas that are largely absent from institutions of natural history.

Mike Bolam

Mike Bolam works as the Metadata Librarian in Digital Scholarship Services at the University of Pittsburgh. His primary responsibilities metadata management for digital collections and metadata support for research data management. In his spare time, Mike plays a lot of games and watches too much pro-wrestling.

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